business of freelancing

The most important thing I’ve learned about opportunity

By August 13, 2019 October 1st, 2019 No Comments

Recently I’ve had some great opportunities come my way. International press trips, speaking gigs, offers of work from editors and high-paying corporate gigs. These are things that a year ago or even six months ago I would have jumped at. But lately, I’ve realised something very important about these opportunities.

The most important thing I’ve (finally) learned about opportunity

Not so long ago, I would have moved heaven and earth to be on a particular editor’s list of go-to freelancers.

But a month ago when that editor emailed me to ask if I’d like to take on a particular story for her, I said no.

And funnily enough, I didn’t get the guilts about saying no or even have that crushing question of ‘is she ever going to ask me to write for her ever again?’

I didn’t get those feelings because the story wasn’t the right fit for me.

I wasn’t the right writer to pen the story for her and I told the editor that.

In the past I probably would have fallen into the trap of believing sayings like, ‘fake it until you make it’, or ‘don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’.

So I, because I would have been excited by what the opportunity meant, would have said yes.

But there’s a difference, isn’t there?

When I think back to those times, I realise I wasn’t excited by the opportunity itself, but by what it meant.

That an editor was coming to me.

In the past I would have ignored that my gut telling me that it was the wrong opportunity.

I conflated the idea that I could write the story with I should write the story.

And I would have jumped in.

Only to regret it.

Only to (probably) under deliver.

Only to think that I had to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that comes along because freelance writers should be grateful to have incoming work.

It’s taken me a long time to realise that just because I have an opportunity doesn’t mean I have to take it.

I am sure that you, dear reader, are much, much more evolved than me and that you already know this, because as I type these words, it sounds so basic.

If it’s not the right opportunity, it’s not a good opportunity.

It’s just an opportunity.

An opportunity is something that is possible.

The strength for me has been realising that yes, my dream about being invited on a press trip, or being offered a huge piece of work or whatever the opportunity is, is indeed possible.

But maybe I don’t want it because it’s not right.

And you know that old saying that opportunity only knocks once?

Well I can assure you that it doesn’t.

You know how I said ‘no’ to the article that was a wrong fit for me?

Less than a week later, a wonderful offer that was exactly in my wheelhouse was in my inbox from the same editor.

Do you struggle with feeling like you have to say ‘yes’ to opportunities, even when you know they’re not right for you?

No Comments

  • Vivienne says:

    Hah – an amazingly timed post for me as I did this just this morning by not pitching for a well-paid opportunity because some elements of it didn’t fit well for me. Luckily there were other opportunities at the same time – that did fit – so it was easier to make the decision not to go for this one but this post helps explain why I’m glad I made the decision (and feel fine about it). Thanks (again!), Lindy!

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      What a coincidence Vivienne! Even this morning I had some potential work come my way and I had to re-read this post to remind me that it’s okay to say no to an opportunity that isn’t right.
      So glad that there were other better fitting opportunities waiting for you n the wings 🙂

  • Rachel says:

    I definitely deal with the struggle of picking the right opportunities on a weekly basis! I’m glad I am not alone. I’ll have to use this post as a daily reminder that not all opportunities are always the right fit. It’s okay to back yourself that something better will pop up that is the right fit.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      You are definitely not alone Rachel! Yes, I think believing (knowing) that the right opportunity is just around the corner is something we all have to practice. Thanks for your comment.

  • Kelsey says:

    Ah, I too so needed to read this today. Lately I feel like I’ve been losing focus, jumping from opportunity to opportunity and trying to fit myself into what I think other people want from me – when it’s not what I want. It’s actually really burning me out. Thank you for reminding me that it’s OK to say no.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Oh Kelsey, I’ve been there! It can be exhausting trying to fit into everyone’s idea of what they want instead of following your own path and writing (within reason!) what you want to. It’s definitely okay (and necessary!) to say no sometimes. Thanks for your comment.

  • K. Wright says:

    As someone who’s just a few months into full-time freelancing, I definitely find myself having moments where I want to take any and everything that comes my way. It’s hard not to, especially during the times when it seems I don’t have many opportunities coming in at all. However, I have to remind myself that the whole point of freelancing, for me anyway, is to do work that fits my skillset and that interests me. I’ve worked quite a bit to get out of the scarcity mindset that kept me at jobs I didn’t enjoy, so I don’t want to fall into the same mindset as a freelancer. Posts like this one are great reminders that it’s okay to turn down some offers!

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Thanks so much for your comment. You are so right, it can be really tough to turn down work when you don’t have a guarantee that you’ve got more coming. But I’m a big believer in making space for opportunities you do want, even if they’re not visible yet.

  • Amber C. says:

    I understand how this can seem so basic, and also, how practicing it in real life can feel far from basic. I recently interviwed for a writing position with a local business and came away with huge red flags and almost no desire for the position as it was described to me, yet I wrestled a bit with the guilt of "obligation" to an opportunity. I ultimately turned it down and have peace with that, but all this to say, the struggle is real. And I’m encouraged by your story, how a "right" opportunity came to you shortly after. Thank you.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Hi Amber, you’re so right – in theory – easy, practice? Not so much. Good for you for trusting your gut and saying no to that opportunity. I’m sure that this has created space for the right one to come your way.
      And just after I published this post I had another ‘wrong’ opportunity come my way and even though I knew I had no capacity to take it on I still toyed with the possibility for hours. I’m hoping it gets easier!
      Thanks for sharing your experience.

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