When to Turn Down Freelance Writing Assignments


Considering the number of unemployed (and underemployed) journalists right now, it can be tempting to take whatever freelance projects come your way. Can’t be too choosey in a down economy, now can we? Actually, I think freelancers should always be selective unless they are in such dire financial straits that turning down work would mean losing their home or going hungry. Writers who take on whatever projects come their way have a harder time pursue the topics that really interest you or seeking higher-paid work. That can lead to stagnation or burnout. Here are five scenarios where it makes sense “just say no,” along with tips on doing so tactfully.

1. You don’t have time. Having more work than you can handle is a situation we’d all like to be in. But too many all-nighters and weekends spent hunched over the computer can diminish your work quality (not to mention your health). If you’d otherwise want to tackle the project, see if you can negotiate the timeline. If not, stay on the client’s good side by explaining how much you’d like to work with him or her in the future and referring another competent freelancer. Some freelancers subcontract overflow work, but it does take time to manage subcontractors and the accompanying paperwork.

2. You have ethical concerns. Earlier this year, I turned down a project because the client wanted me to post answers in a forum without disclosing my connection to the company. That sounded deceptive, so I suggested they adjust their strategy and set up a blog instead to be more transparent. When that didn’t fly, we parted ways. If your ethical concern is that the project poses a conflict of interest with one of your current clients, you could always suggest another writer instead.

3. The pay is too low. This is probably the most common reason why freelancers turn down work. If the client’s budget is slightly lower than your usual rates, there may be room for negotiation. Or you could scale back the assignment so it fits within their budget. But if it’s completely outside of your acceptable range, then I’d use this line, “I understand you aren’t able to pay professional rates at this time but please keep me in mind if that changes.” I wouldn’t waste time lecturing the client, as they’ll probably find someone else to write for cheap. And if you stay focused, you’ll find someone else willing to pay your rates.

4. The project is outside your area of expertise. Sometimes these kinds of projects can be a good way to stretch yourself and discover a new niche. But if it’s completely out of your element and you’re not interested in learning something new, suggest someone else in your network who’s better suited to the job. You might also leave the door open to future work by adding something like, “It sounds like you’re looking for someone with a strong PR background. My focus is on writing donor appeals, so if you need that in the future, please keep me in mind.”

5. You sense other red flags. Maybe you’ve heard from other article writing services that this client is a deadbeat or you get a bad feeling from your initial phone call. Whenever my gut has told me to turn down work, there’s usually a good reason, even if I don’t know it at the time. If the client has a history of nonpayment or other issues, it may not make sense to refer someone else. Instead, I’d write something like this: “It sounds like I’m not the best fit for your company’s writing needs but I wish you luck in finding the right person.” Then leave it at that.

Should You Break News on Twitter? Do People Trust Social Media for News? How Should Journalists Use Facebook?


Today, we have a group of how-to stories for journalists. We have an insight into Facebook’s new journalist page, some advice on how to break stories on your website from the ASNE,  and some tips on how to conduct a stellar Twitter chat session.

It’s all the news fit to blog at Ebyline’s Daily Dose.

Vadim Lavrusik: How journalists can make use of Facebook Pages

“The Facebook News Feed is essentially a social newspaper. With it, you’re able to read and discover news shared by your friends, journalists, and media organizations you like. The personalized news stream includes everything from news about your friends’ lives to their reactions to a news article. It’s not only what is being shared, but who is sharing it that’s important.”

Break news on your website, not on Twitter’

“The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) has issued a social media guide for newspapers with lots of good recommendations, but this one stands out: “Break news on your website, not on Twitter.” Why? Here’s the key part of the explanation from the “10 Best Practices for Social Media” report…”

Traditional Media And Internet More Trusted Than Social Media For Research News

“‘The modern media landscape has become very complex, which creates many more opportunities to communicate with many more people of all ages and backgrounds,” said Kevin Klose, dean, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland. “At the same time, this presents a challenge in communicating about complex issues such as medical and health research findings.’”

