Don’t Mourn that Freelance Project Failure – it Might Not Have Been Your Fault

January 10, 2022

Every time a project I work on fails, it hurts.

But in my 13+ years freelancing for clients, I’ve had far more failures than successes in terms of project achievements. For most this would be a valid reason to quit and change careers. But for a freelancer?

It’s a normal part of the work.

The failure of a project doesn’t mean you didn’t do great work.

There are many reasons (most beyond our control) as to why a project fails. Being aware of these reasons, doing what we can to mitigate them, and letting go when they aren’t under our control, is a key part of staying positive while working as a freelancer.

Here are the most common reasons a project fails when you’re doing freelance work – have you experienced any of these?

Unrealistic expectations

This is so common, I have three different clauses in my contract to address it.

If a client has unrealistic expectations for the results from your work, and there’s nothing you can do to sway them, then the failure is not your fault.

I’ve had clients who expected $1M MRR within two years, but refused to invest in the marketing to drive the amount of traffic needed to the funnels I built for them.

Poorly defined, or misguided target audience

You can build the best project, but it won’t be successful if it’s for the wrong target audience.

If a client gives you incorrect customer info – there’s a limit to the results your work can get for them. I’ve had clients who wanted increased traffic to their restaurant website but insisted on targeting influencers in their marketing.

Control What You Can, Let Go of What You Can’t

Your job is first and foremost to use your expertise to help your clients.

But if they don’t listen, or mishandle other parts of the project – your expertise can only help so far.

Being OK with your projects failing doesn’t mean not caring, not speaking up, or doing shoddy work. It means you bring your best work, every day, and realize that ultimately, you can’t be more invested in your projects than your clients are.

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