Knowing when to say "NO" and get out of a project before it starts.

All projects look beautiful at first. But look at the details before you say "yes."

Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I get it wrong. Balancing a happy and productive working  experience with the siren-like lure of money attached to a bad project is the tricky part of being in a creative business. But one of the things that helps people to be successful over the long term is developing a sense of smell for "stinky" projects and developing the proactive ability (willingness) to remove yourself quickly and with finality.

I recently got invited into a project by a good client. They were working with a large vendor of theirs who needed to make a video in my client's facilities and with my client's staff and customers. The vendor brought along their own video production company to "supervise" the project.  They needed resources here in Austin as both the client and the production company are located in another part of the country.  I would be working under their direction.

In the course of several phone conferences it became clear to me that the production company saw my company as a very generic cog, not the "creative partner" that my client values. They were more interested in asserting their control and ownership over the project than in collaborating to create a great product for the client. The producer also felt like "good enough" was good enough. No need for fancy lighting and no need for interesting camera work.  To top it off the producer sounded bored and reticent to listen to any input. In his mind my role would be to assemble a crew and operate a camera.

When I got off the call I knew that the hierarchy and the producer's lack of enthusiasm would make this entire project an endless pain in the butt. And I've learned that working for people who are more than happy to settle for good enough create projects that are never good enough to go on one's reel. I also understand that being the new guy in the mix makes one the target of blame for anything that might go wrong along the way. The stink of a failed project, your fault or not, follows you forever with the client. None for me, thanks.

I declined to be involved. The producer will have to find a different resource. I'll have to find something more fun to do with those few days in January.

You get to choose. If a proffered project sucks then it's smart to walk. The universe isn't in the habit of replacing miserable days with fresh ones...

Family Photography: Candid Moments & Storytelling


James Pilcher said...

My years in my own privte practice (computer consulting) have honed my ability to sniff out a bad project. I have turned down many offers after an initial hard look. Having that sense is a valuable asset for any self-employed professional.

Thanks for the article, Kirk. It reinforces my own beliefs. And always know, I agree with those who agree with me.

George Bishop said...

I do so agree with you . . . . it is the main reason for not working for a corporate . . . . having the independence to walk away from a job that you know will come back and bite you in the ***