The Happy Truth About “Ugly” Projects

Some freelance projects are just too much trouble to take on. At least, that’s the conventional wisdom. But is the conventional wisdom right?

That depends.

You may have already been approached by a potential client who has a seemingly impossible project that no one wants to work on. Turning this “ugly” project down may seem like a no-brainer, but is it really the right thing to do?

If you haven’t been approached by a client with an “ugly” project yet, chances are good that you will be offered one at some point during your freelancing career.

In this post, we’ll take a look at “ugly” projects and discuss how you might benefit by giving them a second look. Also, I’ll share my own experience with an “ugly” job and ask you to share yours.

Why Taking “Ugly” Projects Sometimes Makes Sense

“Ugly” projects are often exceptional opportunities for freelancers.

Willingness to take on work that no one else wants at a well-known company can help you get your foot in the door. Maybe that company wouldn’t normally consider your or maybe there is ordinarily just too much competition to get on board with them. The “ugly” project becomes your door of opportunity.

Many freelancers won’t tackle projects that look too hard. If no one else wants it, you don’t really have any competition for the “ugly” project. Usually, this means that you can charge more money for it.

If you do conquer an “ugly” project, you may find that:

  • The rest of the work isn’t so bad. Once you get past the “ugly” part of the project–the part where everyone else got stuck–you may find that everything else about the project goes smoothly.
  • You’ve earned a bit of respect. Most companies are extremely grateful when you complete a project that no one else could. This can mean positive references for you. Be sure to ask for a testimonial.
  • This client will turn to you again. Since you solved a problem for them in the past, they now trust you. Chances are that the client will choose to use your freelancing services again in the future.
  • You’ve learned new skills. Sometimes a project is too difficult because most freelancers don’t have the right skillset. An “ugly” project can mean learning valuable new skills.

Of course, there are also risks involved in taking on “ugly” projects.

What About the Risks?

The main risk of accepting a project that no one else wants, of course, is that you fall flat on your face. You tackled something that no one else was able to do and found out that you can’t do it either.

Well, if this happen, at least you won’t be alone in your failure.

Now, there is a bit of risk inherent in taking any freelance work–but taking on a project that no one else wants is especially risky. That kind of risk is just not for everyone–and that’s perfectly okay.

If you do decide to take on an “ugly” project, you can minimize the risk by learning as much as you can about the project before you accept it. Ask as many questions as you can and listen very carefully to the answers.

As with any project, you should get your agreement with this client in writing.

Personally, I’ve had some good experiences with “ugly” projects in the past.

My “Ugly” Project

Many of my first writing opportunities were projects that no one else wanted.

As an example, I still remember my first writing job. My boss led me to my desk, which was piled high with unfinished projects and unanswered correspondence. (Two months worth!) Part of my job would be to catch up.

Previous applicants for the position had been discouraged by the huge backlog of work. But, after a month of very hard work I did catch up. I found myself in a great work opportunity with colleagues who liked and trusted me. If I’d walked away when the job seemed too hard, I’d have missed out on a lot.

What About You?

Have you taken on any ugly projects that went well? What are your tips for succeeding at “ugly” projects.

Share your stories in the comments. (Please don’t name any clients specifically, though.)