Loyalty to the Highest Bidder.
Very often we see reporters who have been given a start in this field by an agency that subsequently feel indebted to the agency. They feel loyal to the agency, or they feel that they must abide by the agency’s desires to get work.
Truthfully, we are independent contractors, and we must be in business for ourselves. If an agency has told you that you should not work with others, you are under no obligation to listen or feel obligated to do that unless you have signed a contract stating that. And you should not sign such a contract unless it has considerable benefits for you, like a guaranteed six-figure salary. Further, you should understand any contract that you sign, and if you do not understand something, you should read it over with a confidant, mentor, lawyer, or even ask the company to clarify or change terms in the contract that you do not understand.
With that out of the way, many situation arise where reporters feel bad about saying no to agencies. One such situation is where you’ve given Company A your availability but Company B has offered you work. Generally, unless Company B has a bad habit of cancelling, ask Company A for a guarantee or take that job from Company B, because if you do not, you may be left with a big, fat zero on how much money you make that day. When we freelance, we must minimize the number of big, fat zeroes on our cash flow statements to maximize our profits and success regardless of whether we keep those statements on paper or in our heads.
Bottom line? You can use the words “yes” and “no” strategically. If you are pretty sure a job is to be more hassle than it’s worth, you are free to say no. If you are pretty sure saying yes is helping the company out of a bind, and they’ll remember that and throw a little more work your way when times are slow, yes might be a better answer. The thing we must be emphatic about is that the answers given should always unequivocally benefit the freelance reporter. There is a time and a place for altruism, and it is typically not in business. Altruism in business will burn you out and rob you of our livelihood. If that occurs, you will not be able to help anyone, and nobody wants that.
Be loyal to yourself. Do great work for the people and companies you work with or for. Identify what needs to be working better for you and work towards that. With you at the helm steering yourself in a direction you want to go, you cannot go wrong. It is only when others are allowed to influence your decisions that you begin to make decisions that can slow your professional progression or even hurt your career.