The client is engaged. The project is exciting. The materials are cutting edge. But it’s dragging on.
You can’t keep the momentum going. You can’t get timelines set or benchmarks met…or even a committed date on the materials delivery.
Arghhh! It’s frustrating when you can’t get your work done. And it reflects poorly on your business — even when it’s not your fault.
In a way, it IS your fault. It’s up to you to keep the project moving, without compromising on quality OR on client relations. I’ve been there, and I’ve learned the hard way.
Here’s how I push every project to completion:
SPELL IT OUT
Step one before starting any project: a rock-solid contract. A thought-out, detailed contract (bonus points if a lawyer reviewed it!) — signed by both parties — outlines expectations from the get-go, in writing, so everyone starts out on the same page. They know what’s expected of them and what they can expect from you. READ: There are zero surprises.
Be super-specific in your contract. For example:
- How many design concepts will you present?
- How many site visits?
- How many revisions?
The clearer you are, the smoother the process will be.
SET UP A TIMELINE
It’s in everyone’s best interest to complete the project on time. But without ALL the information and critical decisions, often the project can’t move forward. How can you ensure you get what you need?
To do so, you need a timeline. Split the project into smaller, “easy-to-chew” phases, and set up clear deadlines for each step of the process.
Be blunt about when information or approvals need to be turned in — including revisions. Auto-reminders for meetings, information to-be-submitted and payments to-be-made are helpful for both you and your client.
If the entire client company has free access to you, you’ll find yourself spending all day answering emails and fielding calls — and not getting any work done.
Set yourself up for success by having your client designate one point person who will do the lion’s share of communicating with you.
This doesn’t mean he’s the only one who gets a say. Rather, it’s up to him to hear from everyone on his team and collect their opinions, then get back to you with the final decision.
HIRE WELL & HIRE DIVERSELY
Nobody can be everything to everybody. Instead of trying to do it all yourself – which ensures nothing will ever get finished – find good people to do some of that stuff for you. Really good people.
Look for people who are:
With employees you can rely on, you’ll accomplish so much more. And the key to a great staff? They complement each other. Hire people with different skill sets that work together, especially those skill sets you may lack.
REMEMBER WHO YOU WORK FOR
It will happen: you and your client won’t agree on some aspect of the design or implementation. Maybe they’ll insist on a color scheme that you feel is not appropriate for the venue; perhaps they want to use a specific vendor who doesn’t have the materials you’d prefer.
Say your piece, explaining why you would advise them in a different direction, but then move on if the client insists. Don’t waste time arguing your opinion or sense of style with your client. Unless something won’t function properly or is objectively inferior (like a knockoff that won’t last) — don’t hold your ground when the client is opposed. Let them have their dream.
Ultimately, the customer IS always right.