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I work as a contractor for a few different agencies. I do marketing/sales work. On rare occasions I have to cancel a shift because of a scheduling conflict.

Sometimes I'm booked with one agency but another says they really need me to work a certain day (sometimes they realize they need/want the same person who was already working on the project etc) so this is why such situations arise. It's good for me when this happens because the pay is better and I'm guaranteed more work.

When I do have to cancel with an agency I already have a shift confirmed with, what should I say? Sometimes I ask why I am cancelling? Should I tell them because another job has an urgent need for me? Or should I just say "I need to take a sick day on this one"?

I know honesty is the best policy but they tend to get mad when someone cancels with notice so it's as if it's better for me to wait until the last minute and just say I'm sick.

I feel really bad when I cancel on an agency that has treated me well. Though other agencies cancel on me and making scheduling mistakes often so I find it hypocritical of them to complain about me cancelling a shift.

  • If they get mad when you cancel “with notice”, what happens when you cancel without any or little notice? – Solar Mike Sep 7 at 4:18
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You're not an employee, you're not bound by any rules or policies to tell them your reasons. You don't need to, and shouldn't, lie.

"My apologies, a pressing engagement has come up and I won't be available today."

That should be sufficient. If they press you for more information, then they're crossing a line. Simply tell them that you're not at liberty to discuss it and that you respect and abide the privacy concerns of all of your clients. They'll get the hint.

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I think in the long term you need to resolve this by making it clear in your contracts who can cancel, with what notice and penalties.

If you want to be able to cancel a shift you have committed to based on a better offer, not necessity such as sickness, that should be clear to your clients. Similarly, it seems reasonable to require some penalty, such as partial payment, if they cancel an agreed shift.

If you had clear, agreed cancellation rules in your contract you situation would be much simpler. You would be able to say "I am cancelling that shift with enough notice according to our contract." or tell the client wanting you at short notice "I am already committed to a shift on that day, and it is too late to cancel."

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