How to break down the scope of your project

By Rob Williams

“I won’t touch projects that have budgets smaller than $30,000. Anything lower is usually low-quality and unprofitable for me.”

That’s a statement I hear repeatedly from freelancers.

I’m not sure why $30,000 is the number for quality and profit but it seems to be the one that comes up most often.

Projects below this magical threshold get rejected by people who are self-labeled as “desperate for work” and sometimes even in a dry spell, but how can a $5,000-$10,000 project really be that unprofitable for one-person?

Why do most freelancers even prefer big budgets anyway? Big budgets mean big projects — which are hard to scope out and actually finish. When you finally deliver them, there’s always more revisions. They drag on.

They kill profitability.

Of course, this can also happen with small projects but at a smaller scale… which is my point.

If you’re not able to make a $5,000 project profitable, you’re less likely to make a larger, more complicated project profitable — right?

When I examine my past 5-figure freelance projects, I find most of the budget went to things like: meetings, proposals, presentations, revisions, emailing, and following up on things.

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if I cut these things out and replaced them with nothing. Would the client really be worse off?

I’d be able to focus on things that actually mattered instead of fluff and I’d charge them less.

So, what do you think?

  • Have you ever felt like big budget projects could be losing you money?
  • What would you do if you had to make a $3k project profitable instead? What would you cut out?
  • Have you ever hired a freelancer like you for $30k+ project to help your own business? Why or why not? If it’s truly a great investment why aren’t you paying for it?

Begin cutting down the scope of projects by focusing on what really matters.

Not everything in those big $30k+ project is essential. If you really examine what brings your costs up so high, you’ll see why you can only afford to take on big projects.

(Note: While I do agree that some highly-specialized consultants shouldn’t work for less than $X0,000 — I don’t think that’s the case for 90% of people.)

About Rob Williams...

I run Folyo which helps freelance designers find the work they were meant to do. I also host Freelance a podcast about how to be more effective at independent work featuring remote companies like Disney, Basecamp, YNAB, ConvertKit and more.

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