I have bitched more than most about bad clients, and bad projects, and good projects that turn bad due to bad clients (notice we accept no blame ๐Ÿ™‚ ). The holy grail of course is the project that has good people behind it, starts good, and ends good.

We just wrapped a project that started good and ended the same way. Best of all it was not only fun and smooth sailing, it was also profitable. Seems like a no brainer… make money. But in client services more often than not a project becomes an alligator and eats time, resources, and profit.

Here are a few tips I have to ensure your next project is a gem;

  1. The Alpha Dog. They are paying you money because you are the expert, not them. In a no nonsense way, reassure the client that you do know best and their money is being well spent. High Confidence with a small bit of arrogance on your part will show the client you know your game, and they need not try to micro-manage the project, or your team. It is important to “correct” them early should they push the boundry. Give them an inch.. they may take a yard. Now not all clients are this way, but I have found that the typical client who is dropping $20k-$50k on design work is a little nervous and will try to manage that money if they sense weakness on the agency side.
  2. Clear expectations/scope. Be clear on exactly what you are delivering, and at what price. I find it even helpful to declare what is not in scope. State what you are going to do, what you are certainly not going to do.. and that then only leaves a small bit of ambiguity left for possible misunderstanding.
  3. Communicate. During this project span I attended SXSW and came back with a terrible flu/cold that wiped me out for 7 days after the 7 days I was in Austin. The client was aware I would be unavailable during SXSW, but was looking forward to resumption of their project the Wed. following my return. The illness blew up the schedule, but a few simple emails to the client assured them we would work double time upon our return to make sure their project was on schedule. They understood, and we did work double time and delivered. Everyone was happy.
  4. Get paid up front. Depending on the project we typically break down the fee schedule into 3-5 payments. What we found though that works best is 100% up front. Here’s why. Sometimes freelance designers have the tendency to get as much done as they have been paid for.. and to drag out a project with payment cycles for fear of getting too much done, then getting stiffed on a final payment. Billing all up front forces you to “Earn the money” so you work hard and fast to fulfill the project. For me at least it is a integrity thing. I have already been paid this money, so it is on me to make good on it… it would be stealing to take the money and just sit on your hands. Also the client sees you mean business when you have the kajones to ask for $10k-$20k-$30k up front.

I am sure I could come up with some more tidbits.. but why don’t you use the comments section to share your own.

1 thought on “When good projects end the same way.”

  1. You had me up until “Get paid up front.” Great idea, but honestly, I don’t think I’d pay 100% upfront for a service and I know that most of our clients, good and bad, would be adverse to that too. Then again, if you can do it, I say go for it!

    But all of this makes sense. Honesty, sticking to your guns, setting expectations and clear communication can turn the worst of projects into gems.

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