Why do you need project management when working with clients?
Operating without a solid understanding of the why, how, who, and when of any project can lead to serious misalignment regarding client goals and results. You most definitely don’t want to get to the end of a project just for your client to turn around and tell you that you missed the mark and the process of getting there wasn’t what they had imagined.
Second, having a solid idea of planning a project may cost you more time and money upfront, but it will save you so much of both of those things in the long run. Keeping everyone on the same page and focused through task outlines and timelines prevents confusion and misinformation.
And lastly, managing your projects well reinforces your authority in your work. When a client starts working with you and sees everything laid out with clear objectives and timelines, they are significantly more trusting and typically give you more freedom to do the work because they feel informed.
Now that you know WHY project management for clients is such a big deal,
Five Do’s and Dont’s when it comes to managing those projects!
Do have a clear understanding of the client’s end goal
Don’t try and build the project around your objectives.
Knowing your customer is the key to the successful completion of a project. Your role as the expert is to put the work in to understand what your clients want and the most effective way of delivering the product or service that fits their needs.
Some ways you can apply this
Offer Discovery Calls
- You should not take on every single potential client that reaches out from anywhere. You want to make sure your client’s goals align with the work you offer.
- For example, if someone signed up for my service expecting me to write their copy and not optimize their ClickUp systems, the project would not get done, and the expectations were not clear.
Have your clients fill out an onboarding questionnaire/ have an onboarding call
- This helps you see their goals and progress ahead of time and gives you a chance to layout your project phases and timelines.
Check-in as you go and make sure the project stays aligned with their goals
- Feedback is a life and time saver! Don’t waste your time on elements of the project that are not benefitting your client. The best way to know which things to do and don’t do is to ask and observe
Do use ClickUp to layout your timeline and checkpoints.
Don’t start the project without an idea of how long it is going to take
Laying out your timeline and checkpoints in your project management tool is one of the most efficient ways to keep clients in the loop without having to go back-and-forth as you go.
Platforms like ClickUp were created to help you serve your clients well and make business easier, so let them.
Before you share all the juicy details and start working with a client, you should first consider these four things (listed originally in the post, How to Keep Your Client Onboarding Experience Simple):
Set an overall goal for your project timeframe (4 weeks, 2 months, 1 year, continuous service?)
Break your project into phases
- Your initial project review. What is your end goal? Who’s involved? How long should this take? What are some of the key elements of the project (checkpoints)?
- The kickoff. What goes into starting? Get your outline/foundation into your project management tool (ClickUp, Asana, etc.) Bring the team together (if you have one). Figure out where to start and get started
- Your messy middle. Tasks are being completed, and timelines are becoming more clear. Re-evaluate this timeline based on checkpoints—Check-in with your team. Don’t give up.
- Time for the final stretch. This is when you start putting all the pieces together. Do you need to revamp some things? Is it time to present/launch/get going?! How is the team feeling about the result? Is your project still aligned with your goal?
Set up timelines for each phase
And have direction on where your time and energy need to go.
It’s wild how seamless you can deliver projects to clients when you take the upfront time to lay it all out in your systems.
Do communicate your timeline and game plan with your client.
Don’t leave your client guessing and unsure about when the product will be delivered.
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you out!
- Update your progress as you go. It will allow your client to follow along on the project’s journey, which is easier for both parties.
- Get feedback often. Client’s needs are continually evolving, and each of their journies is unique. Getting their input helps you develop your services and grow together instead of apart.
- Instead of just crossing your fingers and hoping you reach the finish line, get some clarity and break down managing a project into super-simple tasks for you and your client to complete. Nothing fancy, but incredibly effective.
Do set up tasks for you and your clients.
Don’t try and manage everything in your head.
When it comes to prioritizing tasks, you may feel overwhelmed, isolated, and straight-up annoyed when you want to move the needle in your day, but you have no idea where to start. Your clients feel that way too!
The best way for you both to gain clarity, direction, and progress is to lay it all out and follow these three steps:
But first, take a deep breath. We have got this, and it’s not as complicated as it sometimes feels.
Start your project with a clear timeline of tasks and checkpoints (as described above).
What is crucial for you now may not be necessary by the time you check back in, so don’t be afraid to change the task expectations when you review your progress.
You want to start and continue focusing on what needs your client’s attention and what doesn’t.
Establish when and how a task should be completed
One way of doing this is starting with what is called a brain dump of EVERYTHING you can think of.
Write down every single task that comes to mind in no order and with no level of importance.
Then, making three columns, Urgent, Important, and Misc.– This allows you to sort all of your chaotic thoughts into easy-to-manage smaller lists.
Now delegate the urgent tasks first, important tasks later, and the misc when time allows.
Remember that your task list is a guide, not a contract.
Don’t sell your soul and your client’s vision to your to-do list, but instead honor it as something that helps you serve your clients, your team, and yourself better.
Do have a set channel for communication and feedback.
Don’t try and communicate on multiple platforms about the project.
You are losing trust, time, and money every time your clients are accidentally left on read, confused where to go next, or overwhelmed with all the places to check for information. Here are three places to start:
Separate Personal and Business
It is incredible if you love to chat with your clients outside of working with them, and honestly, I think this style of relationship-building is critical. But it is so important to communicate with them where certain information goes.
Obsessing over the recipe you just posted to your story = Instagram
Feedback on client homework = ClickUp/ Google Drive/ etc.
Coaching & strategizing conversations = Voxer/Slack
- This gives you and your client clear boundaries on communicating AND helps you keep up with all that is being shared and said. Things are less likely to get lost or forgotten this way.
Communicate when you are available
- Give your client the freedom to message you whenever they need you or have an idea, but be very clear on when and how quickly you respond. This sets up a system in which they can access you, but you don’t feel pressure to respond outside of the designated time points.
This builds trust and healthy expectations
Be clear and concise with tasks and information.
Throw out the “couldn’t this have been summarized in an email instead of a 45-minute meeting?” vibe.
- Keep your information simple, task-oriented, and to the point to prevent clients from wasting time having to sift through all the information to find the point you were trying to make.
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