The best part about freelancing is the variety. No two projects are the same and with each assignment brings a new challenge. Yesterday I was filming workers welding pipes in a factory and tomorrow I'll be interviewing 6th graders at a French Immersion school. It's truly a mixed bag of nuts and that's what keeps it interesting.
But as freelancers, how should we decide which projects to take and which ones to pass on? In the beginning, most of us don't have the luxury to make this choice. Work is work and we are happy to get paid for doing what we love. But there is trap that is easy to fall into and it is the inclination to accept any job that is available. Yes, we need income to keep the operation running, but that shouldn't be the only consideration.
In the past 12 months, I've been fortunate enough to work on some amazing projects that have been a delight all the way through. I've also experienced the opposite.
After experiencing some good and some not-so-good projects, I've come up with three outcomes that I strive to accomplish each time I take something on. They include:
1. Deliver a truly valuable product that goes beyond what my client expects
2. Create something that I am proud to take ownership of
3. Make the experience exceptional for those I am working with
If I can accomplish these three things, I'll feel pretty good. And while it's my goal that they happen every single time, it hasn't always been the case. To help ensure that I can achieve these outcomes each time, I've come up with a few questions that I ask myself before taking on a project. If the answer to any one of them is no, it is a sign that this might be one to take a pass on.
Five questions to consider before accepting a job
Will I be able to provide the service needed?
As a filmmaker, I take pride in my ability to capture candid moments. I am able to do this because I use a small camera and don't come into a room with an 8 person film crew. That being said, a project that requires the bells and whistles of a large production team isn't for me. The key is to ask the right questions on the front end and communicate with your client which services you provide, and which ones you don't. Honesty and transparency on the front end will always cover you later on.
Do I have time to take this on?
If you're already working 70 hours a week and a client asks you to take on a large-scale project that needs to be delivered yesterday, it's generally a good idea to respectfully decline. While it's temping to re-arrange your schedule to fit more in, you need to know your limits so that you don't spread yourself so thin that it compromises quality. That's not good for your client or your brand.
Will I be emotionally invested?
Some projects are more stimulating than others, but it's generally a good idea to be passionate about the work you do. If you can, stay away from work that will drain you emotionally and creatively. Instead, try to take the projects that inspire. Tell the stories that you believe need to be told.
Is the budget commensurate to the work?
It's important to feel you are getting compensated for the time, energy and resources you put in. By accepting a project on the cheap, you're not doing any favors to yourself or your client. When I take on a project, I want to be 100 percent invested in its success. If I know that I'm not getting paid what I deserve, it's hard to give it my all.
Is your client invested in the project?
If you are committed to being 100 percent invested in a great outcome, your client needs to be on board, too. Yes, you've been hired to deliver a service or product. But if the person you'll be working with seems uninterested in doing the necessary prep work and giving you the resources you need, you won't be successful.
The idea of saying no to projects goes against who we are as freelancers. But the truth is, having the patience and confidence to pass on the projects that aren't the right fit will liberate you to do your best work on the ones that are.