How Defining Your Ideal Project Can Improve Your Freelancing Business

Have you ever gotten one of those projects that just sets your teeth on edge?

You know the kind I mean–the kind of project that you dread waking up to do, but feel obligated to complete since you committed to doing it.

I think every freelancer struggles with this problem, sooner or later. Let’s face it, some of those unpleasant projects pay pretty well, but they sure can suck some of the joy out of freelancing.

If you’d taken the time to define your ideal project up front, you might have been able to avoid some of those dreadful projects–or at least been able to negotiate better project terms for yourself.

In this post, I’ll describe how you can improve your freelancing business by avoiding the projects that you dread. In short, I’ll explain how to define your ideal project.

Why You Should Define Your Ideal Project

We’ve already explained the importance of developing an ideal client profile. Your ideal client profile helps you determine who you want to work with, while your ideal project describes what you want to work on.

If you don’t really know or haven’t thought about the types of projects that you prefer, odds are that you aren’t going to get offered the projects you really like. However, if you define your ideal project, then you can target that sort of work with your marketing. It also provides a standard that you can use to evaluate new projects before you accept them.

6 Questions to Ask Yourself

In order to define your ideal project, you need to first answer a few questions about what’s really important to you. It’s important to be totally honest, since nobody will see these answers but you (and if you fudge on these answers, you will only hurt your chances of finding work you really love).

Try to picture the attributes of a project that would most make you look forward to doing it. Here are some questions to answer:

  • What type of work do I enjoy the most?
  • How important to me is it that I am allowed to show my creativity?
  • What type of deadlines do I work best under?
  • How comfortable am with trying new things on a project?
  • Do I prefer to always receive full credit for my work?
  • Am I okay with working as part of a team, or do I prefer to work alone?

Of course, you can probably think of a few additional questions to help you define your ideal project.

My Ideal Project

When I look at the questions above, I learn that, first and foremost, my ideal project involves writing or editing–preferrably in one of my three specialties: commercial copywriting, technical writing/creating curriculum, blogging.

While I enjoy creative projects, I’m equally at home with structured projects such as such as creating online help systems or study guides.

I’m definitely not a rush job kind of person. If you want something written within a few hours, the project is probably not ideal for me (although I try to help with those when I can). Usually, I prefer larger projects with longer deadlines or small projects with recurring deadlines (such as three articles a week). This allows me maximum control of my time, which is very important to me.

I also love learning new things, but it’s not a necessity when it comes to project work. In fact, learning new things is something that I do on my own constantly anyway.

As far as credit goes, I won’t say that I don’t enjoy seeing my name on a published piece. However, I’m certainly used to and okay with corporate publishing, which typically doesn’t recognize the individual writer.

I’m also fairly flexible about working with a team.

Since I know all of these things about my ideal project, I can more effectively evaluate new opportunities to determine whether they are the best fit for me.

What If There’s a Mismatch?

Of course, not every gig will fit your ideal project perfectly. However, knowing what aspects of a project challenge and excite you can help you determine whether or not you should accept an opportunity and may even influence what you decide to charge.

A project can also be a mismatch if you have to choose between your ideal project and your ideal client. For example, what should you do if your ideal client offers you a less than ideal project? Or, similarly, what happens when you are offered your ideal project, but the client is someone you’d rather not work with?

Of course, every freelancer will make their own decision in such circumstances.

For me, it depends on how far off the mismatch is. If an ideal client is offering me a less than ideal job, but the job is still something I’d be comfortable doing, I may take it anyway to get my foot in the door with that client. On the other hand, if the work is ideal, but I know that I’d be miserable working for a particular organization I may decide not to accept it.

What About You?

Describe your ideal project in the comments.

Image by Symic