Match Between the Project and Your Abilities
I already gave away my view about the importance of this particular freelancing project suitability factor in the previous topic. There must be a good match between the project you are looking at and your abilities before you can even consider bidding on it. This seems so simple that it should really go without saying, but since this is supposed to be a comprehensive discussion of project assessment factors, I had to say it anyway. :)
Now that I’ve said it, though, there’s not really a lot more I can expound upon here. Knowing whether a project matches your capabilities is part of being a good freelancer. Projects vary in terms of their difficulty, and freelancers similarly vary in their training and expertise. You have to evaluate the project based on its description and determine for yourself whether or not it is something you are able to do. It’s not generally something that a guide can really help you with.
Of course, most freelancers don’t look at project descriptions and assess them using a strictly binary “yes I can do this” or “no I cannot do this”. They evaluate each project to decide whether it is a project they can do easily, something they can accomplish with some effort, or a task that will be very challenging.
The easy projects are, of course, the “low hanging fruit” of the freelancing world. These are the types of jobs you can bid on without feeling any risk that you won’t be able to get the project finished. They are easy to write proposals for, and allow you to make money and expand your business without a lot of effort. The only problem with them is that the less difficult a project, the more likely you are to face competition from others, and also the less you can likely bid (if you want to win).
Moderately difficult projects strike a balance between effort and reward. These are often projects that require particular expertise, but that you’ve done before so you know how to do them. They take more of an effort than easy projects, and represent slightly more risk when it comes to bidding. On the plus side, they usually pay better, and there is less competition for them.
Then there are the more challenging projects. These may be tasks that are in a particular niche where you have less experience, or that require you to be creative in solving a novel problem. This is where true professionals really shine—and can be compensated accordingly. But there is also more risk here, in terms of the consequences of inaccurate bidding, and the chances of project failure.
It’s up to you to decide how aggressive you want to be in bidding on projects that will strain the limits of your capabilities. I personally believe that the most professional approach overall when it comes to freelancing is to be conservative. Why? Because I’m a big believer in the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. As a client, I would not want to hire someone who claimed he or she could get my work done but wasn’t really confident of his or her abilities. As a contractor, I feel it is my duty to treat my clients the same way I would want someone I hired to behave.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with taking on projects that are difficult, or that involve work different from anything you’ve done before. Sometimes you may actually be doing the client a favor, if he or she cannot find anyone willing to even take a chance on the project.
In this situation, though, you need to inform the client. Tell him or her that this project isn’t exactly up your alley, what you’ve done before that is like it, and where the differences lie. Explain what the risks are, and give an estimate of how likely it is that you feel you’ll be able to complete the project. Then the client can make the decision, and you can sleep at night knowing that you’ve been honest and professional in your dealings.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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