Is That Project Over Your Head? Not So Fast…


When discussing a potential project with a client, have you ever broken out into a cold sweat? Perhaps your sudden bout of stress wasn’t quite so outwardly visible – but inside you may have been churning like someone making an old fashioned batch of butter. It’s a clear sign that you feel like the project is more than you can handle.

It’s hard to imagine that there are many web designers out there who haven’t had this feeling at least once. When someone is running down their list of project needs in rapid-fire fashion, it can feel incredibly overwhelming. You start to wonder how in the world you could possibly get it all done on time and within a shoestring budget. You may even question if you have the skills to qualify for the gig.

But don’t let those initial feelings make the decision for you. That’s when you need to take a deep breath. Then, kindly explain that you’ll have to do some serious thinking about what’s involved and how to make it all work.

With some deep thought, you may find out that you really are up to the challenge. Here are some tips on how to approach the process:

One Thing at a Time

Part of what overwhelms us is listening to all the different requirements for a project within a short period of time. When you try to absorb them all at once, it’s like a pileup of cars on the highway. It feels like too much to wrap your head around.

So, once you’ve had some time to relax, consider each project requirement by itself. Think about the following:

  • What’s involved in completing the requirement?
  • How much time will it take?
  • What are the possible complications?

Once you’ve had the opportunity to study each requirement, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking at. From there, you can determine whether or not it’s a good fit for you.

As you can see, none of this is rocket science. It’s often a matter of taking the time to investigate what needs to be done while in a calmer setting. This will allow you to think a bit more clearly about the tasks at hand.

Learning Is Part of the Job

Learning Is Part of the Job

Another reason for uncertainty is when a project requires you to learn something new. The thought of learning a new piece of software, working with a different framework or designing something outside of your comfort zone can all cause stress. That can bring on the urge to simply disregard the whole thing because you either a) don’t have time to learn something new, or b) are afraid to fail.

However, keep in mind that web design is a craft that is always changing. Something new comes out almost daily. It’s part of our job to level up our skills. If we’re not learning – we’re falling behind.

The question, then, isn’t so much whether you have to learn something new. Instead, it’s more about whether what you’ll have to learn is worthwhile. Is it something that you’ll probably never use again or a skill that will benefit you in future projects?

For example, figuring out how to build a web application would certainly be something you can take with you on future endeavors. Learning a client’s niche internal processes may not be as beneficial, unless you plan on doing the same thing for others down the road. You have to weigh the value of what you’re learning against both the effort required to do it and future possibilities.

Budget Matters

Budget Matters

That initial list of project requirements may also come with a budget that seems a bit thin. The good news is that budgets are often negotiable. Part of the process is determining what you can do for the amount the client is willing to spend.

If this project truly is something difficult and will require you to learn new skills – charge accordingly. Consider not just the time you’ll spend actually working, but also the time you’ll need for learning and troubleshooting. Using the best-case scenario in your pricing will usually cost you in the end.

Think of it this way: If you’re going to commit the time and effort to do what it takes to make the project a success, you may as well profit from it. Charging too little will probably end up souring you on the entire experience. Make it worth your while.

Plus, one of the keys to figuring out whether or not a project is a good fit is the client’s willingness to pay for your efforts. If you’re able to effectively communicate why something costs what it does, they should be willing to negotiate. If they’re extremely rigid and seemingly unconcerned about the challenges – then perhaps it’s not the best project for you.

Challenges Make You Better

Challenges Make You Better

While it may be easier to shy away from a challenge, rarely do you feel good about the decision. As a designer, you can greatly benefit from taking on projects that force you to up your game. It builds confidence and it lets you know that, yes, you are capable of doing more than you thought possible.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t projects that really are over your head. It is quite possible to bite off more than you can chew. Saying yes to something like that isn’t recommended unless you really want to do it and you’re completely upfront with your client about your concerns. Even then, tread cautiously. It’s up to you to determine what makes for a great challenge and what’s simply not worth the risk.

The key to making the right choice is in having a calm and rational approach to studying a client’s needs. Often, things look a lot more feasible after you’ve done some research. And you may even find contradictions or redundancies that will help you streamline things even further.

So, before you answer with an immediate “no” to a project, take some time to look it over. Upon closer review, it may be just what you’re looking for.

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