While projects come in all shapes and sizes, one thing should always remain the same. The approach. It doesn’t matter if it’s a $3,000 website or a $300,000 software build the same methodologies apply. More often than not, agencies will silo the communication, keeping the client in the dark. What tends to happen are bottlenecks to the work, a lack of accountability, and scope creep. The remedy for this is much simpler than you would think. You just have to communicate with your client.
Yes, communication is key. It can mean the difference from a great experience with your agency or deal with an avalanche of negative reviews.
Staying in Control
As the agency or freelancer, it’s up to you control the project. The client is looking to you for guidance. It’s up to you to set the pace, the early stages of the project are important. You want to ensure that you have everything you need to produce an exceptional product that strengthens your client’s brand, so always keep the bigger picture in mind. How does this act as the cog for your client in the long run? Does it align with their current campaigns? What are their overall goals for the year? These are all questions or talking points to have with your client as you create the scope of work. This can alleviate running into situations where you need to adjust midway through the project. The last thing you want is to accommodate an overlooked aspect such as a promotion or campaign at the project’s tail end.
A good rule of thumb is to always recap a client conversation while addressing any outlying tasks you need to address. By creating a regimented schedule for weekly sync-ups you can control the pace and address any concerns you may have. This also gives the client an opportunity to review the project’s progress and offer insights on certain priority tasks.
Watch Out for Scope Creep
The struggle of scope creep is real! When you lack communication or grasp of the larger picture this can cause some disputes as the project progresses. Scope creep refers to when a client asks for changes or additions that were not originally discussed. They assume it’s included, though there are occasions where a client will see if they can get a foot of rope when asking for an inch. By using a scrum or agile approach, you keep an open channel of communication with a point of contact and alleviate this. An agile approach is more iterative, which allows the project to grow based on the needs of the client. It’s usually broken down into phases that can be adjusted after the initial project is kicked off. Using scrum methodologies, your team and the client’s point of contact sync up weekly which keeps the top goals as the main focus and address any issues that may prohibit the project’s progress.
We all want to see the best in people, but there will be occasions where clients may try to see what they can get from you without paying extra. If you have a team of designers and contractors they may try to ask them directly for the additional work rather than going to the project manager. On the same side of the coin, you must hold the point of contact you and the client have agreed on highly accountable. Even if your point of contact asked for a certain feature, it’s not your problem if it wasn’t initially requested. If you or your agency have spent time on it, you must be paid for your work. An accountable POC also helps during the approval process. It will help you avoid ‘having too many cooks in the kitchen.’ That alone will help avoid potential bottlenecks and the loss of project momentum.
To reiterate, you or your agency should have the control in this situation. It doesn’t matter if this is your biggest client or if it’s your first one. If a client requests something that is out of scope or you see potential delays on your side, speak up. Don’t wait until the last minute to ask for more money or to let them know you won’t be meeting the initial deadline. It may be a difficult conversation to have ahead of time, but it will save you an even worse conversation weeks later. More importantly, it will not drastically affect you or your agency’s integrity. If anything, you would be more respected for putting yourself out there rather than trying to hide it. Honesty will always get your further.
Lastly, the client isn’t always right. Just because they’re the ones paying doesn’t mean you become a yes man. They came to you for your expertise, so use it. If they want to spend money on an archaic function or layout, explain to them why this isn’t such a good idea. Regardless of if it means fewer hours you can bill. Show them you’re in it for more than the money and will translate into a better customer experience.
Better Communication, Better Experience
To sum it all up the best way to successfully set client expectations is to keep an open line of communication. Make sure you have someone on the client’s side that is accountable for approvals and decision-making and doesn’t avoid giving your client the full picture just because you hate conflict. You’ll thank us in the long run!