How to Decide if a Project is Worth Taking

Small business owner considering a new project

As an experienced business owner will know, saying yes to every single opportunity that crosses your path can result in disaster.

But judging when to say no can be fraught with what-if second-guessing. To make it easier to separate wheat from chaff, here are four questions to ask yourself before deciding whether to take on a new project.

1. Does the project enhance my portfolio?

There are two ways you can enhance your portfolio: Through association or the type of work.

  • Enhancement through association: Have you ever visited a website that says “As seen in [insert publication]?” Sure you have. Clients and projects that can give you this social proof may be worth working for.
  • Enhancement by type of work: You likely specialize in a service or a range of services. By tackling client work that’s related to your core service you enhance your portfolio and demonstrate you can deliver on that service.

2. Will I be able to charge what I’m worth?

Many business owners make the mistake of jumping all over new projects without truly understanding how much time it will take them to complete it.

So, get clear on how much time you’ll spend on the project by defining the scope of work. Then, once you understand what the work entails, ask yourself: Is the money I’m getting worth the time?

3. Is there long-term potential?

Many small business owners undersell themselves just to get a foot in the door. They agree to work at a reduced rate (and in some cases even for free) especially if it’s their dream client.

It doesn’t matter how reputable you believe the client to be; you should always evaluate the long-term potential of a project:

  • Is there potential for more work?
  • Is this a once off or will there be recurring projects?
  • If this is a once off, will it benefit me?

One-off projects can benefit you when you’re starting your business and need social proof. But constantly relying on them means you’ll always have to hustle for new business which can cause cash flow problems.

So, it’s wise to get a few anchor clients who can guarantee you a certain amount of income each month.

4. What is my gut telling me?

Have you ever felt:

  • Uncomfortable promoting a specific brand (maybe you don’t believe in the brand, or their values clash with yours)?
  • Apprehensive about the type of work the client wants you to do?
  • Uneasy when talking to a specific client (you can’t quite put your finger on it, but something doesn’t feel right?

This is your gut talking. Everyone will have different gut feelings, but it’s important that you tune into your gut when tackling any new project. Your gut is a powerful thing and in my experience rarely wrong.


It’s often tempting to say yes to every project that comes your way, especially if the money is good. The truth is that not every project is worth pursuing.

But, by asking these four questions and being more selective with the projects you undertake you can avoid these situations.

Have you worked on a project that turned out to be a nightmare? What did you do? Tweet at us @Fundbox and tell us about it.

This guest post was written by Nick Darlington of FreshBooks for Fundbox. FreshBooks makes invoicing and accounting painless for millions of small business owners.

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