Five Freelancing Projects to Embrace and Five to Avoid

Have you ever regretted taking a freelancing project?

If you’re an experienced freelancer, you probably already know that there are freelancing projects out there that should be avoided. The sad fact is that there are some bad freelancing projects out there.

Happily, there are also some wonderful freelancing projects that any freelancer would benefit from accepting. In this post, I’ll list five examples of the wonderful type of freelancing project and five examples of freelancing projects you are better off without.

Projects to Embrace

There are some really great freelancing opportunities out there–projects that nearly any freelancer would be happy to take on. Here are five examples of freelancing projects you may want to embrace:

  1. A project with someone you admire. Do you have mentor or someone whose work you admire? Many freelancers do. If you get the chance to work with someone that you look up to, it can be a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow as a freelancer. Don’t forget to ask for a testimonial when you are done.
  2. A long-term project with decent pay. The best thing about long-term projects is that you don’t have to find as many of them to meet your income goal. A long-term project can last several weeks or several months. It can be an excellent opportunity to build a relationship with the client.
  3. A project that expands or grows your expertise. You can take all of the classes you want, but hands-on experience is usually the best way to learn a new skill. A project that allows you to develop a new skill can benefit your freelancing business in the long run. Be sure to allow extra time for learning.
  4. A project doing what you love most. Most of us have certain tasks in our field that we enjoy doing more than other tasks. If you are lucky enough to find a project that lets you focus on something that you really enjoy and pays you to do it, jump on the opportunity.
  5. A project that pays extremely well. A high-paying project can make up for a number of faults. The project may be difficult, for a picky client, or just boring–but if pays well, you may find that the financial security it offers is worth the inconveniences that come along with it.

Of course, just as there are great freelancing projects there are also freelancing projects that you should avoid.

Projects to Avoid

Here are five types of freelancing projects to avoid.

  1. A project with a troublesome client. Sometimes a client can be so difficult to work with that no amount of money makes their project worth tackling. If the client has already engaged a high number of freelancers and was not satisfied with any of them, it can be a sign that they are too difficult to work with.
  2. A project that never ends. Some clients constantly request revisions long after the project should be over. Endless rounds of changes can eat into your profit. If a client doesn’t know what he or she wants, avoid them. Better yet, specify the number of revisions you will allow in your contract.
  3. The vanishing project. At first, this project seems like your ideal project–great client, great work, and great pay. However, the project never seems to get off the ground. When you ask, it’s always going to start “soon.” Eventually the “client” stops answering your questions.
  4. The rush project. While many freelancers love rush projects because they can charge more, there are also many risks with a rush project. Because of the hurry, the chance of a miscommunication is greater as is the chance of you making a mistake. Personally, I try to avoid rush projects.
  5. The impossible project. If you’ve been freelancing for a while, you’ve probably already received a number of impossible requests from clients. The impossible project may require you to make an unreasonable guarantee (such as ensuring a specific number of sales from a web page you design) or include a request to do something that technology doesn’t allow. Avoid taking an impossible project.

Your Turn

I’ve shared five great types of projects that you may wish to embrace. I’ve also listed five types of awful freelancing projects that you should avoid.

Of course, choosing freelancing projects is highly personal. One freelancer’s ideal project may be another freelancer’s nightmare.

Can you think of any other types of projects freelancers should embrace or avoid? Describe them in the comments.

Have you taken on any of the types of projects that I’ve described here? Share your experiences in the comments.

Image by chintermeyer


  1. says

    The reason for being in the business is to make a profit. Individual projects may or may not contribute to the profit. Remember that this profit I’m writing about is for the year. It is what you pay income taxes on.

    You embrace any project because of the profit you expect. That is the reason you are in business.

  2. says

    Sharlea–I’m sorry that happened to you.

    Gold, Thanks for your feedback. There’s no reason a project can’t be profitable and still be enjoyable. At the same time, for many freelancers there are some projects that aren’t worth doing for any amount of money.

  3. says

    I don’t understand you. Are you or are not you in business to make a profit? All jobs you do are for the profit. Experience suggest what jobs (for profit) you do are don’t attempt. enjoyment is not the reason for doing the job!
    Of course you are suggesting the the profit is the enjoyment. But you didn’t indicate that. If you don’t do it for profit then that for fun and not business.

