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Project Too Big?

Deadlines. Budget. Exposure. Pressure. Expectations. Performace. Results. Durabilty. Efficiency. Paints a nice picture doesn’t it?

What happens when you think a project that has dropped on your lap is too big for you? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that feeling. In fact, it’s important to realize when a project is too big for your capabilities not only creatively but financially and also whether you have the time or the resources to provide the service. Do you ask for help? Do you decline the project? Do you scream until the cows come home.?

It doesn’t matter if you are a freelancer, an in-house designer or a designer in a firm, chances are, you’ve had this feeling. Of incompetence? Maybe not as radical, but the thought that you won’t be able to deliver what the client is asking for can be very excruciating, especially at three in the morning when you are lying awake trying to figure what to do about it.

What are your limits? Are you aware of what they are or do you just take on the project, hope for the best and then find out what your limits are? Maybe the project brings in the big bucks, but you know you can’t do it, can you say no.?

Thanks to Steven Lyons for the topic.

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PUBLISHED ON Mar.05.2003 BY Armin
Justin’s comment is:

If a client comes to us with an absurd deadline it's always a flat out "We're sorry but no." Then we put them on the mailing list.

If it's a somewhat workable deadline but still totally scary it's always a "We'll see what we can do and get back to you within 48 hours." Then, when necessary, it's off to hiring extra people and looking to other sources instead of keeping all of the weight on our shoulders.

It's important to respect your current clients' projects by not taking on accounts or deadlines that put a dent in them. The situation is too risky and could result in a domino effect depending on your current roster.

Doesn't the fact that these clients come to us so late say something about them in the first place?

On Mar.05.2003 at 11:25 AM
pk’s comment is:

i have a "pain charge" that goes into effect when a job is 1) stressing me out and i need to outsource or 2) going well above my tolerance level. this means (clients are told this upfront) that if alterations start spiralling towards the deadline, then my day rate doubles because i will be working longer hours and in more concentrated amounts.

my reasoning is this: i am taking days from my life for someone else's interests with no bearing on myself. to ask for someone else's life is, in my eyes, expensive. especially when i'd rather be nuzzling with my hot boyfriend, making work for my own causes, or building my business.

On Mar.05.2003 at 11:49 AM
Gahlord’s comment is:

I keep tabs with a variety of different freelancers that I know and trust, work with a bunch of different networks (instrumentmarketing.com, brandcentralstation.com, etc) that I know and trust. And when something gets beyond my scope or time budget I call in re-inforcements. The other people I network with do the same. When you're a freelancer/sole-proprietor developing a network like that is the only way you'll ever be able to take a vacation.

Develop a good plan. Always develop a good plan.


On Mar.05.2003 at 11:55 AM
Steven’s comment is:

I see what you guys are getting at. It would be easier as a freelancer or running your own business to either turn down the job or hire temporary help.

I guess with my original question I wanted to understand how in an in-house environment, when you are given an unbelievably large task to shoulder, where do you go for help when you are all alone on an island?

I guess its my fault for coming to Nashville in the first place. There is absolutely NO design community where you can discuss problems and find solutions. Or rather find a new job, which is what this frustration is leading me to.

On Mar.05.2003 at 01:29 PM
Su’s comment is:

I don't really have reinforcements. The only other guy here who could help me is generally bogged down himself. So to answer the question: If I'm not able to make it understood that the deadline isn't realistic, I get cranky, tell everybody to get the hell out of my way, demand answers quickly, and make it happen. If I don't make it, I've saved every e-mail, and I get to say, "I told you so." Such the diplomat.

On Mar.05.2003 at 01:37 PM
armin’s comment is:

>I wanted to understand how in an in-house environment

Right, I guess I didn't put enough emphasis on that. So, let's forget a minute about deadlines. Let's say you are an in-house designer or a single designer for a small firm whose whole weight is on you to deliver results.


On Mar.05.2003 at 02:18 PM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

The "right" thing to do is be honest and tell the client that you can't handle it and outsource what you can't do. Otherwise you'll find yourself in hot water and jeapordize your reputation and in turn future business. A lot can be learned when given a big project but if you don't have the experience or technical expertise then it's unethical. Always ask for help when necessary and decline when need be.

On Mar.05.2003 at 02:20 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

guess its my fault for coming to Nashville in the first place.

Nashville? Definitely stop into Hatch Show Print and bug them for an internship. They probably won't pay you much (if anything), but you couldn't ask for a better place for a Graphic Designer to start some networking.

Let's say you are an in-house designer or a single designer for a small firm whose whole weight is on you to deliver results.

If you're an in-house designer and have been given a job that is simply out of your reach, then

a) You are either underqualified for the position

or (more often)

b) Management really has no clue as to what their own company realistically can and does due.

If 'b' then the typical solution is to quit. ;o)

On Mar.05.2003 at 03:38 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Hatch Show Print... (Homer Simpson donut drolling)

On Mar.05.2003 at 04:02 PM
Corey’s comment is:

I recently had to turn down a dream job because I would not be able to afford it the attention it required. I spoke to the client at length about my concerns, explained how bad I wanted to work on the project, and since I could not take the job at the time, I gave him a recommendation of two other amazing designers that could work on it.

He said he respected my candor and help in finding someone else, and that I would be the first person he called on the next project.

I honestly lost sleep over the job - I would lie in bed desperately trying to fool myself into thinking I could somehow shoe horn the project into my schedule. I would almost tear up, I was so upset about this one.

On Mar.05.2003 at 07:00 PM
damien’s comment is:


The 'b' situation happened so often when traditional design or marketing firms wanted to get in on large scale web projects some five years ago.

You would often see firms over committing themselves to 'full service' projects having only the credibility to manage one single part of the project.

The so-called integrity of these firms was put to the test when their staff would rebel in having to work excessive hours, learn what to do over night to be able to deliver project deadlines and utlimately contribute to the flakiness of the already (then) overpopulated dot com mess. Invariably, the organization would continue to bring in the work, being deaf to the insistance of its staff about the quality or integrity of the work.

I actually resigned from a job after having been there only three days when I was put in this situation. However, I was enticed back with a different position to help improve it 'from above'.

If you can't do your best work, giving the attention to the project needed to do so, then how can you put your heart into something knowing that the outcome is going to be less than your best work? And thus - how will you continue to get work that allows you to do so.

I guess - when you're younger, you continuously have to learn what your limits are, and hopefully in working with entire teams, you are led by someone who understands what the team's limit is.

I would be overjoyed to hear that Corey's potential client comes back to him at a time that he can get to work with them. That would help us all believe that it is the proven best thing to do in this situation - and it can have a future positive outcome

On Mar.06.2003 at 02:04 PM