How to Know If a WordPress Project Will Harm or Help Your Business

How to Know If a WordPress Project Will Harm or Help Your Business

I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer here, but there are just some WordPress projects that have “bad news” written all over them. Unfortunately, they’re not always easy to spot and may leave you wishing you never got involved with them in the first place.

WordPress Project - Mean Girls Life Ruiner
If your client or project resembles Regina George in any way, run away. Fast!

To be honest, it’s a tough situation to be in, but it’s something we all go through. The thought process usually goes like this:

“I’m a WordPress developer! This is awesome!”

“Okay, where are all the clients? Oh, there they are! Looks like some are over there, too! Sweet!”

“Hmmm… I don’t know how I feel about this one. I could really use the money though…”

And that’s when you need to take a moment to think about what the client is asking you to do. Because if you’re not immediately comfortable with the suggested project scope, if you fear that it’s outside or even beneath your skillset, or your spidey-senses are telling you there’s something worrisome about this client, then this might not be the right WordPress project for you.

I recognize it’s hard to say “no” to new work whether you’re a new developer or you’re a seasoned WordPress professional. You never know when the next famine or feast will hit and you want to be prepared. However, a truly bad WordPress project could do serious damage to your business and that is not something you want.

So, let’s take a look at how to determine when it’s worth taking a risk on a WordPress project outside your comfort zone and when it’s okay to give it a big, fat “NO”.

How to Know if a WordPress Project Will Harm or Help Your Business

Ultimately, you want your WordPress business to get to a point where prospective clients reach out to you for help with their website needs. That said, when you’re in a position where people are approaching you for help (instead of you constantly getting out there trying to drum up new business), there’s a chance you’ll run into questionable WordPress project requests.

Sometimes you might want to say “yes” to these bad WordPress projects. It may be because you don’t know how out-of-control the client will get. Or maybe you’re brand new to the game and don’t have enough checks-and-balances in place (like a stringent freelancer contract) to protect yourself from it turning bad. Then again, you may just find that the pros outweigh the cons and you believe the tradeoff will be worth it.

Ultimately, it will come down to asking yourself the right questions. Specifically:

  • What does the client actually need?
  • Are you capable of delivering it?
  • Would delivering it prove beneficial to your business in the long run?

While it’s important for you to always find new ways to grow your business and your client base, compromising your integrity or the quality of work produced is never the right answer. And this means being able to identify which WordPress projects are worth saying “no” to.

Here is a questionnaire you can pose to yourself whenever you receive a new request you’re unsure about:

1. Talk to Your Gut

If you’ve spent enough time around people, your gut should have a pretty good sense of when something’s amiss. Ask yourself why you feel hesitant about this WordPress project:

  1. Does the project require you to cross an ethical or moral boundary?
  2. Is the suggested rate of pay out of whack? Whether it be too high or too low? (If it’s for a good cause, you might be willing to look past the low (or no) pay.)
  3. Is the client too pushy/needy/vague?
  4. Are you completely unfamiliar with this niche or industry?
  5. Do you feel as though your skill level will be a serious detriment to the success of the project?
  6. Is this the fifth job in a row you’ve had to accept because clients keep referring you to their friends (which is great), but you don’t like the kind of work or you’re starting to feel taken advantage of (which is not great)?

There are a number of reasons why your gut may be telling you “no”. Listen to it before you dig any further into the project request. It might not be enough to rule it out completely–especially if you need the money–but it should factor in, especially if the reasoning is ethical in nature.

2. Ignore the Client

As you know, it’s not always easy to communicate with clients. Client don’t understand web design or development, which means that there will likely be a communication gap between the two of you. You may even hear them throw around technical jargon that doesn’t make sense or is used incorrectly.

WordPress Project - Clients from Hell
We’ve all met a client like this before.

The above example from Clients from Hell is one of my favorites because I’ve had discussions exactly like this with clients in the past.

Now, I’m not saying that you should ever ignore a client. However, before you sign on any dotted lines and agree to take on a project, I think it’s okay to ignore what your client is saying to you (I mean the actual words coming out of their mouth). Instead, take a moment to see if you can dig into what they really mean:

  1. Is there another website they can point you to that looks like or does what they want?
  2. Do you understand what went into the creation of that website? (If not, you may want to use BuiltWith.)
  3. Does their WordPress project require a deviation from your typical workflow or tools?
  4. Is there any part of this request that you’re currently not capable of managing?
  5. If so, is this something you would be willing to learn? If not, do you have the time to find an expert to outsource it to?
  6. Is there a difference in the time commitment for a project like this compared to a standard one?
  7. Are you aware of any possible complications that may arise with a project of this nature?
  8. If they’ve proposed a budget for the project, will it sufficiently cover your costs?

