How-to Keep a Design Project on Schedule: Client-Side

How-to Stay on Schedule: Client-side

There are many ways to motivate yourself as a freelancer to get work done and be more productive. But, what about your clients? What things can cause a project to get behind that can seem out of your control?

Clients: Here are a few things to avoid to keep a project on schedule.

1 – Lack of Communication

When working with a freelancer who isn’t working on location, it can be difficult to elicit feedback via email and over the phone. Especially when working with a designer. It’s easy to explain certain comments while bringing up visual examples in person. But when using email or other web based project management tools, feedback can be harder to understand on both ends.

Having to elaborate on comments constantly can increase the time spent giving feedback to a freelancer. In my experience, it’s best to layout a plan ahead of time for how feedback will be received. You may prefer to talk on the phone or use a video conferencing program such as WebEx. Or you may enjoy communicating via email or by using a web based project manager.

Freelancers: Whatever your tool of choice is, make sure it’s the right one for your client to keep the project running smoothly. When working remotely, it’s especially important. Chances are if your clients aren’t using your web tool or are returning your emails with a phone call, you might need to rethink your feedback plan. All you have to do is ask in the beginning to avoid any communication issues later. This will help to keep your project on track.

2 – Large Team Size

Coming from an in-house background, I’ve had the pleasure of working on large teams and also on small ones with my freelance work today. Corporations tend to have many levels of management and large project teams. There are benefits to having many different areas involved, especially on a website design where not each department will know what the other’s needs are necessarily.

But, when it comes to the more creative side of things, its best to have a small team giving feedback rather than a larger group. The feedback tends to become unmanageable if not filtered through a main decision maker first. Plan ahead and make sure that person is made known to your team and freelancer. Otherwise, comments which shouldn’t be taken into account, will be and can cause project delays having to re-work those mishaps.

Before starting a project with a freelancer, reach out to your internal team and decide who needs to be involved. Chances are the team could be cut in half and those unnecessary members would be better left contacted when their area of expertise is needed. It will save both the team and freelancer time as well as the other employees who aren’t directly involved in the entire project.

Another reason to keep teams small is when it comes to scheduling meetings. The more people, the more limited and difficult it will become to get everyone in one room at the same time. Often, this problem can cause deadlines to get pushed out. This is generally out of the hands of a freelancer. A common tactic is to set milestones and meetings before the project starts at contract phase. Having these in place will keep the project deadlines reachable.

3 – Inadequate Planning

As you can see from reading through the first two problem areas, planning in a huge factor in keeping deadlines. Before any business should contact a freelancer or contractor, plan as far as you can internally first. Discuss your business’ needs and wishes, budget restrictions, time-line, etc. and come to a collective agreement before hiring a team or freelancer to work with you. It will save a lot of time and money in the end.

Here are some questions to help you get started:

  1. Why do we need to hire “x” freelancer?
  2. What tasks are we looking for them to complete? Be specific.
  3. What are we looking to gain by completing said project? List at least two main goals.
  4. What budget can we put towards the project? Make sure to cover all necessary pieces. Ask if you aren’t sure what is needed when planning.
  5. When do we need to have the project completed by? Be realistic. Remember to factor in meetings and time for feedback and revisions. This is often overlooked. Large teams = more time.
  6. Who needs to be involved in the project meetings? Who can we call on later for additional help? Are these people available and will they have time to dedicate to the project?
  7. If providing a freelancer web content, who will be responsible? Where will the content and knowledge come from? If hiring a freelance writer, how will your team guide them to write content?
  8. How do you prefer to receive and give feedback?

New Website Questions

  1. What pages are you looking to have on your website?
  2. Do you want to manage the site internally or have your freelancer manage it?
  3. Are you looking to have a Content Management System?
  4. Who will host your website?
  5. Will your freelancer to both the development and design?
  6. What is your plan for photography and/or illustration?
  7. Will your web designer provide those or will you need to find another freelancer?

These questions should get you started to build a successful plan for your next web project. It will cut down the amount of time you’ll end up paying for with your freelancer and keep the project on track. Freelancers also need to stick to a schedule. They do have other projects and clients, even though they make it seem as if you are their only commitment (this is how you should always feel as a client!). Even if you don’t have a ton of experience planning a web project, don’t be afraid to ask your freelancer ahead of hiring them. Ask them what items you’ll need to plan out, what any mysterious web terms mean in non-web savvy terms. You’ll be surprised how much smoother your next project will go.


What have you learned from working on web projects that could save others time and keep on track?

Sarah Shuda

Sarah Shuda

Designer. Mom. Wife. Loves Gilmore Girls, healthy living and a good cup of coffee.

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