Often, accepting a gig is a no-brainer: yes, please, and where do I sign?

But sometimes, O Freelancer, you have to decide if you want to accept a gig at all. Maybe your schedule is tight and you have to drop one project to accept another, or maybe you’re just unsure if it’s the right fit for you – or maybe it’s not something you’re crazy about, and you’re inclined to look for something better.

I also work in theatre (a business where you often have to choose between competing gigs) and a friend of mine and I use the following rules to decide between projects. I find these metrics helpful in the freelance world, too!

The BEST projects satisfy all three of these points; if that’s the case, jump on that sucker! If the gig hits two points, I’d say it’s a strong contender. If it only hits one, proceed with caution – or at least consider your options before you say yes.

1. It’s good for your soul

This is the strongest factor for me, as long as taking the gig won’t beggar me. Is it something you really want to work on, something you’re passionate about? Life is short.

I will occasionally, for enough money or career reasons, take a temporary gig that bores me, or which is less-than-ideal – but don’t take a job that is actively BAD for your soul; it’s just not worth it. I once was contacted by a recruiting firm that found my portfolio online; they wanted to pitch me to a company for an astounding hourly rate. I knew something was fishy when they mentioned the rate first – and then they named the client: Philip Morris.

I’ve never said “NO” faster. I think I scared the recruiter.

Be good to your soul. You have to wake up every morning and look yourself in the mirror. Work on things that make you happy and engage you.

2. It’s good for your career

Is it a new skill set (or right within your freelance skill “sweet spot?”), or will it help you reach a new audience? Will it lead to new opportunities?

If I can see that something is going to be good for me in the long-term (and vague “exposure” rarely counts), that’s a strong pull. Things that genuinely are growth gigs (especially if they also fulfill me), have often paid off.

3. It’s good for your wallet

Ah, this old chestnut. The virtues are self-evident, no?

Of course paying the bills is important (I find writing with no electricity challenging, although Ben Franklin did it), but this is the ONE point I won’t take on its own; the gig MUST fulfill one of the other two factors. If something is lucrative but isn’t fulfilling or interesting or good for my career, I personally can’t do it. I respect people who can and must – I just know that in that situation, I’m not very good. I sink quickly into apathy and depression, and ultimately sabotage my own work just to break free, running giddily away from MoneyBanks McHorribleGig. It’s not an awesome or laudable trait; it’s just how I am – so I know now not to take these gigs in the first place.

Trying to find projects that satisfy all 3 of these metrics is not always easy, but using them to narrow down my options and identify my dream gigs has really helped. Try ‘em out next time you’re feeling indecisive!

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