Some freelance technical writers accept virtually every assignment that is handed to them. Others, however, are choosier when deciding which projects to take on and which to turn away. This is a luxury that those who have been in the biz for a few years have. Even as a beginning technical writer, though, it's important not to instantly jump at every opportunity that comes your way. When you're contemplating whether to accept or reject the assignment that just arrived in your inbox, take the following considerations into account:
How long will the assignment take? One factor you should consider is the time commitment that the assignment will involve. If it's a user manual that will take at least 40 hours, ask yourself whether you feel comfortable committing this amount of time to a single project.
Do I have time to complete the assignment? Don't take on more than you can handle. If a company wants an annual report done by next week and you're already fully booked, it's definitely a bad idea to tell them you can get it done (unless you're absolutely certain you can). Ask if the deadline is flexible. If not, you should probably reject the assignment. Missing deadlines is a sure way to destroy a relationship with even the most understanding of clients.
Is the pay for the assignment fair? The client will probably give you a pay rate for the assignment, and it's up to you to determine whether you think it's fair. If it's an hourly rate, making this decision will be simple. If they want to pay you a flat rate or a per-word rate, you should estimate what your final hourly rate will be and make a decision based on that.
Will there be any long-term benefits to taking on the assignment? Some assignments are just too good to turn up, even if you're already extremely busy and the pay isn't quite as high as you'd hoped. You may get to work with a well-known company, for example, or you could get to write a type of document that you haven't before. Ask yourself whether completing the assignment is likely to benefit you in the future.
Am I certain I have the skills to complete the assignment? Trying new things is great, but don't take on something you are pretty sure you can't do. Be honest and explain your concerns to the client. They'll appreciate your honesty much more than a document they can't use.
By evaluating each assignment based on these criteria, you'll be sure to only accept projects that offer a fair rate of pay and fit in with your schedule. Hopefully, many of the assignments you choose to take on will also lead to more work with the company down the road. Of course, there will be times when you have to take on projects you would otherwise reject just to pay the bills. It's a less glamorous but very real side of the world of freelance technical writing.
Last Updated: 05/05/2014