Early Warning Signs for a Freelance Project

Freelance projects are fun. You can do them on the side, outside of your 9 to 5. When you get more, you can do it full time. But it's not all fun and games.

I'll tell you a story about a project I did a few years ago. The project came in through a referral and everything seemed to be running smoothly. I was doing an app development project for 2 people from a near by, overseas country. One person was more like a financier to the project, but the vision was also that person's. The other person acted as a Project Manager.

In retrospect there were definitely some early warning signals. The first one was that the Project Manager was super-strict for the amount of money that I had asked for. I mean, they have every right to be so but this is something you, as a freelancer should consider. Everything was scoped up nicely but there were also moving goal posts. With every little minor change, the PM seemed to somehow outsmart me and justify that it is not a scope change. I wasn't complaining but I would have if it continued too long. That was the first warning.

The second warning was definitely a dead giveaway. The 'visionary' of the project - who I would assume would hold most of the equity in this app, was visiting Australia. We were frequently on video calls - the 3 of us however there was no mention of - "let's catch up" or something even remotely close to that. They didn't think much of me. Just as a cheap resource they happened to stumble upon.

The only reason I priced the app so low was that this was a referral from someone who I respected at the time. I made it very clear that the price is for the most basic MVP (Minimum Viable Product) all throughout the project but this part of the deal was largely ignored. It's a very long story to unpack everything but since there's privacy issues and all, I'll need to cut the story short here.

I almost forgot - so what the hell actually happened in the end? Those guys turned nasty - and I do admit there was some oversight on my behalf as well. But they turned overly nasty threatening legal action etc. like I intentionally tried to harm them or do wrong. I ended up refunding the full cost of the project.

So next time you get a side gig, I hope my story helps you in some way.

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