At what point do you decide to let a problem project go?
Not long ago, I was working on an English proofreading project for an agency. The agency’s PMs are very nice, communicative people, and I enjoy working with them. The project itself was also interesting: A translated court document discussing the tax investigation of a major pharmaceutical company. (It was a prime example of challenging proofreading combined with learning about a new subject, two things I love about providing language services.)
However, the project didn’t go as smoothly as I had expected. I received the first half of the document the first day, and I was scheduled to receive the second half the next morning. It was a rush job; I was supposed to finish the proofreading by 3 p.m. the same day. I cleared my schedule, preparing for what would be a quick (but not impossible) turnaround.
And then I waited.
It turned out that the translator had run into some problems. Her job ended up being much more labor intensive than she had expected, and she didn’t have the document ready for me. Throughout that second day, she sent me small chunks of the assignment. My 3 p.m. deadline came and went. But I decided to stick with it. Finally, by the end of the work day, I had the entire document. I had been working on it off and on all day, so it didn’t take long to finish it up and send it to the agency that night. I was thanked repeatedly for sticking with the project, despite the unexpected delays.
Did I do the right thing? I think so. I had time in my schedule to finish the project, I knew I could do a good job, and my client really appreciated the extra effort. But that doesn’t mean you should always stick with difficult projects. Once, I stuck with a project when I absolutely shouldn’t have. I didn’t have the time to do a good job (once again due to uncontrollable delays), and I didn’t have enough experience to know how to deal with it. The results were disastrous. I learned my lesson that time: Never accept a job if you don’t think you can do it justice—and don’t be afraid to renegotiate or back out of a project if the terms change!
How about you? Have you ever found yourself with a troublesome project, forced to decide whether to forge ahead or let it go? Please share!