From getting a sense of the client from their tone to seeking clarity in the description, here are 20 answers to the question, "What are the most important things you look for when determining whether a posted freelance project is right for you?"
Read for Tone in the Job Posting
Several factors stand out to help with the decision of whether to pursue it, but the key thing I look for is how detailed those posting the project are.
It's a bit of a balancing act because I want some detail to know what skills they are looking for and what is expected. However, those who overly detail the project with a dozen or more credentials are a red flag to me, because it shows they are hard to work with and will probably be highly critical. It also means they may not pay in full when the project is done.
You can tell a lot by the way something is posted, and I look for those personality traits to help me decide if a project is a fit, all things considered in skills, pay, and deadlines. It's all about the tone of the posting.
Examine the Non-Monetary Value
Financial benefits aside, I think it's essential to consider the long-term value that a project can offer with building skills, reputation, and business over time.
For example, if the project is in a niche or industry that I'm targeting, it allows me to build my portfolio and showcase my skills to potential clients in that industry. This can lead to more work in the future, positive referrals, and recommendations from satisfied clients.
Focus On Work That Brings Joy
As I get older, I find that my time is far more valuable than money. So, I look for projects that bring me joy and purpose. My goal is to enjoy every minute of every day of my life, so I'm very intentional about the projects I take on.
For me, I like knowing that the work I do benefits people beyond the client I'm helping. I most enjoy helping businesses that are making big moves in the health and wellness industry, and those companies that help small businesses get off the ground. The best part of my digital marketing work is that the results are measurable, so I know the extent of the impact I make every day.
Estimate the Project’s Hour Allotment
When determining whether a posted freelance job is right for me, I usually try to see if the workload is ideal. For example, if I have a light workload and the job seems doable, I'd consider taking it. However, if the project asks for more than I can give, it might not be a great match. So, I usually eyeball and estimate how many hours the project might require before deciding.
Look for the Project Requirements and Scope
As a freelancer, I need to make sure that I have the necessary skills, experience, and resources to complete the project to the client's satisfaction within the given timeframe and budget.
About project scope: Is the project well-defined, with clear deliverables and a timeline? Is the project scope reasonable given the budget and timeline?
If the answer is yes, then I take it.
By carefully evaluating project requirements and scope, I can determine whether a freelance project is a good fit for me and ensure that I'm able to deliver high-quality work that meets the client's expectations.
Avoid "Boxy" Situations
Freelancers are an extension of a company's internal teams, and therefore they will need some alignment in terms of processes, branding, and culture. But for me to thrive as a professional service provider, I need to fit within my own box as well as that of the client.
Too many restrictions, directives, or requirements can stifle the creative process and prevent me from doing my best work. While I'm happy to accommodate client requests, I also need creative freedom. I don't want to spend too much time learning new systems and tools for one-off projects or trying to adapt to workflows that don't feel natural. If a project is too "boxy," I tend to pass.
This allows me to preserve my time and exercise my expertise rather than be an order taker. The client gets more value from my services this way, which usually leads to better outcomes.
Locate Clearly Defined Parameters and Desired Outcomes
When evaluating a potential freelance project, I always look for clearly defined parameters and desired outcomes. While I completely understand that briefs can change and am always willing to be flexible, I'm much more confident working with a client who knows exactly what they're looking for.
This makes it so much easier to provide an accurate quote for time and price and goes a long way to avoiding frustration for both sides as the project progresses. There is nothing worse than the playing field constantly changing, so discussing key targets and potential limitations ahead of time is always super valuable. It also saves clients money in the long run!
Evaluate the Intellectual Property Rights
When evaluating freelance projects, I believe intellectual property rights are a significant issue. I go over the project terms to ensure that the client does not require me to transfer any intellectual property rights to them, such as copyright or trademark. If the client requires intellectual property rights, I evaluate the terms and negotiate a reasonable fee for my services.
Read What Other Freelancers Say
I pay a lot of attention to the reviews that the client has and gives on Upwork. The first thing I look at is how long they've been using the platform. Personally, I like to work with clients that have been around for a while, because they know the ins and outs of using the platform and working with freelancers. That means that the client has a rich review history.
Seek a Good Cultural Fit
As a freelancer and anthropologist, cultural fit is one of the key considerations I consider when evaluating a posted freelance project. While the technical aspects of the project are essential, the cultural context within which the work will be done is equally crucial. This means that I consider the values, norms, and expectations of the company or organization that posted the project and the communication style and work culture I can expect to encounter.
For example, I look at the company's branding and social media presence to understand its values and behaviors. I also consider the tone and style of the project description or communication with the project owner. By doing so, I can determine whether my work style, communication preferences, and overall approach to work align with the project and company.
