Monday, July 19, 2010

Apologizing when you blow it

This morning's post by Dan Smith at All Freelance Writing, "How to Turn Down a Freelance Job Professionally and Respectfully," hit home with me, because this week I blew it—failing to deliver a new-project estimate after a few weeks had elapsed. It fell off my radar while excuses piled up in my head: I've been super busy, the project was a bit outside my comfort zone, did I really want to add another microclient...and so on. The longer I waited, the more my anxiety increased and the less I wanted to do anything.

Let's just state for the record, however, that "Not responding at all" doesn't qualify as professional or respectful, even if it's a tiny job for an unknown prospect. I've been doing this long enough that I should have known to use two of the items Dan mentions—explain why you can't do it and offer an alternative—to simply say, "No, but thank you for your interest, I'm all booked up." I'm still not sure why I didn't heed my instincts that I already had too much on my plate.

So here's what I wrote and emailed this morning:
Dear Mr. X:

I need to apologize for not getting back to you. I won't make excuses, but simply wanted to email and say that I am sorry. I strive to hold myself to a higher professional standard than what I've shown you, but have fallen far short in this case.

If you prefer to take another direction, I completely understand, and I wish you the best in your pursuits. If not, please give me a call.

Thank you for your understanding,

Short, to the point, sans excuses. I don't know if I'll hear back from him or not, but apologizing cleared my own head of guilt, even while it serves as a reminder to myself that 1) I'm not perfect and 2) a fellow businessperson deserves to be treated better than that.


  1. Apologizing can be hard to swallow, but worth it. That's a good link at All Freelance Writing, too.

  2. Good for you for being direct. I know the moment I acknowledge I'm not quite willing or interested, this procrastination cycle kicks in and I dread contacting the client. I think it was big of you to apologize and I'm sure he appreciated it too.

  3. I'm so GUILTY! I have TWO clients that I drag my feet on, have tried to send elsewhere, albeit subtlety, and they keep coming back. And I keep dragging my feet. Your post made me send an email to myself at work to handle this immediately. Thanks for the kick in the ass!

  4. @Valerie, I'm glad you think it's so noble. :) More like self-preservation.

    @adchick, glad to be of service. It was not an easy thing to accept at first, but I feel way better about it now. I try not to make this blog a confessional for all the plentiful dumb things I do, lest I undermine my sterling reputation of perfection, but there you have it!