#33 Just say, ‘No’

In Jobseeking on February 26, 2010 at 12:23 am

This week I have found my self in the enviable position of having to turn down work. Twice.

I have also NOT applied for five random jobs I saw advertised that a couple of months ago I would have thrown myself at in desperation (and been summarily rejected).

Is this the so called green shoots of recovery? Or just the crocuses? I was silly busy this time last year too. It was after Easter, when the new tax year started, that it all went pear shaped.

But when any offers of work still seem like a Christmas present, how do you know what to turn down? Try this simple checklist:

Do they pay well?

Everyone needs a sugar daddy. If you’ve got someone who’ll give you large sums of money on a semi-regular basis, then roll over and take it.

Will they pay on time?

I’ve known people to spend more time chasing payment for a piece of work than they spent doing it in the first place. Usually from my former employer. Why is it that company accounts departments fail to grasp the urgency of paying a freelance or subcontractor on time, yet if their own wages were late they would hit the roof? Really, we should all refuse to work for such people ever again. But we won’t.

Will it be fun?

If you went into a profession like music, art, theatre, publishing,  fashion, architecture, media, food, teaching, or anything vaguely creative or nurturing, chances are you didn’t do it for the money. It was probably because you couldn’t face the tedium of working in a bank. Why abandon your principles now?

Does it involve free food?

In the past 12 months my earnings have been scant, but I have eaten award-winning lamb burgers, with tangy mango chutney, followed by outrageous cheesecakes, drunk artisanal beers and fashionable spirits, enjoyed dinner a deux at Brixton’s Upstairs,and star treatment at Le Pont de La Tour (where Blair once took Clinton).

Do I want to work for them again?

If the answer is an emphatic yes, then you may have to accept that you are going to be exploited in order the name of future business. Call it a ‘loss leader’; it sounds more deliberate. In the mean time, the NUJ offers advice on how to negotiate good terms.

Have I done this before?

eg written virtually the same article? Played virtually the same character? Delivered the same presentation? The business-minded response would be to jump at the work as a cost effective means of operating  – requiring minimum additional preparation – and the only way to turn a profit. Personally I find such repetition stultifying. Which is probably why I’m broke.

Is it for a cancer charity?

There are some clients you should feel morally obliged to say yes to. And probably waive your fee. Especially if it involves young people with cancer.

Will it lead to other work?

For example, you might hope that writing a blog might lead to writing a book for not much money which might lead to writing a piece for a magazine for slightly more money relative to time taken but still very little, which might lead to another book commission for a bit more money than the first time round, and so on… Or at least keep your fingers exercising.

Do I have time?

If you’ve spent the past year getting used to being broke, then you are in a strong position when it comes to turning down work. Take advantage of the fact that you are now accustomed to not having any cash to view the possibility of cash as a bonus rather than a necessity, and one that should be weighed up against other pleasures. Ask yourself which you need more, a weekend drinking beer and reading the Sunday papers, or one spent tapping out lists of things to do in the Easter holidays.

Having applied this simple checklist to recent decisions of my own, I have:

* ‘sacrificed’ half term to work with other people’s children on something that turned out to be surprisingly rewarding,

* drunk too much coffee during brainstorming sessions on projects that aren’t going to make me rich but will be great fun all the same,

* rejected a commission off the back of a book I wrote ten years ago,

* passed up an offer from my ex-employer who is bound to pay late,

* done a favour for a good cause for someone who always pays on time,

* regretted committing myself to some menial work when I was desperate and is now getting in the way of me taking advantage of other opportunities,

* worked most evenings on a cash cow, and

* helped fundraise at school.

Last night I said farewell to our pub quiz; tomorrow I’m treating myself to a morning of licensed lying down (otherwise known as Pilates).

It may not be the best business practice, but I’m probably having more fun than most accountants.

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