  4. says

    Great comment!

    Of course profit is important, but unless that’s the only thing motivating the freelancer, they risk burnout if they focus on it to the exclusion of everything else.

  5. says

    I always try to avoid the rush projects. It’s just way too much pressure. It’s not worth the stress. As it is, writing can be stressful when you DO have enough time.

  6. says

    Oh, the impossible project. My favorite was getting an RFP from a group that wanted a website that had to be designed for mobile use as well (no second site allowed). It had to have tons of photos and use Flash, yet work quickly on mobiles and be compatible with all devices. Between the requirements and the management by committee, I didn’t touch it!

    I write requests for proposals, so many times the assignment is a rush job simply because that’s the timeline and deadline in the RFP. I usually don’t mind these, because I can make a lot of money in a short period of time.

    I’ve been learning to deal with projects that never end. I usually charge a 50% deposit, and the rest when the project is completed. Now, when a project takes a long time or has the potential to drag on, I’m charging 25% up front, 25% halfway through, and another 25% if the project goes past the expected completion date, with the remainder at the end. It keeps cash flowing for me, and reminds the client that this needs to get finished.

  7. says

    I avoid rush projects mainly because they don’t allow me to work to the best of my ability. They may pay more, but I can’t sacrifice quality of service for profit. They probably won’t know it isn’t my best work, but I will. It’s true my eyes light up when I’m paid, but they light up even more when something I build delights another person or makes their lives easier..

    I’m not naive enough to say that profit isn’t a concern, but I’ve also turned down a few high-paying jobs because the nature of the work rubbed me the wrong way, or time constraints would have forced sub-par work. The main draw of having my own freelancing business wasn’t just making a profit; it was making a profit without skirting my values and with my best work. Making money is great, but making money on my own terms is more satisfying for me.

    A note on the impossible project: if they request something that can’t be done, maybe you can suggest a good alternative that still fits their goals. Promising the impossible can easily turn it into the Project that Never Ends, but suggesting alternatives not only solves their problem but further cements your role as the expert. That transparency holds more value to the client and builds trust, making it far more likely they’ll think of you again. It also spares you many, many headaches.

  8. says

    Chatman R.- After gaining knowledge of your products, you just listed many if not all the reasons WHY I would consider you for assisting me. That is of course if I had a need for your perfection.

  9. says

    Laura, in my first year of freelancing, I took on every one of the five projects to avoid — and learned valuable lessons from each engagement. These days, I vet each potential client almost as carefully as they do me. Thanks for the reminder that my time is valuable, too!

  10. says

    Ah, the vanishing project. Been there and done that a hell lot of times!

    It’s just so irksome, what can I say? And hate it when someone is so irresponsible as to not even bother to correspond you why it ends.

  11. says

    Great article! I’ve turned down projects extending beyond my capabilities, but I do this with caution. If I can benefit from learning the task at hand and use the skills for future projects, I may take it on as long as I have a backup resource.

    If learning the task is too time consuming and is a service I will never offer, I would probably turn it down and let the client know, I am not the right person for the job. If I know someone, I’ll refer them… if not and they have trouble finding someone, I may offer them solutions within my scope of capabilities.

  12. Sher says

    Yep. The client with personal problems who decides that the fee includes ongoing counseling. Also had the ‘great project that will give you work for the next six months.’ Then the economy went sour, and so did the great project – and it’s so disappointing because it was such a fun project. As for profit, well I have found out the hard way that there are just some projects that are not worth ANY money!
    Oh well.

  13. says

    Really like this statement ” If the client has already engaged a high number of freelancers and was not satisfied with any of them, it can be a sign that they are too difficult to work with.” I had one troublesome client who was difficult to gauge in the begining but he did gave a hint that he has hired lot number of freelancers and was unhappy with them all.. Will keep this in mind

  14. says

    hello dear,

    good morning. have created account wish to do some typing work, but as a new comer, could not bid due to post a previous project to show my performance. can you give me a text for my ready reference ? how can i make the same ?? Thanks


  1. […] Association recently featured a very nice blog post on saying “no” to projects and clients who are more trouble than they are worth. Great advice, but my first thought was that this should come quite naturally in a field that […]

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