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As an independent consultant, I'm always grateful when someone approaches me to pursue a new project. Sometimes, though, it just isn't a good fit -- like a square peg in a round hole.

During these times of economic uncertainty, it's even harder to pass up an opportunity to make money.

However, unless your business is in the toilet and you need the money to pay the bills, going after a project that you really don't want to do isn't the best idea. Because if you get the project, it won't be satisfying. Nor will it be your best work.

Outside the Scope

I think this is true not only of independent consultants and freelancers, but also design firms and others in the healthcare design industry that submit proposals for work. And I know that it's common for design firms that don't have expertise in a particular area to add consultants to their team in order to get the project.

And I've done that, too.

But what I'm talking about is that project that you know you can do because you have the skill set and the knowledge base, but it's outside the scope of what you normally do.

It's All About Your Reputation

I was recently approached by a graphic design firm to submit a proposal to write some annual reports for a Chicago area hospital. And even though I've never written an annual report or worked directly for a hospital, I know I could do the project.

It's not the kind of work that I do, though. And by taking on something that I don't do, I may risk my reputation as a marketing consultant and writer that specializes in helping those in the healthcare design industry share their big ideas.

Making a Decision

So how do you decide which projects to pursue?  Here are 7 things to consider:

  1. Integrity. Are these good people?  Do you respect and like them?  Do they respect and like you? If you don't know the answers to these questions, then you need to ask someone who's worked with them.
  2. Growth. Is there an opportunity to learn something new? Even experts can learn new things.
  3. Relationship. What's the potential for a long-term relationship? Once this project ends, will there be more work? Not always a deal-breaker, but definitely a plus.
  4. Synergy. Does the project/work fit with the other projects/work you're doing?  Is it in your wheelhouse? Having the necessary skill sets isn't the only thing to consider.
  5. Efficient. If there are travel requirements, are they reasonable?  Can you get there and back without too much trouble? Since no one is traveling these days, this may not be as relevant. How are they at working remotely?
  6. Timing. Can you fit this into your current workload? Are the deadlines reasonable? You don't want to take on something that will stress you out.
  7. Excitement. Does the project/work seem exciting to you? Will it in three months? Go with your gut feeling on this one.

If three or four of these things aren't a fit, then you probably should say "thanks but no thanks." It will help you maintain the respect of those you really want to work with and get better clients who will help you do better work.

And by doing better work, you'll get better clients.

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Leave a comment

Marjorie Serrano

4 years ago

Excellent questions to consider, especially #7! A project that requires long drives can eat your profits quickly; consider including a charge for travel time as well on those.

Ms. Laurie A. Sperling M. Arch LEED AP

4 years ago

And can you make a profit?
You have to be able to stay in business!

Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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