It’s during this phase where you should be able to decipher what the project actually entails. And, as a result, either breathe a sigh of relief once you realize that “I want a lead generation machine” actually means “put a contact form on a landing page”, or you’ll realize your initial fears were completely valid.

3. Check Yo Self

Look, I know that when posed with a new business opportunity, your first instinct is probably to say “how high?” rather than to ask all these questions. But what if your current skill set isn’t capable of going that high? What if taking the time to learn that skill will blow your budget and make the job a total bust? Or what if taking the time to learn that skill is a total waste for you?

WordPress Project - Check Yo Self
In the wise words of Zach Galifianakis (and Ice Cube), you better check yo self…

Before you eagerly say “yes” to a new WordPress project, check with yourself first. You may find that the project just isn’t worth it.

  1. Where is your business currently at? Is any business good business at this point?
  2. Are you lacking in portfolio samples and need this type of project to get your business noticed?
  3. Is this request completely outside the scope of what you do (i.e. “designing” social media pages, copywriting, etc.) and not something you want to be associated with?
  4. What do you need to learn in order to take the request on? Do you have the time to learn it or will you have to do on-the-job training (which really is not ideal)?
  5. Would you gain valuable skills from taking on a job of this magnitude that you could then leverage for other projects?
  6. Do you believe you could effectively deliver what the client wants without negatively affecting your other clients?

This is a tricky one. Obviously, you need money in order to sustain your business. Also, you need to acquire new skills and stay on top of new trends if you want your business to stay relevant and attractive to new clients. However, never forget that there are potential ramifications to deal with when you take on WordPress projects you’re not well-suited for.

4. Pay Very Close Attention to the Client

WordPress projects can be harmful to your business for a number of reasons. Websites that are beneath your skill set could reflect poorly on you and undermine your capabilities as a web developer. Websites that are outside your skillset could reflect just as poorly on you if you don’t properly execute the requested feature or functionality.

But WordPress projects can also be harmful to your business if you work with the wrong client. Once you’re done figuring out what they’re actually asking for and whether or not you’re capable of giving it to them, it’s time to look more closely at the client themselves:

  1. What do other web developers have to say about them? (Check their testimonials and LinkedIn references.)
  2. What do former employees have to say about them? (Check Glassdoor for review.)
  3. Is their business a legitimate one or does Google tell you a different story? (Search for their name and the business’s name in conjunction with the words “scam” and “fraud”.)
  4. What does their social media personality tell you about them? Are they easy-going, open-minded, and forward-thinking? Or do they seem hard-nosed and difficult to please?
  5. Does their personality jibe well with your own or do they seem overly demanding, critical, or pessimistic?

A client that has a bad record is an immediate red flag. A client who’s already demonstrated a general disrespect for you or the work you do is another one. Be on the lookout for these signs before deciding whether a project is worth it.

5. Weigh the Pros and Cons

With all the information needed to make a decision in hand, it’s time to weigh the pros and cons. In sum:

  1. Do you fully understand the client’s request?
  2. Are you comfortable with the scope and nature of the project?
  3. Do you currently have the bandwidth to fit the project into your workload?
  4. Are you confident in your skills to deliver on the request?
  5. Will this project open other doors for you?
  6. Do you trust the client to be respectful of your time, pay as promised, and work with you as a partner on the project?
  7. Is the pay worth it?

If you answered “yes” to more questions than “no” here, then you may just have your answer.

Basically, be cognizant of what this project will do for your long-term goals in terms of helping or hindering them. There are plenty of people who need websites built, so there’s no point in settling on one if it could lead to serious damage to your business in the long run.

Wrapping Up

Let’s say you’ve completed the self-assessment and decided that this WordPress project will do more harm than good. How do you let the client know?

  • Send them a formal note. Thank them for the request, but inform them that due to X, Y, and Z you don’t feel you are the right person for the job.
  • Don’t make it personal. Stick to the facts about the project and keep it brief.
  • If you know of another WordPress developer that you feel would be a good fit for the project, provide them with the recommendation.
  • Wish them luck.

If you do decide to take the project on, but had initial reservations about it, be sure you have certain measures put in place to protect yourself. This means using a freelancer contract, setting strict guidelines and expectations up front, and also learn how to keep client feedback in check.

No matter what you do, when you agree to take on a job that’s outside your comfort zone, don’t give up on it. If you’ve committed to it, you should see it all the way through. No matter how rough the waters get, you took the time to assess these variables and accepted the job. It’s now up to you to deliver. Once you come out on the other side of it, look at what went wrong and figure out how to avoid these issues in the future.

Suzanne Scacca
Do you encounter many of these poor-fitting WordPress development requests or are they a dime a dozen?