Here’s the latest installment in my “freelance horror stories” – “undead” projects. If you’re a freelancer, you know that these are frighteningly real. And if you hire freelancers, this may help you understand that fleeting look of fear when you first start working with a freelancer – we live in a dangerous world.
The Zombie: Not quite dead, it just keeps lingering on – for just a few more revisions. Defenses against zombies: Putting a fixed number of review cycles in the project scoping.
The Disapparition: You send it to review and it is never heard from again. This is the most frequent type of undead project – and it’s a problem if you are waiting for project completion to invoice. Defense: A fixed time for final invoicing on the project scoping.
The Shape-shifter: This happens when the project shifts mid-course. For example, the senior person who hired you leaves the company mid-stream, and the new person wants to take the project in an entirely different direction. This is all fine unless the new direction is far outside the negotiated scope of the project. A well-defined project scope is the only defense – but the process is never fun.
The Vampire: This is the one we all fear – the project that lives forever and sucks the life right out of you. One sign of a vampire project? A client that cannot scope the project and wants hourly billing with a firm time commitment from you. (Not every client like this has vampire projects, of course, but it’s a warning sign.)
Even great clients can have the occasional undead project. In nearly every case, careful project scoping and definition is the freelancer’s silver bullet (or wooden stake). Sometimes it takes courage to use that bullet, particularly if you fear damaging the client relationship. It’s not easy being a vampire-slayer.
I’d love to hear from others on the ‘undead’ project types I may have missed!
In case you missed it, the first installment can be found at Freelance horror stories: The consulting contract.
These horror stories are just as real as the day I wrote this post. But if you want to know how to avoid undead projects, check out my latest book The Workplace Writer’s Process. It’s filled with ideas for keeping your projects on track – and slaying the vampires!