How to say “no” to unpaid claims as a freelance or entrepreneur

  • Jen Glantz is an entrepreneur and the founder of Bridesmaid for hire.
  • She says she’s learned to say “no” tactfully to unpaid concert or writing requests.
  • If the request is a good opportunity, Glantz encourages asking if there is a budget for the payment.

In 2011, when I started to expose myself under my personal brand, I said yes to every opportunity I have had as a blogger and speaker. If I was asked to speak at a conference or write a guest post for a website, I quickly agreed in the hopes that the opportunity would help me expand my reach and credibility. .

After two years of taking care of many free requests, I have made it a rule to refuse 90% of unpaid requests. I began to realize that saying yes to everything took me away from my own business and paid opportunities. It also made me feel like I wasn’t being paid properly for the value and knowledge I was providing to other people or their audience.

While it may seem like a difficult task to answer an unpaid opportunity that presents itself to you, your answer doesn’t always have to be a categorical ‘no’. Depending on the situation, here are a handful of scripts to use that can help you correctly and professionally decline offers that don’t come with a paycheck.

Script 1: Thanks, but I can’t

When unpaid opportunities arise, I like to check first if it’s something I really want to participate in. I decide based on my relationship with the person or company that contacts me, and I also check my calendar to see if I have time or travel constraints.

If the opportunity isn’t right for you, here’s usually my answer:

Thank you for sharing this opportunity with me. What you put together looks amazing. However, being a part of it just isn’t something I have the bandwidth for yet. I encourage you and look forward to hearing about the success of this event.

Script 2: I’m out of shape, but here’s what to do instead

Some unpaid requests that come into your inbox may not be suitable for you or your expertise. In these cases, it’s best to decline and offer to share the opportunity with your network to see if someone you know might be interested instead.

Here is what you can say:

Thank you for contacting us about this. After reading more about the event and the type of speaker you’re looking for, it looks like I’m not the right fit. However, I would like to share the information with a few of my colleagues to see if they would like to know more.

Script 3: A categorical no

It’s OK to keep your answer short if an unpaid opportunity just isn’t something you’re open to. If so, your response can be short and to the point.

Thank you for contacting this opportunity. At the moment, I only accept paid partnerships. Wishing you continued success with this event.

Script 4: A request for money

When there is an unpaid opportunity that you would accept if you were paid for your knowledge and time, you can ask if there is a budget to pay for your participation. There’s always a chance they could dig up a fee to pay you, and it’s worth asking.

Thank you for contacting this opportunity. At the moment, I only accept paid partnerships. Is there room in your budget to pay for my services?

When unpaid opportunities arise, take a few minutes to process your interest and schedule. If you determine that the request is something you deserve to be paid for, don’t be afraid to ask. Part of being successful is knowing when to say yes and when to ask for payment for your services and your time.