After those seemingly endless days spent compulsively refreshing your inbox and hearing nothing but crickets, you finally get what you’ve been waiting for: The email offering you a new freelance project.
Your feet begin to twitch with the beginnings of your happy dance. But, before you immediately reply with an enthusiastic, “Yes! I’ll absolutely do it!” it’s important for you to take some time and ensure that this opportunity is something you should actually take on.
As an independent hustler, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you should gladly accept every last gig that falls in your lap (you should enjoy the feast before the famine strikes, right?). However, successful freelancers know it’s better to be a little selective and confirm that the project is a good fit for you before you find yourself knee-deep in a mess.
So, how can you evaluate a new gig and determine if you should move forward? Start by asking yourself these five questions.
Can I complete this by the established deadline?
As tempting as it can be to pile your freelance plate full, you don’t want to end up with so much work on your to-do list that you begin missing deadlines, sacrificing quality, and letting little details slip through the cracks.
This is why that it’s important for you to take a hard look at your current workload as well as the assigned deadline for this project. You need to ensure that you have the adequate bandwidth and time in your schedule to get the work done well and on time. One way to ensure this? Practice diligent time-tracking, so you know exactly how many hours are going to each existing project.
Does the offered rate fit my expectations?
Tying back to that feast or famine mentality, you can often find yourself throwing caution to the wind and accepting low-rate work in the interest of having some money rolling in. Something is better than nothing, right?
However, this isn’t a smart strategy for a couple of reasons. First, it devalues your business and your skills. If you don’t believe you’re worthy of what you typically charge, why should anybody else? And, secondly, the freelance world is small—people talk. You’ll have a tough time ever charging another client your normal price if you dip way below your standard rate during a slow period.
Remember not to get so swept up in the excitement of a brand new gig that you neglect to look at the numbers. If the rate doesn’t match up with your expectations, it’s probably better to pass.
Is this client legitimate?
Unfortunately, there are plenty of scams that freelancers fall victim to. With the anonymity that the internet grants, it’s become increasingly difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff in regards to prospective clients.
Enter the importance of doing your research. Do some digging online—use resources like LinkedIn or even this client’s website—to find out more about who you’d be working for. You can also do some searching to see if there are any negative reviews from people (whether they’re customers or other contractors) who have worked with this person or company before.
There’s no tried and true way to guarantee that an opportunity will pan out the way you expected. But, doing some detective work before accepting will help you avoid getting yourself into a bad situation.
Do I mesh well with this client?
Alright, 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 or not you and this prospective client (and any other team members you’d be working with) will mesh well.
Any freelancer who has experienced a tense client relationship will speak to the importance of finding clients that are best suited to you. You don’t need to be fast friends, but you ultimately should have compatible communication styles and approaches to work.
Look back on your correspondence so far and consider how they’ve been to work with. Have they been frustratingly slow to respond or vague in their directions or requirements? If anything is making you uneasy about the prospect of working with them, you might want to give this some more thought.
Am I excited about the work?
Freelancing pays your bills. But, remember, you got into this field because you were passionate about the work you were doing. And, you still deserve to feel that inspired by the projects you choose to work on.
So, ask yourself if this gig excites you. Is your mind already swimming with different ideas, or do you just let out an exhausted groan when thinking about even getting started on this project?
Yes, any job—freelancing included—will require you to tackle some tasks you’d rather not deal with every now and then (expense tracking, anyone?). But, if this gig is filling you with dread, it’s probably better to pass and save yourself for an opportunity that’s a better fit.
Landing a new freelance gig is exciting. However, you can’t get so swept up in the thrill of new work that you neglect to consider whether or not this is an opportunity you should realistically take on.
Take time to reflect on these five questions before accepting a freelance gig, and you’ll be sure to fill your client roster and to-do list with work that’s the best fit for you.