Contrasting Long and Short Duration Projects
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Advantages of Longer Projects
In my comparison of online freelancing to traditional employment, I made the point that comparing advantages and disadvantages of alternatives is most properly done not by counting items in a list, but weighing the pros and cons based on how important they are. Here we have a good example: the number of advantages of longer projects is not large, but they are considered important enough that more freelancers prefer longer projects than shorter ones.
Perhaps the most important benefit of long assignments is that they are more efficient. There’s a certain amount of overhead associated with finding freelance work, none of which is compensated. Reviewing project listings, writing proposals, asking clients questions, setting up terms and conditions and so forth is all important, but every hour you spend doing this is an hour you are doing work for which you are not paid. Most freelancers also don’t particularly enjoy this type of work, and want to minimize it as much as possible: for some people, the idea of one task keeping them busy for several weeks is hard to beat!
The amount of overhead time needed to bid on, win and manage a long project is generally greater than that needed for a short project, but is usually proportionally less. It might take 30 minutes of time to win a small job and two hours of work to win a long one, but the latter could involve 10 or 20 times as much paid work for that investment of effort.
Another reason that serious freelancers like long projects is that they are more substantial in nature. They are easier to “sink your teeth into” and to get involved in. Many freelancers like the ability to really focus on a task and know that what they are doing, and what they are being paid, justifies giving the work their full attention.
Finally, when you work longer projects you tend to have fewer of them going at one time. There is less project management work overall because you don’t have to shuffle hats as much, deal with requests from as many clients, and so forth.
I may be in the minority, but I actually prefer shorter duration projects. I don’t necessarily like them all to be very short, but I generally prefer ones that I can do in a few hours to at most a full day’s worth of work. I rarely take on projects that take more than 10 or 15 hours to complete.
I realize that in doing this, I am being less efficient with my time to some extent, as mentioned just above, and I spend more time looking for projects and dealing with project management issues. But I find the benefits of short projects outweigh the downsides for my particular style of work. These are mostly small, practical matters that for me add up to make shorter tasks my preference.
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