Saying “No” to Editing Freebies

When I first started freelancing, an acquaintance asked if I would edit some copy. A small project, that would take little time. The content was minimal, so I did the favor.

But it didn’t end there. No good deeds, right?

The person came back — again and again and again for copy edits. The “small project” snowballed into something way larger.

One day I presented a job quote instead of saying: “Sure thing!” The person was shocked, shocked, that I had the gall to charge money for, well, doing my job.

Honestly, it was the individual’s perceived affront that stiffened my resolve. The implication that my services should be free because we had known each other for years, and the unmistakable undercurrent that freelance editing wasn’t a “real” career path.

I’ve since created a standard response to requests for free editing or proofreading, shared here in a recent discussion on Mastodon (read December’s blog about why I’ve migrated there):

And, yes, this is truly the response I give to friends/relatives/professional network, as well as any large organization or small business where I am applying for work — I will only continue the application process if there is a flat or hourly rate offered for the work sample. No freebies.

The power of saying “no” cannot be overestimated. Freelance editors, proofreaders, writers … we all need to internalize the worth of our work and then memorize a reply to offer up at a moment’s notice. A rejoinder that honors our expertise.

Advocating for the value of those services elevates not only your own business — in too many ways to count — but also that of fellow freelancing peers.

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