We all have read articles about scope creep, but this isn’t that kind of article. Instead, I wanted to share three tips on how we keep our clients on schedule. At our studio, I wear several hats: One is art direction and problem solving for our clients and the other is project manager. Our team includes members who excel in and serve as consultants in brand development and strategy, marketing and content ideation.
Tip #1: Nail the Problem
I can spend a lot of time recapping stories on the number of projects that have exceeded its original planned scope. Most of the time it was due to a lack of identifying what the problem was in the early stages. I can say that it was the client’s fault, but it was also mine. In the early days of running this studio I didn’t quite refine my skills as a problem solver. I also learned that I was a terrible active listener and listening to your client is the most important step. Active listening allows you to clear your mind from tinkering and to pay attention to what the other party is trying to communicate. It’s the number one step in finding common ground and understanding.
It also can be the boring part because in this early stage of discussion you’re not creating anything. Nevertheless, if you and the client clearly identify the problem and the solutions that are going to be executed. Then staying on schedule is feasible because you have a plan and a solution that was agreed upon. We’re not saying that this will prevent projects from going off schedule, but it decreases the chances. Plus, if the client wants more than what was agreed then here is your opportunity to make a few more dollars.
Tip #2: Choose the Right Project Management System
Helping clients stay on schedule helps both parties feel at ease. It also manages expectations and makes it possible to avoid any misunderstandings. We use the project management system Asana. In Asana, users can create “Teams” and “Projects”. When we’re creating a project we usually invite the designated contact person for the client. This person usually is the stakeholder or a representative of the stakeholders. In Asana, we have a template that displays our steps and how the client fits into those steps. See example below.
Through Asana we communicate with our client on the project and it also displays the project status. We found Asana very helpful because it allows us to not get lost in the wormhole of project emails. It’s a great way to keep everything related to the client and the project in one place.
Tip #3: Weekly Meetings
Before Asana, we use to send out weekly email reports. These emails usually stated what is happening that week in regard to the project and it also included action items for us and the client. However, since we’re using Asana we no longer need to create those time-consuming emails. Instead, we have a 30 to 60-minute meeting with clients to discuss any major concerns or recap what our big to-do’s will be for the week. We found that these meetings have helped us stay transparent with clients and even provided clients with much comfort and trust that the job is getting done.
If the project is exceeding the agreed upon schedule. We look at it as an opportunity to renegotiate the terms to do more work outside of the original agreement. This allows us to change the timeline for those additional items that the client requires and even schedule delivery for a later time if we’re already booked more another project.
In short, this what makes managing a business fun. Nothing is concrete until it’s in contract and signed by both parties. Event then there can be changes and you can always negotiate new terms that are fair to you and your client. These tips have helped us work with our clients and we hope that they help you run your creative business.
Good luck and tell me how do you manage your projects?
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