Twitter Chats, The Ultimate How To Guide

“Hosting or participating in a twitter chat is a great way to bring a community of people together to dig deeper into a topic of interest. These discussions can help work through issues facing an industry or simply create a real-time forum to chat about an event or product. The concept of hosting or participating in a Twitter chat can be daunting. Let’s break them down to their key elements and explore some of the best practices.”

The 5 must-knows about how readers navigate news online, drawn from new Pew study

How do readers get to news sites? How long do they stay once there? And where do they go when they leave? Just two months after releasing the mammoth State of the News Media 2011 report, my industrious friends at Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism have a detailed new report to answer those questions.  Based on analysis of nine months of Nielsen data about the 25 largest U.S. news sites, the study confirms many truisms about online behavior but also yields some surprises.


796 Newspaper Front Pages Cover bin Laden’s Death, Did Twitter First Break the Osama Story?


Since we had some big news yesterday with Osama Bin Laden’s death, we have decided to focus today’s media and news roundup with stories revolving around this pressing story. We have some analysis on the way investigative technical writers and journalists have covered the story, from utilizing Twitter to the most classic form of news: the front page. We also have the stories of an man who accidentally became a journalist in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and a journalist who has gone missing in Syria.

It’s all the news fit to blog at Ebyline’s Daily Dose.

Osama Bin Laden and the New Ecosystem of News

“As usual, when big news breaks these days — and the death of Osama bin Laden is definitely big news — plenty of people would like to give the credit to Twitter, and use the fact that news broke there first to make the mainstream press look slow and backward. While many traditional media outlets don’t really need any help looking slow and backward, the truth is that this is no longer about Twitter vs. TV or radio or newspapers (if it ever was). It’s about the reality of a new ecosystem of news, one in which the network effects of tools like Twitter and Facebook play an extremely powerful role — and one which can actually help the traditional media, if they will let it.”

Newspaper front pages capture elation, relief that Osama bin Laden was captured, killed

“In the 10th year since the September 11 attacks planned by Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader has been captured and killed by American forces. The word first spread on Twitter, then on network and cable news.

This morning, the news dominates most front pages, which would have been redesigned starting around 11 p.m. eastern time after bin Laden’s death was confirmed. Many of the front pages use the same photo of bin Laden, but treat it differently with the use of color, bold headlines, type size and placement..”

One Twitter User Reports Live From Osama Bin Laden Raid

“Without knowing what he was doing, Sohaib Athar, a.k.a. @ReallyVirtual, has more or less just live-tweeted the raid in which terrorist Osama bin Laden was killed Sunday.

The IT consultant resides in Abbottabad, the town where bin Laden was found and killed by a U.S. military operation.”

Al Jazeera journalist missing in Syria

“Al Jazeera has demanded immediate information from Syria about one of its journalists who has been missing in the country since Friday afternoon.

Dorothy Parvaz left Doha, Qatar, for Syria on Friday to help cover events currently taking place in the country. However, there has been no contact with the 39-year-old since she disembarked from a Qatar Airways flight in Damascus…”

At the NYT, no paywall exemption for Bin Laden

“When The New York Times announced its pay meter back in March, publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. also announced that — along with the many, many other pores and passages the paper had built into its gate — the Times had built into its new system the ability to open the gate for breaking-news stories that were, essentially, must-reads. “Mr. Sulzberger wanted a flexible system,” the paper reported at the time, “one that would allow the company to adjust the limit on the number of free articles as needed — in the case of a big breaking news event, for example…””

Can Online Ever Generate More Revenue Than Print? Does Twitter Need an Editor? Where Does Your News Come From?


For today’s media and journalism roundup, we have some new hires at Patch and Thomson Reuters. We also have some media analysis that examines how print and online revenue have evolved, and a study by MSNBC.com that investigates where our news comes from.

It’s all the news fit to blog at EByline’s Daily Dose.

