After those seemingly endless days of compulsively refresh your inbox and hear nothing but crickets, you finally get what you’ve been waiting for: the email offering you a new freelance project.
Your feet begin to tremble with the beginning of your merry dance. But before you immediately answer enthusiastically: “Yes! I will absolutely do it!” it is important that you take some time and make sure that you really take this opportunity.
As an independent con artist, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you have to happily accept any last gig that falls on your lap (you’ve got to enjoy the party before famine hits, right?). However, successful freelancers know that it’s better to be a little selective and confirm that the project is a good fit for you before you find yourself in a knee-deep mess.
So, how can you evaluate a new gig and determine if you should continue? Start by asking yourself these five questions.
Can I complete this within the set deadline?
As tempting as it can be to pile up your freelance board, you don’t want to end up with so much work on your to-do list that you start missing deadlines, sacrificing quality, and letting small details slip through the cracks.
That’s why it’s important to look closely at your current workload and the allotted deadline for this project. You need to make sure you have enough bandwidth and time in your schedule to get the job done right and on time. Any way to guarantee this? Practice time tracking diligently so you know exactly how many hours each existing project goes.
Does the rate offered match my expectations?
Coming back to that party or famine mentality, you can often find yourself throwing caution to the wind and accepting low-paid work just to let some cash roll in. Something is better than nothing, right?
However, this is not a smart strategy for a number of reasons. First, it devalues your business and your skills. If you don’t believe you are worth what you usually ask, why should anyone else? And second, the freelance world is small: people talk. You’ll have a hard time ever charging another customer your regular price if you drop way below your standard rate during a slow period.
Remember, don’t get so caught up in the excitement of a brand new performance that you neglect to look at the numbers. If the rate doesn’t match your expectations, it’s probably better to pass.
Is this customer legit?
Unfortunately, there are plenty of scams that freelancers fall victim to. With the anonymity that the Internet offers, it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff with regard to potential customers.
Enter the importance of doing your research. Do some research online — use resources like LinkedIn or even this client’s website — to learn more about who you’d work for. You can also do some searching to see if there are any negative reviews from people (whether customers or other contractors) who have worked with this person or company before.
There is no proven way to guarantee that an opportunity will develop the way you expected. But by doing some detective work before accepting, you can avoid ending up in a bad situation.
Am I a good fit with this customer?
Okay, so the work this client is offering doesn’t seem like a scam. But don’t stop your considerations there. You should also take some time to think about whether you and this potential client (and any other team members you might work with) are a good fit.
Any freelancer who has experienced a strained client relationship will stress the importance of finding clients who are the best fit for you. You don’t have to be fast friends, but ultimately you do need to have compatible communication styles and working methods.
Look back at your correspondence to date and consider what they’ve been like to work with. Were they frustratingly slow in responding or vague in their directions or requirements? If there’s anything that worries you about the prospect of working with them, you might want to rethink it.
Am I enthusiastic about the work?
Freelancing pays your bills. But remember, you got into this field because you were passionate about the work you did. And you still deserve to feel inspired by the projects you want to work on.
So ask yourself if this performance turns you on. Is your mind already swimming with different ideas, or do you just let out an exhausted groan at the thought of even starting this project?
Yes, any job — freelancing included — requires you to complete some tasks that you’d rather not do every once in a while (track expenses, anyone?). But if this gig fills you with dread, it’s probably better to pass and save yourself for an opportunity that’s better suited to you.
Landing a new freelance gig is exciting. However, you can’t get so caught up in the thrill of new work that you fail to consider whether this is an opportunity you should realistically seize.
Take the time to think about these five questions before accepting a freelance gig, and you’ll be sure to fill your client base and to-do list with work that works best for you.