Saying No and Setting Boundaries as a Copywriter (Hint: It’s Worth It)


Saying No and Setting Boundaries as a Copywriter


Say it with me: No.


Why is it that we have no problem saying this word to our obnoxious mother, our annoying children or our handsy partner at 12:30 at night, but we can’t say it to our bosses?

And if you have a handsy boss at 12:30 at night, then you either work for your partner, or you have bigger problems than can be covered in this blog post. Sorry.

All kidding aside, this is a real problem when it comes to freelance copywriting or copyediting. Or really freelance work in general. “No” just feels so icky. So wrong. So anti-business.

But if you want to be successful in your career you need to learn to set boundaries, and fast. Your clients will appreciate it, because they want to know your actual boundaries, respect them, and keep working with you over the long haul. And you’ll appreciate it, because it will save you from total emotional breakdown.

I know, it’s still a hard word to say. So do what I do: practice with the people in your life who drain you emotionally.

… I’m looking at you, Heather. I’m looking at you.

But seriously, what does it mean to say no, and how do you do it?

What Does It Mean to Say No?

Well, saying no is really about creating boundaries.

I hate to say this, but it’s harder for us women to creative boundaries for ourselves then it is for men. I’ve got nothing against the ladies – we are amazing – but most of us were raised to be “helpful” and “think of others’ needs first.” We do this with our children, our partners and, yes, with our jobs. But somehow “helpful” got translated into “do stuff for others without regard to yourself.”

That is not being helpful. That’s being a slave. Nuh uh.

Whenever I think about boundaries, I always think back to the very important safety rule on an airplane. I know, I know. This is an overused metaphor, but that’s because it’s true and we still don’t follow it. I mean, it’s pretty simple:

Put your mask on before helping others.

See? You have to come first or no matter how well-intentioned you are, you’ll pass out while trying to help others.

God, planes are the worst. But moving on, how does this translate to work with clients? Well, it’s pretty simple.

Set Your Boundaries Internally FIRST

Set your boundaries in advance. Before you even start working with a client, know what you are willing to do and not do. Most of the time we aren’t even clear on our own boundaries until someone rubs up against them, and that’s not fair to clients.

So get clear.

You might even consider writing them out on your website. Just please don’t title the page These Are My Boundaries and You Best Stick to Them! because that makes you look insane. Although, if you’re trying to get rid of a client, this could be a great strategy.

Your less-crazy-than-that page should let clients know upfront how many corrections they get, what times a day you return emails, how many hours a day you work and which days a week you’re on the clock. The clearer you are, the better.

Have Your Nos Ready

Next, have your “nos” ready, but make them as positive as possible.

Think of it like constructive criticism. My favorite phrase is, “I can’t do that, but what I can do is … ” This makes clients feel like you’re not really saying no, you’re just telling them what works. Everyone likes to hear what will work, and usually this avoids ruffled feathers.

Another of my favorites is, “Unfortunately, that’s not going to work, but let me strategize on some other ways I can do it and get back to you.” That one is great because it gives you room to sit and think about what they are asking of you and if you are really willing to do it or not. Plus, it’s nonspecific. You don’t have to say why it doesn’t work if they don’t ask, which is perfect if you’re a little uncomfortable or just not into the task.

Keep Expectations Reasonable

Should you go above and beyond? Sure. But never go above and beyond what you can actually sustain at any point when working with a client. Especially in the beginning. They will just assume this is the “you” they can expect all the time. But if that you is actually Holy Crap Burnout You, well … you see the problem. Save your rocket fuel for when you’ve had a client for a long time and they need a little TLC.

This also works for men, by the way.

And really, that’s about it. Saying no isn’t that difficult, it’s just not something we practice enough, but clients appreciate it, and so will you. Want to learn more boss lady copywriting strategies? Then you need the Free Resource Library, which has more than a dozen awesome copywriting freebies to take you from copy-whaaa? to copy whiz in just a few short days.

Go, my friend. Go!

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