seed magically growingEver have a client talk to you in a way that made it seem like you were a wizard at design? Ever have a project with very little resources from the owner, yet expected to deliver an award-winning experience? We’ve all been there, and for those of you who haven’t, know that you will soon enough. Having a potential client tell you they want the moon is a pretty funny experience. If you’re not ready, you’ll be taken back by all the requests. You may even think they’re accurate in their assumptions that flash is better than HTML5 or that having more images and no text is perfectly fine for a their entire website.

Let me first point out some of the warning signs:

  • A client that has no content, marketing plans, or media
  • You not having an up to date pricing list
  • If they’ve never seen your portfolio of work
  • The client thinks your prices are too high
  • The project needs to be done yesterday (already late)
  • There are unrealistic expectations
  • You not having a workflow
  • No contract

Sure these are just a few warnings, but they are with a lot of cause. When a potential client has expectations that do not seem to line up with your sense of reality, you’ll need to reach a middle point with them. One of the biggest mistakes you can do is promise the world when you’re in negotiations, then produce disappointments during development. You’re not going to want to keep calling or emailing them with bad news, and they’re not going to appreciate having to pay you for things their not going to get.

The idea of a magically grown project comes from misconception at the start. I know when I first got started, I would ask the client what they wanted. After a few years of experience, I now ask them what they do. After then tell me what they do, how their business works, I then tell them how a website we create for them will help. Either by plugging holes in their marketing, sales force, lead generation, brand recognition, social media, etc. By taking control of the expectations up front I get to set the scale for what the project will be. Even if I have my own limitations, I can still play within those limitations while the client essentially gets what they wanted.

Keep your clients on a schedule. It may be daily or weekly, but give them a clear set of action items or goals they need to achieve so that all parties can see the project “grow.” Also inform them when they’re behind on deliverable, and be honest about your hangups. This transparency helps to keep tensions on the ground instead of elevating to stressful levels. At the end of the day, it always comes down to customer service. You’re not a store at the mall, but you do need to have great service skills to ensure quality and future work.

One last time I have to create some checks and balances with your clients and your projects. Make sure everyone is accountable to either clear deadlines, or to someone else on the same team. This helps eliminate procrastination and even losses in translations. Clear goals and milestones post production will also help ensure a successful website.