How To Know When A Project Is Complete (And Avoid Overworking)

It\'s DoneWhen is a project done? Do you really know how to tell when you should stop working?

New freelancers often ask me nervously how many times they should check over their work. My own commitment is to look at a project at least three times before turning it in.

However, caution can be overdone. Many freelancers are guilty of overdoing their projects without really intending to. If you tend to be a perfectionist (like I am) it is really easy to overdo it. Rechecking over your work usually means redoing, and redoing it, and redoing it. . .all in the hopes of “perfecting” it.

Sometimes a minimalist approach is really the best answer.

I think that there is an awful lot of overwriting, over programming, and over designing going on in the freelancing world. Overwork happens because freelancers tend to be quality-driven (and in general, that’s a good thing).

However, sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. Unfortunately, all of this extra work takes a lot of time. It can cost the freelancer in terms of lost opportunities. It could even cause the freelancer to miss deadlines.

How To Avoid Overworking

Here are a few tips that will help you discern the end of a project and avoid overworking yourself:

  1. Look at the instructions. The old adage, “when in doubt, read the instructions” is still true. Examine what the client really asked for. Compare the original requirements to what you are now doing. If necessary, make some changes to get the project back on track.
  2. Consider the client’s needs. Sometimes a client benefits when a freelancer does extra work on a project. We all know that sometimes clients don’t ask for what they really need. However, sometimes the additional work is just a waste of time. Learn to determine the difference.
  3. Take a break and come back to it later. It is easy to get off-track if you’re tired and stressed. Taking a short break to get your mind off the project for a while can be very helpful. When you come back from your break, you can take a look at the project with a fresh set of eyes.
  4. Get a second opinion. If you are still unhappy with the direction that the project is going, ask a peer or mentor if they would mind looking at what you have done. Often, another person can offer an objective opinion and bring out aspects of the project that you missed.
  5. Ask the client. If you have a good relationship with the client, why not involve them? Let them know that you have done what they asked, but that you really feel that the project should include a bit more. When you do get their opinion, be sure to treat it with respect.
  6. Acknowledge your abilities. Often, the cause of freelancer overwork is a feeling of inadequacy. If you secretly feel that you aren’t very good at what you do, then you may have trouble feeling that your finished work is good enough to turn in. Acknowledge your own expertise at what you do.

Share Your Experiences about Overwork

Here are some questions that Freelance Folder readers may wish to discuss:

How have you dealt with the tendency to perfectionism and overworking a project in your freelancing career?

Have you ever overworked a project beyond what the client originally asked for? Was the result positive, or negative?

Has a client ever been dissatisfied or unhappy because you took a project beyond their original requirements?

Top image by Dwonderwall