As a freelance writer, I am occasionally approached by people who have projects outside of my usual foray. As you may already know, I typically write on topics like technology, social media and that kind of thing. The vast majority of the content that I write is posted online for a casual online audience. However, I have branched out into other areas as well. For instance, I helped someone put together his autobiography as part of his application package to an educational institution.
What is the best way to respond to potential clients who are presenting you with novel projects? Let’s say that you typically specialize in sales-oriented copywriting, but someone wants you to write an encyclopedia-like objective article on the life cycles of bald eagles. Do you accept and say that you’re up to the ask? Do you decline and say that you don’t do that kind of work?
Option #1: Respectfully Decline the Project
The most effective way to develop your skills is to focus on your strengths. By dabbling in a variety of different areas, you can only hope to be “good” at each of these areas. By focusing on a smaller number of areas, you can better work to be “great” at each of them. It is by taking this strategy that you’ll best be able to leverage your reputation as an “expert” in one area or another.
In this way, if you are approached to do something outside of your usual area of expertise, you may choose to respectfully decline the proposition. Of course, you are also passing up on another paycheque and you may also be passing up on another business relationship. I can’t help with the former, but one way you can assist the latter is to remind this person of what you can do, telling them to keep you in mind if something in that area comes up.
Option #2: Accept the Project with a Caveat
Other people may disagree, but I feel that the single greatest key to happiness is novelty. Variety truly is the spice of life. This applies not only to culinary exploits and international travel, but also the kinds of projects you accept in the world of work.
In accepting projects outside of my usual forte, I honestly inform the potential client of the situation. I tell them that I don’t normally do this kind of work, but I’ll gladly accept the project if they are willing to take me on. If it is indeed an area of interest and a place where I may choose to expand further in the future, I may be persuaded to provide a small discount, if only to add this type of writing to my portfolio.
Option #2a: Accept the Project with a Fib
I feel that it is important to uphold a certain degree of accountability when it comes to run any business and freelance writing is no exception. It is probably possible for me to accept projects outside of my usual arena by telling the potential client that I am already well-versed in the subject and style, but that wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be ethical. You don’t want to be a sell out.
That said, this can potentially be the most profitable route to take, at least in the short term.
What Do You Do?
Speaking for myself, I usually take the second option. It will depend mostly on how busy I am at the time, because if I am already overloaded with other projects, it would not make sense to take on any additional work. If times are a little slower, I am more inclined to try a new style of writing or approach a new area of interest. In recent months, I’ve taken on projects that discuss green living and mesothelioma, for instance.
In the end, you can take on just about any project if you want to take on that project. Just don’t feel like you are obligated to do so.