The Power of Being Busy

What I’m listening to:  Shape of You by Ed Sheeran

Quite a busy week for me. I’m not overrun with work, but I’m working on projects that require a little more time and energy.

The work keeps flowing, too. I had a conversation a few months back with a potential client that would have landed a project in my lap that required a quick turnaround. They wanted a price for a job that I had four days to complete. Truth is, depending on their experts’ schedules, I could have had it done in two if I pushed everything else aside.

And that comes at a premium. So I priced the job with the rush order in mind. I wasn’t surprised when it didn’t show up, either.

Until two days later, when I really would have had just two days to complete it.

As a writer with other projects on your desk, what would you do? Disappoint the potential client or get results to your existing clients a little later than expected?

I opted to disappoint.

As much as I would try to accommodate a client’s needs, sometimes it’s just plain “no.” So I said no.

And once again, I saw this amazing little miracle occur that only happens when a writer asserts boundaries around his or her time.

The client came back, and this time there was a longer deadline. Know what that is?


Here’s what happened.

I didn’t rush to accommodate.

That means I didn’t

  • look desperate for the work
  • set a bad precedent
  • send a message that I was idle
  • imply that I tolerated regular interruptions

This happened, too.

I increased my fee.

That sent the signal that

  • my time is money
  • paying for me to rearrange my schedule is required
  • budgeting their own time is in their best interests financially

One more thing I did is also important to note.

I didn’t apologize.

Was I sorry I was hiking my fee in order to compensate for the additional time I had to take out of my down time? No. I was sorry we couldn’t come to an agreement that day, but I hadn’t made the situation so dire — they had. Over the years I’ve come to realize that their fire does not constitute my emergency. Yes, I would have helped them — gladly. However, my free time is so limited that I do expect to be paid for dropping everything and working overtime to get it all done.

In my book, that doesn’t require an apology. It’s good business sense.

It’s that same business sense that keeps your plumber from accepting one more job that day, making her day stretch from 7 am to 8 pm.

It’s that same business sense that causes the lawn service to turn down one more regular customer because they simply can’t fit it all in and still do a good job for their existing customers.

It’s that same business sense that has doctors’ offices turning down new patients, and mechanics scheduling your car a week from now.

It’s that same business sense that’s going to allow you to raise your fees or say the word “no” the next time you’re stretched beyond your ability to finish it all.

Writers, when was the last time you faced a rush job?
How did you handle it? Were you able to come to terms with the client?
What advice can you give other writers who are asked to fit one more thing in?

About the author




  • Paula Hendrickson June 8, 2017 at 11:03 am

    Just the other day a client asked if I could turn a short article around quickly (it’s due today), but she was proactive about it and offered a significantly higher fee that made it worth my time. But I did add a condition: Only if we could secure the interviews in time.

    By noting the higher rate right off the bat, she demonstrated that she values my time.

    • lwidmer June 8, 2017 at 1:09 pm

      It’s a very good reason to give up your free time too, Paula. I’d bend over backward for a client who valued my time and showed it.