When it’s okay to say no to a project

What?! Did he say turn down a project? Yes!

Almost everyone wants a website. Whether it is for businesses, advocating a cause, or even a simple blog, website development demand continues to be on the rise. With so much demand, how can someone gracefully turn down a project? A better question would be, WHEN should we turn down a project?

Here are a few points that should be considered for every project that comes across your plate.
*This can be extended beyond web development.

When to Say No

  1. When you have too many projects.
  2. When the project is above your skill level.
  3. When the project goes against your morals.
  4. When it just doesn't make sense.
  5. When you can't take pride in it.

When you have too many projects

I opened up Mad City Coders, LLC in April of 2017 and was expecting to have to beg for clients. Turns out, I have had to turn down clients because my workload was too much! I did have a team to help me with the projects, but demand was so high, I would have had to quite my full-time job working for Sound Devices and that was not my desire when opening up my business. I also didn't want to make the mistake in thinking that we were always going to be this busy and hire more staff, only to have to let them go when we ran out of projects.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

– Benjamin Franklin

When the project is above your skill level

Let's be honest here. There isn't a single person who knows everything there is to know about web development. Things change so fast, it's difficult to keep up and at times we need to just step back, gain some new knowledge, and proceed.

I see too often beginning web developers take on tasks that seasoned developers tremble at. They get started with great enthusiasm, but then get swallowed up by the sheer complexity of the project. Take a step back. Admit the problem is your lack of knowledge of how to resolve this particular project. Gather the required knowledge and then tackle the project head on again. 

It is good to be honest with your clients and tell them you are not qualified for a particular project. People like honest people. The more honest you are about your skillset, the more likely people will trust you with their projects in the future.

When it goes against your morals

I've been around the block a few times and have had several projects presented to me that were of the...cough...questionable nature. These sites could be anything related to porn, gambling, violence, drugs, or anything else labeled as mature. I always turn these projects down. Within a heartbeat.

Now you might be saying, "But if I don't do it, someone else will!" You are absolutely right. Someone will develop that site and they will probably make a lot of money doing it. However, going to bed with a clean conscience on your hands is a bigger win than a fattened wallet. ( At least it is for me. )

“To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society."

– Theodore Roosevelt

When it just doesn't make sense

With time and money, almost anything is possible. That has been my motto for a very long time. There are some projects though, that we just can't justify spending that much money or time on.

Example: Client A wants me to build them something 'custom' that would take 40+ hours to develop.  There is a plugin that does exactly what the client is looking for, and it costs just $50.

Weighing the pros and cons of this, it absolutely makes sense to spend the $50 and purchase the plugin.

When you can't take pride in it

If you aren't super enthusiastic about a project or if you could care less about it, you would be doing your client a bigger favor by not accepting it.

Each project should receive your best effort and work. Something you can't wait to show your family when you are done with it. If you are ever presented with an idea that just isn't jiving with you, walk away from it. Something will come along that is just right and it will be worth it!

Final tidbits

Thanks for reading this and I hope we haven't scared you away from accepting any future projects!
With this knowledge, you now can make wise decisions on the projects you choose to take on.

Good Luck!


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