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When Should You Accept a Low-Paying Project?

blarzhernandez profile image Roberto Hernandez Originally published at mullinstack.com ・5 min read

Originally published on MullinStack Initiative

Over the years of my coding journey, I’ve accepted low-paying projects for different reasons and different circumstances. I’ve accepted some of them for the sake of the learning process because I thought it was a good idea to learn a new stack. However, most of the time, they were accepted by necessity. I needed money. I needed to put food on the table.

Whether you work full-time at a company or as a freelancer, you’ve probably experienced this too.
We have the luck to be surrounded by low-paying clients most of the time. So the odds are high that we’ll end up doing at least some work for them anyway.

At some point, the big dilemma that comes to your mind is when should I accept a low-paying project? Why? What things do I need to take into account?

This piece answers those previous questions. Its aim isn’t only to discuss a few facts to take into account when accepting a low-paying project but also to share with you a few pieces of advice that’ll help you avoid common and enormous mistakes — sometimes causing you to lose important clients.

Low-Paying Projects Act as a Step on Our Ladder of Success

Undoubtedly, low-paying projects play an important role at the beginning of our careers. I dare to say most of us started by doing a project for free. It’s part of our journey — it represents a step on our ladder to success.

In addition to that, low-paying projects also help you understand some of the many angles of a freelancer’s land. You learn about planning, deadlines, costs, making decisions, productivity, and handling hard moments.

Working on them is good as long as we’re aware of the risks and common mistakes — and how we can avoid them.

When You Should and Shouldn’t Accept Low-Paying Projects

Without further ado, let’s jump into the core of this piece: the scenarios where you should accept low-pay projects and some advice to take into count before, during, and after you’re working on them.

You’re starting out on your coding journey

As I said before, it’s all too common that at the beginning of your career you’ll accept low-paying projects. At this stage, what really matters is getting our first client at all costs. Therefore, we don’t care if it’s a low-paying project.

Our goal is to start gaining experience and building our reputation in this field. It represents the first stair on the race to becoming an expert with proven skills.

In that regard, while we’re in this stage, we can accept low-paying projects as long as we take care into consideration the next few pieces of advice:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to plan and track your progress. It’ll save you a lot of headaches.

  • Have complete clarity of the project’s scope.

  • Be aware of the project’s complexity so you can look for help from someone else more experienced who can give you lights on it.

  • Give visibility day to day to your client, no matter how big or small your progress is. The client will feel safe — that’s what really matters.

  • Don’t hesitate to say to your client when you’re stuck on something. The client needs visibility, and he’ll understand that. Due to the stage you’re in and the fact that it’s a low-paying project, clients will be more tolerant. They’re saving money from your work.

Your challenge is just to survive

This is common sense, right? Bringing a steady supply of food to your family is your final goal of the day. Therefore, taking any low-paying project is the biggest deal you can make — you can’t let it go in any way.

Under this circumstance, you only have one option: Take it! However, don’t forget that as long as you continue working on different projects, you’ll sharpen your programming skills so at some point you’ll get out of hell and be able to jump and bid on high-paying projects.

Having said that, don’t forget to keep in mind the advice list given in the first point of this article.

You don’t know the topic well enough

Another perfect situation when it’s easier to accept a low-paying project is when the you’re really interested in learning a project stack or field.

When you don’t know a topic you’re interested in, it’s a good idea to pitch for low-cost projects. At that point, you’re not looking for money primarily but knowledge and experience.

Accepting low-cost projects for the sake of the learning process pays off through your long-term goals.

However, you have to be careful of a few side effects from this.

  • You probably won’t hit the deadline. This can be a concern for your client, so good planning will save you from it.

  • Take into consideration the time to grasp new knowledge or follow the best practices to learn efficiently on the topic you’re getting into.

-At the beginning of the project, seek advice from other developers who have more experiences on that stack or field.

Don’t accept them based on promises

This is a trap. I’ve accepted low-rate projects based on the client’s promise. They’ll convince you that there will be more work after this project, but this could be true or not. Just think a little bit — a promise from a client you’re trying to convince the first time is too pretty to be true.

This happens at the beginner stage but also when you have solid experience in your craft. If you’re a little desperate, you’ll end up accepting it.

Please, if you have proven experience, stick to your top rates even under a rush to get money. Sooner or later, you’ll hit the high-paying client.

You need time-management flexibility

When you work full-time, you don’t have too much time to dedicate to side projecs. Therefore, you can’t commit to the project’s progress as the client wants and expects.

Under this scenario, you can afford to accept low-paying projects if clients give you time flexibility. The smartest choice may be negotiating a long deadline.

As long as you’re able to negotiate, you can devote a few hours a week to your hustle. This will not only save you from burnout, but also, it’ll give the client some awareness of the progress.

Closing Thoughts

Low-paying projects aren’t bad at all. Actually, at the beginning of our career, they’re a cornerstone — the booster — we can’t grow without them.

Just keep in mind all of the advice we’ve discussed. Give yourself plenty of time to plan and track your progress. It’ll save you a lot of headaches. Also, have complete clarity of the project’s scope.
Certainly, there are more scenarios, circumstances, or reasons to accept a low-paying project. It’d be nice if you share your own in the comment section.

Thanks for reading. I really appreciate it.

Feel free to reach me on my blog and Medium

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blarzhernandez profile

Roberto Hernandez

@blarzhernandez

React & JavaScript Enthusiast, coding and decoding life => One is More than Zero, Just a Human being and Developer | Blogger@ www.mullinstack.com

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