When Should I Commit to This Project?

one person handing pen and paper to another person over a desk

As a freelancer, you will be well versed in work hustle. However, the whole entrepreneur “rise and grind” philosophy can leave you feeling exhausted, burnt out, and frustrated if you don’t know when to rest and when to work.

Overcommitting is often the most common way freelancers end up working too late with not enough creativity to make a project inspiring.

If you are someone who overcommits or can’t find a way to say “no” to a new project because you could use the money, you aren’t alone. You will find that most freelancers have struggled with finding the balance between productivity and burn out in the hopes of finding financial security.

The next time a new or previous client slides into your email inbox with a request for a project, follow these steps to ensure that you are ready to commit to the work without sacrificing your creativity or health.

Review Your Calendar

Before you can even begin exploring the idea of taking on a new project, you need to take a hard look at your current calendar. How many hours per week are you working already? Do you have any personal commitments coming up, like a family vacation or weekend away, that would take time away from your desktop?

Don’t look at just your calendar this week. Take a look at the upcoming month or quarter as well to ensure you know your bandwidth before you even respond to that email. It can be all too easy to neglect your long term calendar and realize all too late that you have too many commitments on your plate.

Send Over a Scoping Document

Now that you have a good idea of how much time you might have available to set aside for a new project, you can send over your scoping document to the potential client. Explain that a thorough scope allows you to know the specifics about their project goals and what they hope to accomplish with the new site or design feature. Tell them that a thorough scoping process also allows you to more accurately quote them a price for your work as well as to give them a timeline for when they can expect certain milestones.

Review the Scope

Once your potential client responds with a completed scoping document, it’s time to open it up. In many cases, you will find that there is not enough information on the completed scope to accurately price or time the project, and that is okay. Most business owners aren’t tech-savvy enough to know the specifics of the project; they just know their goals and audience. They are hiring you to do the technical portion and make recommendations.

If you have some extra time, you can offer to charge them a fair hourly rate to help them complete the scoping document. This can be quite helpful for both of you as you use the document to get to know more about their company and project hopes. When you have clear goals set for your client, you will be more likely to succeed in your project. Additionally, you will be able to show off your professionalism and expertise during this process.

Determine a Timeline

Now that you have the specifics of the project, you can use it to estimate not only the cost for the client but (most importantly) the time it will take you to complete it. Once you know how long the project will take, you can see when you have that time available in your calendar.

Remember, it is okay to tell a client that you have a waitlist or that you are not available to work on the project for a few weeks or months.

They would rather know you are scheduling their project in advance so that you can give them the proper attention and creative energy. If they cannot wait for you and your timeline, that is okay too. They will likely remember your professionalism and return to you when they need something else done.

Remember, you cannot do your best creative work when you are overextended and overcommitted. Instead, use your scoping process to create a client calendar that works for you.

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