Why you should turn away work, even when you’re broke

With bonus musings on intuition, judgement, and guts.


“Respect — turning down jobs even when you’re desperate” I quickly typed into my Wunderlist “Blog ideas” list last week for exploration at a later date. Here we are at that date when the sting has lessened but the reality hasn’t.

I’m not going to research this one. I’m going to tell you the story as I remember it. Based on how I feel and what I believe is true. I’m going to rely on that thing some people call intuition and others call judgement and I guess I’ve always thought of as “my gut” but never really called anything out loud. Whatever it is, I’m trying to listen to it more now that my survival depends on my own decisions instead of someone else’s

What my gut told me was to say “No, thanks.” to two jobs last week. Two more jobs than I have right now. Two of the four leads I’ve gotten since pursuing freelance writing in earnest about a month ago. One a job that made me laugh out loud and another that made it easier to cry.

The thing is, you really do become what you do on a regular basis. My brain was starting to formulate this realization that my gut had come to much more quickly. If you crank out work that you have no pride in just to be able to say you cranked out work, lacking pride is who you will become. It is how you and others will think of you. Another way to say this is with an old adage many of us are familiar with in one form or another. To get respect, you must give respect.

How many of us apply this to ourselves? To earn the respect of ourselves and others, we must give ourselves respect.

The first job was purposefully vague. It didn’t ask for work samples, didn’t give a clue as to pay, and didn’t describe the actual work other than to call the end product a “viral blog.” Yeah, those were all red flags. But it was a low investment to apply for the job, so I did. When the employer responded with more information, I was able to look up the company I’d be working for. And then I knew why the job description was vague. This company has 1 star—the lowest rating you can get online since one star is typically required—and 30 disparaging and alarming reviews on Glassdoor. The headline of the first review from just over a year ago reads “I know you have bills to pay, but respect yourself and wait for something better.” After reading the remaining 29 reviews, that’s exactly what I did. The same person who had contacted me about the job was the very person the reviewers described as racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and maybe even sadistic. I didn’t think much about it as I turned the job down, I just knew it was what I needed to do. I even mustered a chuckle about avoiding this nightmare disguised by a misleading job description and anonymous profile.

The second job was harder to walk away from. You know the scum of the earth who write fake Amazon reviews that convince you against your better judgement to buy curtains from China that end up being the wrong size, color, and cost more to return than they did to purchase? This job was that, but worse. I was to write, optimize, and painstakingly format positive reviews for items I’d never used for about 15 bucks an hour. The client would then post these reviews to her blog—complete with her false name, personality, and backstory—full of affiliate Amazon links. Of course, none of this was told to me upfront. Once I figured it out I wrote the employer that I wasn’t comfortable with this approach but there were several other ways I would be happy to help her build her blog. Surprisingly she did reply, but only to say she didn’t have any jobs like I’d described.

The job wasn’t wrong as much as it just wasn’t right. This is where intuition and experience kicked in to tell me I’d never stop feeling slimy the whole time I worked for this client. I called my boyfriend hoping he’d validate my decision to walk away from relatively easy money, since we really did need it. He told me I was the one who had to decide that, and he was right.

I turned down the job, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t tear up later as I complained to him that this isn’t what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to help people take advantage of each other or replace their entire writing team with anonymous online writers who would never find out how big of an asshole they are.

Respect is turning down jobs that aren’t right even when you’re desperate for the comfort and stability they could provide. Respect is trusting your judgement, your intuition, and your skills. Respect is setting and working toward goals while avoiding sparkly distractions that are too good to be true. Respect yourself and the respect of others, including potential leads, will follow.



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