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How to Gracefully Back out of a Project

when to back out of a writing project
when to back out of a writing project
by Alexandre Normand under CC BY 2.0

As a new freelance writer, it can be tempting to take on just about any client in the beginning. But trust me, you shouldn’t! And I’m going to share with you why.

I’ve done a bit of copywriting over the course of the last year and all of those experiences have been more than positive. It’s kind of my jam – meaning it’s something I’d do for fun (providing I had the free time of course!).

Success Is Fun

For example, I rewrote the copy of a Kickstarter campaign and their press release from scratch. This copy helped the client fully fund their campaign in less than a week! In fact, it then went on to be funded almost 5x over in the next month or so (resulting in almost $100k raised).

To say it was successful, is a bit of an understatement. Obviously, I can’t (and don’t) take credit for all of their success. They have a great product, they did an amazing job marketing and networked up a storm too. It was fun all the way around and ended up being a win/win for all parties involved.

It Ain’t All Roses

I recently took on a copywriting gig that I shouldn’t have. It didn’t pay super well, but since I like that kind of work, I thought I’d give it a shot.

Turns out I should have listened to my gut, as I ended up refunding the deposit (a whopping $50) and bailing after the first deliverable. The project was to write 4-5 pages of website copy for a new training company the client was launching. Turns out, she didn’t really know what she was looking for.

So What Went Wrong?

The client asked me to bid on the job via Elance, which I’ve had some success with in the past (even if I’m not very active on the platform). We chatted via phone and our personalities seemed to click. Her business fell into the cosmetology space and I had written some pretty badass copy for another beauty website not that long ago. I figured it’d be a fun and fairly easy project.

But that’s where the good juju ended. The client scanned some (scarce) handwritten notes and gave me a few example websites in her niche – nothing else. She wanted me to write an “About Page” for her and didn’t supply the info., nor did she accept my LinkedIn invitation (which I would have been able to pull quite a bit of it from).

Ultimately, the ROI Wasn’t There

She was nice enough, but kept wanting to have phone conversations about the project. This would have been fine, except she didn’t really know what she wanted and again, the pay wasn’t that great.

Then, she critiqued my deliverable (when I needed more info), but didn’t supply the additional details, nor could tell me what exactly she wanted to see different. It was frustrating to say the least! I had already invested a couple hours into the project and since her budget was tight (and we were far from done), I decided to back out – the classy way.

How It Went down

During that phone conversation, I insisted on refunding her money (she didn’t ask, I offered) and I let her keep the deliverables. I don’t know if she ended up using them or not, but I did know it was better to just cut ties at that point, rather than keep trying to please her.

This is really against my nature, as I like to see things through. But I just felt in my gut that this client was someone that I wouldn’t be able to please – no matter how much time (and how many phone conversations we had) I invested into it. So I chose to nip it in the bud sooner, rather than later.

In Conclusion

Not every client is going to be the right fit – and that’s okay. Not every client is going to like your writing and you’re not going to enjoy working with every one of them either.

I encourage you to figure out who your ideal client is sooner than later. I also encourage you not to take on work that is below your pay grade (past gaining samples at least). Lastly, go with your gut. Even if you need work, if your gut isn’t feeling it, then move on! You’ll be thanking yourself later.

Have you ever backed out of a project after it had begun? How’d that work out for you?

Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey is a writer for hire, with a background in personal finance. She also offers coaching services and really enjoys helping other freelancers gear up to quit their day jobs and take their side hustles full-time. Please stop by Horkey HandBook and download your free copy of 8 Tips to Start Your Freelance Career off on the Right Foot!

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