15 Simple Warning Signs of a Bad Project (and how to think positively)

yield-signHere’s the deal. Designers should not accept every project that crosses their eyes. For five years, I was stuck in the mentality that every potential project was a chariot of gold ready to bring me unimaginable riches.

Wrong. I discovered through a series of poor projects that accepting everything is not a profitable strategy. I began to understand and value the concept of opportunity cost. Let’s say I’m working on a low paying project that, while bringing in some money, eats up all my time and leaves me exhausted at the end of the day. What else could I have done with my time? Could I have worked on a more rewarding project? Or perhaps hunted for more profitable business? I will never know.

This is not a foreign concept to most veteran designers. As you grow, you must become more selective about how you spend your time. But how can you screen potential projects to eliminate the problem ones as quickly as possible?

I’ve developed a set of internal heuristics that I run each new project through as a test. Keep in mind that sometimes a project with a small budget or a client with a demeaning attitude is not necessarily a deal breaker. You have to use your judgment and analyze your own opportunity cost. What else could you be working on?

When writing this post, I realized that most clients are actually good and that you should maintain a positive outlook in your project screening process. With that thought, I decided to amend my post to include a way to think positively about each warning sign.Keep Reading