Whether you’re crouched in a garret in Paris with a quill pen and a dream, or clacking on your sleek silver laptop at 175WPM, being a professional writer is a romantic thing to do. Thinking of this, it occurred to me that professional blogging sometimes resembles dating. Here’s the one I thought of today:
Call and response
Here’s a scenario: you’re casually flirting with the barrista at your cafe of choice as they serve up your morning cup. To your surprise, said barrista takes the conversation one step further and asks you out. On consideration, you decide that this person is not for you. Now what do you do? The answer is obvious: you politely decline.
Now, instead of the barrista, imagine a client has offered you a blogging gig. When you applied for it, it was looking pretty good, but once you hear the details you decide it’s not for you. What do you do? The answer is the same: politely decline.
Just like with the barrista, you can’t simply walk away from a client’s offer without answering them. Even though you’re talking over email instead of face-to-face, you’re still having a conversation and professionalism, not to mention common courtesy, dictates that you should let them know you’re not interested.
Now to the polite part. I’ve had more than a few job offers that I’ve been tempted to laugh at scornfully. Often, the job turns out to be lower paying or much more work than the ad implied, the kind of bait-and-switch that wastes everybody’s time. However, no matter how irritated you are by the client’s response — or the barrista’s ham-fisted way of asking you to a movie — responding with professionalism and courtesy is important. After all, that email of yours is going to be out there forever, and the world of professional blogging is still pretty small. Who knows who’s going to see your letter someday? Do yourself a favor and make sure no future client will ever be able to throw this back in your face. And after all, this client might have a more attractive job offer for you someday, just like your barrista might start looking better to you in time. No sense in burning your bridges.
If you need help, here’s the template I use for my “no, thank you” emails:
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly! Your site looks great. Unfortunately, I think this job will take more time than I have in my schedule right now, so I am declining your offer.
Thanks for the offer, and best of luck with this project.
I like this template because:
It’s brief and direct. There’s not a lot for the client to argue with, and it’s clear that you’re turning them down.
It’s polite. I compliment the client and wish them luck, making it clear that I’m not rejecting their site, I just have a full schedule.
It’s easy. When I have a pre-formed polite rejection, I don’t have to think about whether I am feeling annoyed by this client. I just send it off and move on. No bridges burned.