Freelancers: You’re Not Invincible

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As a freelancer, it’s easy to think that you can do anything. This is especially true when you’ve never failed on a project, have met all of your deadlines, and have been blessed with great clients.

Up until yesterday, I was pretty confident that if it had to do with writing, or social media, I was on it. I’ve done alright on oDesk and have taken on some big contracts for companies all over the country. But I had a contract practically handed to me in a Skype interview, and it just didn’t feel right to accept it.

When you get an assignment for something that you aren’t exactly qualified for, you have two choices. One, you can take it on and research like a crazy person to prepare for it. Or two, you can admit that you can’t do it and move on.

I was so confident that I could take this contract as a Research Analyst that I pitched the guy everything I had. I matched the description perfectly, and I made a stellar impression. Then he explained the job, and the scope of it… just astounded me. I’ve done social media work before, managed entire accounts on my own, but I specialize in content and communities. So when he asked for projection plans and budgets, I was quick to point out that I’d not had the opportunity to control that side of an account before. He was so confident that I could make it happen that he said not to over-think it, and to get him a plan by the next day. I would be writing all the posts for the blog and social media, as well as managing the advertising and publicizing of the product. I’d track everything, propose costs and execute… Everything.

Now, I know people who do this kind of thing on a regular basis. One of my previous employers (Blue Volcano Media) can take an account already knowing the time frames and costs to get X amount of followers by X date. It’s not rocket science once you’ve done it a few times, but I haven’t! I’ve worked for a company like this where the goal of the account is to get followers and make sales, not to increase engagement and interaction with the brand. I wrote it about it in my blog post Social Media Marketing as a Science. Sadly, my part in that company was as a Community Manager, not as a strategist or scientist.

I signed out of the interview with the potential employer raving about my talents, and how much he trusted that I could get this done. It was fee-based, or fixed-priced, though, so I had to come up with how much to charge. I actually don’t have the slightest idea of what to charge most of the time, so I asked for a ballpark price from a friend. That’s when it really sunk in: I can’t do it.

I’m not afraid of failure and I’m not afraid of turning down an account, but it was so hard letting this guy down. He was excited, but I had to tell him that I didn’t have the experience needed for his project and would have to withdraw my application. He then switched tactics, asking for me to only do the research and writing aspect of it. Once I get the courage to turn something down, I’m pretty blocked off from it, so I had to do it again and explain that research and writing is so tied to the marketing side of things that it’d be best to hire someone who can do it all, or be prepared to have a team on it.

Not only was it best for me to turn this job down, even being as jobless as I am, it was better for the employer and his vision.

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