Ask the Right Questions
There are many ways to determine if a project is a good fit. I ask myself questions like:
- Is the budget in line with what I would typically charge?
- Is the client's business in the industries I typically work within?
- Can I meet the timeline they need?
- Do I have the bandwidth to take on this project?
- Does the client value my skills (Meaning, are they willing to pay a decent rate for the project)?
You should consider these things before sending a proposal for a project.
Check the Review History
The potential client who posted the project must have a verified payment method and a strongly reviewed history from freelancers! While I want to pick projects that apply to what I love—mixology and recipe development—it is more important to me that the opportunity is fair and legitimate.
Upwork offers a lot of protection to freelancers, but you are always better off ensuring that no effort or expertise is wasted on scammers. Even if someone isn't a scammer, scrolling through reviews can show if they are difficult to work with or unlikely to be a repeat customer. After all, we want clients with whom we can work again and again!
Shoot for Professional Development Opportunities
Professional growth prospects, in my opinion, are a crucial factor to consider when evaluating freelancing projects.
I seek initiatives that allow me to develop new skills, gain expertise in different areas or specializations, or broaden my professional network. While evaluating professional development opportunities, I also consider the potential for future projects or customer referrals.
Ensure the Project Resonates With Your Interest and Expertise
When scouring the vast landscape of posted projects, there's one crucial aspect that can truly make or break a decision on whether a project is a right fit: alignment with personal skills and passions.
As a skilled professional, it's essential to evaluate the project's requirements and objectives, ensuring that they resonate with your expertise and areas of interest. This not only paves the way for a successful and satisfying engagement but also bolsters your reputation as a specialist who consistently delivers top-notch results.
By focusing on projects that truly align with your strengths, you'll foster long-term relationships, bolster your portfolio, and ultimately fuel the growth of your freelance career.
Find a Decent Deadline
One thing I always look for in any freelance job is whether I'm given enough time to complete the job. It's the most underrated and overlooked part of freelancing and can save you time and money!
First, being in the creative industry, it's important to have plenty of time for ideation. I find I'm at my most creative when I'm not under a tight deadline, meaning my client is getting the best of my work for their money, and more likely to come back for more work at a later date.
Second, it gives me the opportunity to impress them by delivering the work earlier than they expected. I find this is really helpful for getting excellent reviews on freelance platforms like Upwork and makes me a lot more attractive to other clients in the future.
Don't overlook a decent deadline!
Search for a Clear List of Requirements
A determining factor is the list of requirements. It is helpful to see and understand what is needed for the job, but also if they have any flexibility.
Sometimes the requirements are listed out, but it is unclear if this is an absolute hard line or if I meet some of them, should I still apply?
When the job description is just one or two sentences, it is harder to know what is expected, so please fill out the description with a good, strong overview of the job.
Pay Attention During the First Meeting
I always read the project description carefully, and while I do, I get an idea of who the company or person is behind the freelance project and if I can solve all the use cases.
I often see companies looking for 10 people in one person. They want a full-stack developer who can also simultaneously design and create visual video material. These freelance projects are a no-go for me.
If I like the freelance job description, then I always ask for a meeting. It's essential for me that we both think we're a match for each other. Questions I always try to get answered in the interview meeting are how the company works daily, their processes, and their expectations of me.
I always end the meeting discussing my hourly rate, and if they're trying to hassle me with my hourly rate, then it's a big red flag for me. But, of course, this means we're not a match from the beginning. As I know from experience, I'll end up spending too much time explaining my hours spent.
Determine the Budget
As a freelancer, the golden rule I follow when evaluating a posted project is "budget, budget, budget!" It's just as crucial as the famous "location, location, location" mantra for restaurants.
A well-defined and fair budget shows the client's appreciation for my expertise and ensures the project aligns with my skills and experience, setting the stage for a successful collaboration.
Make Sure It Supports Flexibility
Due to the nature of freelancing, the project should not only provide you with greater control over your workload but also adequate flexibility under your schedule. You've probably heard the frequent statements that working as a freelancer allows you the flexibility to work when and where you choose, which is true, so I check if the project provides me with that flexibility or not.
It shouldn't matter if I complete the task in the middle of the night or during regular business hours; the main point should be that the task is getting done. Though you still need to finish your task, don't fall into the trap of believing that working remotely means you won't have to put in as much effort; things here should be flexible according to you.
Keep Away From Obscure or Broad Descriptions
When looking for an opportunity on Upwork, I look for clarity in the description. If the job description seems obscure or too broad, like "I need website help," I pass. That's a recipe for dissatisfaction on both sides. I need to know precisely what I'm bidding on so I know I can be successful.
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