Choosing your next project

Andy Milne's photo
Andy Milne
·Mar 30, 2022·

6 min read

Choosing your next project

Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash

Table of contents

  • Availability
  • Knowledge
  • Excitement
  • Interest
  • Pay
  • Conclusion

In the world of Freelance, Indie Developers, and Solopreneurs, choosing what to do for your next pay cheque can be a bit overwhelming.

Using sites like Upwork is a great way to get some work as a Freelancer, whatever your trade. But there are hundreds of gigs up for grabs, each one better than the last. Perhaps you're an Indie Developer who makes their own products and sells them on the app store. Or maybe you're a Solopreneur, making one business after another. So how do you choose which project to do next?

I have a checklist of pre-requisites before taking on new projects. It's not a definitive list of must-haves, not everything needs to be checked off, some of them are actually better left unchecked, but as long as most of them are ticked, then I know I should pursue the project. That doesn't mean I have to, or even will, but it certainly helps me narrow down my options, making it easier to decide.

Availability

Do you have the time to dedicate to the task? If you're doing freelance as a side hustle to your main job, are you going to be able to complete the work in time? Do you have any upcoming PTO or holidays away from home that may impact your availability to undertake the project?

If you're an Indie or a Solopreneur, your next project may take months or even years to complete. Do you have the stamina and endurance to see it through to the end?

If you have a busy and chaotic schedule, perhaps now is not the best time to start new projects. This may be an obvious thing to say, but some people, myself included, sometimes need reminding that there are only 24 hours in a day, and other things, other priorities, take up more time than we realise.

Knowledge

This is a bit of a tricky one. If you see a quick gig (anything less than a week) but it requires knowledge of a programming language or software package you aren't familiar with, then it's best to steer clear. The time it takes to become familiar enough with it won't be worth the money from a quick gig.

However, if it's a longer project (at least a month), and you have no experience with what is needed, by all means, go for it. Use it as a chance to learn the skills needed to complete the job, so you have the skills for your next project. But a word of warning - be smart about it. If they say they need someone who is an expert, and you have no experience, then don't apply, you'll only be wasting everyone's time.

Of course if you already meet the knowledge requirements, then this point becomes moot.

As an Indie or a Solopreneur, you should jump at the chance to try something new. Build a new project using tech and tools you've never used. It'll force you to learn it, master it, and incorporate it into your project.

Having said all that, don't run before you can walk. Make sure you understand the basics enough to make a start, and you can use online resources to help with the more advanced stuff as the project comes along.

Excitement

Does the idea excite you? Coding is a creative process, and one of the key elements of creativity is passion. Passionate developers who are excited about their work usually end up producing better quality work, rather than just phoning it in. I have no sources or citations for this, I'm just going on my own experience and conversations with other developers.

But ask yourself this: if you aren't excited about a project, why bother doing it? Your answer is most likely to be "the money", which is that's fine and all for quick gigs, but for big projects, if you aren't even remotely excited about it, it will show in the quality of your work, which can affect the potential for repeat work from clients, or worse, have no-one use your product.

Interest

This one isn't especially for freelancers, but if you're an Indie or a Solopreneur, you should be sure there is enough interest, or demand, for what you want to build. It's no good investing months of hard work if no-one is going to use it, save for the experience and learning curve - not just for how to build a product, but also how to market one.

One way to gauge interest is to build a landing page, describing the product, what it WILL do, what it WILL cost, and add some mock screenshots showing what it WILL do. Have a 'sign up for early-access' form at the bottom, and promote it on your social media. If you believe it has enough interest (re-tweets, post shares, sign-ups, etc), then you know you should add this project to your maybe pile. And if not, then it wasn't meant to be, you only wasted a day doing some design and research rather than months of development. But don't post once and leave it. Keep posting, keep talking about it, keep trying to get people interested in the idea, while at the same time, acknowledge that at some point, you're either going to have to abandon the project, or actually start building it.

Pay

This may be an obvious one, but if there isn't much financial incentive to undertake a new project, then it probably isn't worth doing.

If it's a Freelance Gig that isn't worth much, then either put it on the maybe pile, or disregard it all together. If, however, you're desperate for work, and have exhausted all other avenues, then you may have a hard time saying no. If you have a few small gigs that won't take long, and won't pay much, getting them all completed quickly can be a bit of an income boost during slow months.

For Indie projects or Solopreneurs, be prepared for a LOT of work upfront before you see a single penny. Unless you can build hype for investors before beginning development of your project, you're unlikely to get any income before the project is launched. These are long term investments of your time, skill, and passion, so make sure you're prepared to spend 2-3, even 6 months of hard work, including marketing, before you start seeing paying customers or revenue from advertisements. Of course, not all projects will take a long time to make money, but it is important to bear in mind.

Conclusion

So when I'm thinking about a new project, or looking for my next freelance gig, I always take these 5 things into consideration:

  • What is my availability?
  • Do I know the tech?
  • Does it excite me?
  • Is there a demand for this?
  • Does it pay enough?

If it ticks off at least 3 from my list, then I'm more likely to undertake the project.

 
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