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The idea may seem foreign to you. Especially if you’re relatively new to running your design business. If you’re at a stage in your freelance career where you’re trying to establish yourself, you’re trying to get your name out there; you’re trying to make ends meat and pay your bills, then you might not be ready for this concept. Turning down design work may not be in your best interest right now.
However, if you plan on growing your design business to be more than a commodity, more than selling your time for money, then there will come a time when you will need to stop and think, “Is this a design project I want to take on?”
You see, the goal for most home-based designers is to become successful enough to be in high demand. The type of demand where you are booking new clients and new design projects weeks, possibly months in the future. The kind of demand where a client is willing to wait several weeks for you instead of finding a designer that can start on their project sooner.
When I was hand-coding websites, there were times when I was booking two to three months ahead. I don’t see that as much these days since WordPress makes it much quicker to design a website, but demand is still there. And when there’s demand, it means there’s an abundance of work coming in. And when there’s an abundance of work coming in, you can afford to be choosy in the type of projects you take on, and which projects you turn down.
But how do you choose?
I’m going to give you three criteria. Each criteria is made up of a few simple yes or no questions. Asking yourself these questions can help you decide “is this a design project I want to take on?”
Criteria # 1
Yes or no?
- Does this project sound fun or interesting?
- Will it be challenging?
- Will it push me?
- Will it make me learn new skills?
Is the project to design an event poster for a new upcoming festival, or is it to format a company’s 80-page code of conduct manual? One of these two projects sounds fun and challenging and can push you to learn new skills. The other, not so much. You need to decide if the project is a YES or a NO.
Criteria # 2
Yes or no?
- Will this project get me a foot in the door?
- Will it lead to other work?
- Will it lead to more interesting work?
- Will it connect me with people I want to connect with?
What will the future hold for you by taking on this project? If it’s an entry to bigger and better things, then it’s a definite YES. Otherwise, it’s a NO.
Criteria # 3
Yes or no?
- Is this project profitable?
- Will I make money on it?
- Will it bring me recognition or reward?
- Is it worth my time?
Note: Being profitable and making money are not always the same thing. Profitable can mean the project is advantageous, or helpful to you in some way besides monetary income. If you’re trying to break into a particular niche, maybe adding a niche related project to your portfolio is worth more to you right now than the money you’ll make on the project.
Adding up the answers.
Ask yourself these criteria questions before every new design project. If you answered YES to all three criteria, then the design project sounds like a dream job and you should accept it.
If you answered YES to two of the three criteria, then you should highly consider taking on the project. It sounds like an ideal job for you.
If you answered YES to only one of the three criteria, you should be leary of the project. Chances are, it’s not a project worth taking on.
And of course, if you answered NO to all three criteria, take a hard pass on the project, it’s not for you.
Go with your gut.
These three criteria to accept or decline design work are just guidelines. Always follow your gut when it comes to working with clients and on new projects. If you’re hesitating about a job, even one that passes two or even three of the criteria, then the best course of action is to turn it down politely. Never take on a project you don’t feel right about.
Are you in a position where you can afford to decline design work?
Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
Questions of the Week
Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.
This week’s question comes from Julie.
Should I use different branding for my photography business or I should include it as part of my design business?
To find out what I told Julie, you’ll have to listen to the podcast.
Resource of the week WordCamp.tv
If you can attend a WordCamp in your area, I highly suggest you do so. However, if attending WordCamp is not feasible for you, fear not, the sessions and presentations from all WordCamps are available for viewing, free of charge at wordcamp.tv.
If you are a WordPress designer or developer, attending WordCamp should be a regular part of your schedule. WordCamp is a place for WordPress enthusiasts and novices to gather and share their knowledge. Sessions and presentations accommodate all levels of WordPress skills, so everyone benefits from attending.
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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at email@example.com