Twitter does not need an editor, just time to evolve

“Are tragic movie deaths considered newsworthy? What about Twitter users’ penchant to Rise and Grind? Social media has blurred the boundaries of traditional news organizations by allowing journalists and taste-makers to patch into a daily conversation around trends.”

Impoco named Thomson Reuters Digital executive editor

“Editor-in-chief Steve Adler’s memo on the appointment says “Jim Impoco, whose reinvention of The New York Times Sunday Business section won acclaim, will apply the same skills to building readership at Reuters.com as well as on new digital platforms.””

AOL’s Patch Adding 8,000 Bloggers in ‘Full-On Course Correction’

Arianna Huffington must not be taking that class action lawsuit against her too seriously. Not only is AOL’s new content chief not cutting down on the use of unpaid bloggers, she’s doubling down — literally. Patch, AOL’s network of hyperlocal news sites, is trying to recruit as many as 8,000 bloggers in the next eight days, according to editor in chief Brian Farnham.”

MSNBC.com’s Breaking News traces info to its source

“There are some news events whose coverage is planned far — far, far — in advance of the events themselves. Those are exceptions, though: Most of the time, news is unscripted and unpredictable — breaking, appropriately enough, through the fabric of daily routine…”

Infographic: How Print Vs. Online News Consumption Compares

“Can online news revenue ever come close to print revenue?Scout Analytics looked at the differences in user behavior in print and online and came to a pessimistic conclusion—that both the time spent consuming and money earned from online news will never come close to that of print news.”

Eggers and Klosterman Join ESPN, 242 Most Influential Publications, How to Choose a Domain Name


For today’s media and journalism stories, we have some ruminations on staying classy while increasing SEO, as well as some advice on how to pick a domain name for your outlet. ESPN signs on some high profile names including Dave Eggers and Chuck Klosterman. We learn of some of the most influential publications and article writing services online, and Lara Logan discusses her assault in Egypt.

It’s all the news fit to blog at Ebyline’s Daily Dose.

Slate Editor Rips SEO Baiting, Then Discusses Slate’s Impressive Increase In Google Search Traffic

David Plotz is not a fan of SEO baiting. And understandably so.

Slate’s editor-in-chief — who recently gave a lecture titled “Celeb Baby Bump: Pregnant Oscar Winner Natalie Portman (PHOTOS) – How to Make Great Web Journalism in an Age of Content Farms, Search Engine Optimization, and Idiotic Celebrity Slideshows” — runs a site that has been producing quality content for 15 years, well before Google changed the game.

In a chat with Advertising Age‘s Simon Dumenco, he worried about the current state of journalism jobs.”

CBS Reporter Recounts ‘Merciless’ Assault in Egypt

“Lara Logan thought she was going to die in Tahrir Square when she was sexually assaulted by a mob on the night that Hosni Mubarak’s government fell in Cairo.”

How to Choose a Domain Name

“So you’re all set. You have the concept for your web property and you’re ready to build. There is just one more thing, the domain name. Seems pretty strait forward doesn’t it? You just call it your company name. What if your company name is Acidophilus Research Incorporated or you don’t have a company?”

List of the 242 most influential publications in the world

Nate Silver, the political statistician extraordinaire, has turned his attention to publishing. His interest is honed by the fact that his blog is now hosted on the New York Times, which is currently implementing a paywall.

He has done an analysis of the most influential publications, consisting of a simple review of how frequently publications’ names appear in Google News and Google Blogs followed by the word “reported”, to give a representative sample of how often publications are quoted by others.”

All-Star Roster of Writers and Editors to Join New ESPN Web Site

“Consulting editors to the site will include:

  • Chuck Klosterman, a best-selling author of books, a former columnist for Spin,Esquire and ESPN.com, and a feature writer for New York Times Magazine, EsquireGQand Spin. Chuck will be writing about sports and culture exclusively for Grantland.com;
  • Malcolm Gladwell, the international best-selling author of The Tipping Point, Blink andOutliers and a feature writer for The New Yorker since 1996;
  • Dave Eggers, founder and editor of the independent publishing house McSweeney’s and bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist for his memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.”