When To Walk Away From A Freelance Project

saying no to a project can be  just as important as saying yes

If you are anything like me, you struggle with saying no. Walking away from a freelance project feels counter-intuitive and just wrong. How can you turn away from a new client and some extra cash in your pocket? But when building your business, the projects you say no to can be just as important as the projects you say yes to.

Consider asking yourself the following questions before taking on a new project:

Does the project match your skill set?

This may seem obvious, but do not take on jobs that are outside your area of expertise. If you are strictly a print designer, be up front with your client and don’t promise a complete web design overhaul. Don’t claim to be a “social media strategist” when your only experience to date has been creating your personal Facebook page.

It is far better to form strategic alliances with other freelancers who have complementary skills. Are you a designer who struggles with html? Bring in a coding expert to help on your next job. You can pass along the cost to your client, and in turn, the coding expert just might bring you some design work from his/her clients. Do what you do best; strategically farm out the rest.

Will the finished project be something you are proud to show in your portfolio?

In an ideal world, your dream clients would come running to you with an ample budget and projects galore.

More often than not, the “dream client” doesn’t have the cash. For example, say an up-and-coming jewelry designer needs a brochure designed for her new collection. As soon as you hear of the project, your mind starts reeling with innovative ideas to showcase the jewelry; but the client can’t afford to pay your full hourly rate. Do you take the project? Time allowing, you may consider taking on the project to build your portfolio and attract new clients.

Conversely, if a client comes to you with a project that you would most likely NOT show in your portfolio, don’t turn it down right away. Consider if the compensation would make it worthwhile. Could the profit you earn be used to pay for a continuing education seminar or allow you to attend an upcoming conference?

Do you believe in the product or service you will be promoting?

In your freelance career, you will be approached by a client whose business model makes your insides crawl. Maybe it is a cigarette company and your grandmother just recently passed away from smoking-induced emphysema. Or perhaps a specialty gun store approaches you for help with their marketing, but you are anti-guns. I recommend walking away from these kinds of projects.

As much as you try to separate yourself from the product or service, you will have difficulty giving the client your best work when you oppose their fundamental business principles.

Don’t worry. Another project will come along with a cause you are passionate about.

Have you recently walked away from a freelance opportunity? What factors did you consider before turning it down? Love to hear your feedback!

Lauren is a designer & blogger based in Charlotte who loves photography, typography and eating Nutella straight out of the jar. She writes for the Advice column.
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  1. […] Also, be sure to check out my guest post today over at Ciera’s Design Blog. I’m sharing my thoughts on when to walk away from a freelance project. […]

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