Excessively Short or Vague Project Description
The project description is arguably the most important part of any freelance project listing. In fact, I went so far as to list the clarity and quality of the project description as the first factor you should consider in deciding whether or not to even look at bidding on a task.
As I mentioned in that discussion, a description that is poorly written or that lacks detail is not automatically a reason to write off a project. Sometimes clients need a bit of help defining what they need done. And sometimes they just aren’t that great at communicating in writing. It is certainly more work to deal with an extensive pre-bid process on a project whose description is not well-written. However, this can in fact be an opportunity to forge a relationship with a client, and get your foot in the door on a task many other freelancers wouldn’t bother with.
All that said, though, there is a limit to how much energy it is wise to devote to turning around a badly-defined project. And one place you should definitely draw the line is with projects that are so short or vague that they give you almost nothing to go on. What I am talking about here are projects that really contain no information at all about what the client wants you do. It’s surprisingly common to see such project listings, some of which even contain just a single, short sentence like “Need data” or “Writing articles”.
In my experience there are only two reasons why these projects exist, and both are cause to immediately remove such projects from consideration.
The first and simplest reason for a project with a trivial description is a private project that has been accidentally posted publicly. A freelancer who is already working with a client often already knows what needs to be done on a job, either because it is repeat work, or the client has communicated the requirements in some other way. There is no need for a lengthy description here, so clients just put in a few words as a placeholder.
These projects show up in public listings due to either freelancing site limitations or client error (or both). Some sites require clients to create “dummy projects” when working with existing contractors; others don’t require it, but clients do it anyway because they don’t know how to initiate a repeat project directly with a contractor. Certain sites also make it far harder than it should be to figure out how to make a project private. The end result of this is a project with no details that you were never supposed to see.
The other main cause of single-line project descriptions is clients who don’t know what they want at all, or if they do, can’t be bothered to put forth a modicum of effort to properly describe it. These folks, whether they realize it or not, are giving you a pretty strong indication of their own lack of professionalism. I won’t say that it’s impossible to actually get somewhere with clients who don’t take their tasks seriously enough to take a couple of minutes to write even one paragraph about them. But the shorter the description, the greater the chance of a pointless and frustrating exercise.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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