Client-Related Challenges7:04 with Paul Boag
While clients provide the direction for projects, they can also damage our productivity. Paul provides some tips for dealing with clients, meetings, and communication.
So we've stumped on our distractions. 0:00 But the next problem—the one area which is very hard to ignore is the client. 0:02 We might be able to turn off our email some of the time, 0:09 but that doesn't mean we completely remove clients from the equation. 0:12 And clients do damage our productivity 0:16 whether we like to think it or not. 0:19 Or whether they like to think it is more to the question. 0:21 Meetings, calls, emails all eat into our actual 0:24 productive time of getting work done. 0:29 Then there's scope creep, 0:32 which screws with our scheduling and our profitability. 0:34 We have this project all planned out wonderfully, 0:38 but then suddenly the client wants something else that we hadn't planned. 0:41 It's that whole unpredictable nature about clients 0:45 where you don't really know how long 0:48 it's going to take them to sign off a design 0:50 or whether they're going to quibble over a particular aspect. 0:52 Now all of those things need addressing, 0:56 and we need techniques for dealing with working with clients. 0:58 Now we've already addressed the issues of telephone calls and emails 1:02 and suggested there are some things you can do there, 1:06 but there are other things too. 1:09 Take for example meetings. 1:13 Always schedule your meeting with a client even if they're nearby. 1:15 Even if it's a client that you could easily pop in to see, 1:20 don't just have ad hoc meetings. 1:23 Make sure they're scheduled into your calendar 1:25 so that they happen when you want them to happen, 1:28 and they don't just suddenly interrupt you in the middle of something else. 1:31 Another useful technique is to make use of video conferencing. 1:35 This limits the amount of travel time to see clients. 1:40 Now I said earlier that meeting face to face with clients is really important, 1:43 and I stand by that. 1:46 But not every conversation with a client needs to happen face to face, 1:48 and a lot of the time you can use video conferencing to do that. 1:53 Always, always set a time limit on a meeting with a client. 1:58 Don't allow it be an open-ended meeting, 2:02 and also don't feel that you always need to go with a 2:05 default that a calendar is set up for. 2:07 Most calendar apps will automatically set a meeting as being an hour long. 2:09 And for a lot of meetings, that's too long. 2:14 So what we tend to do when we have meetings with a client 2:16 is we make it very clear that we need to stop by this time 2:20 because we have other commitments that follow on from there. 2:23 So arrange your meetings with that end time in mind. 2:28 But also try and group the meetings together 2:33 so that you're not constantly begin interrupted through the day. 2:36 Have an afternoon or a day a week which is dedicated to meetings 2:39 so that you're not constantly interrupting your time spent building the website. 2:42 Always have an agenda going in for a meeting as well. 2:48 So many meetings turn into these open-ended discussions 2:51 that don't really go anywhere and drag on endlessly. 2:54 Have an agenda and stick to it. 2:58 And say up front that you have to be done by a certain time. 3:00 There's also scope creep to consider as well. 3:05 First thing to do for dealing with scope creep 3:09 and stopping a client getting carried away 3:11 is to have a written specification. 3:14 Outline exactly what it is you're supposed to be delivering, 3:17 and insure that everyone is signed up with that specification. 3:19 Then if something comes along that isn't in the specification, 3:25 it's clear. 3:28 And there's none of this, well, I thought it was going to be included. 3:30 That happens so much and can throw out your projects. 3:33 Be realistic and honest with your clients 3:36 about ideas that they come up with. 3:39 If an idea is easy to implement, 3:41 feel free to implement it. 3:43 But a lot of the time you want to push ideas back into a second phase. 3:46 I recommend keeping an ideas list 3:51 between yourself and the client 3:53 that when they come up with new ideas, 3:55 put it down on the ideas list. 3:57 That's where these new things go. 3:59 They don't get rolled into the project 4:01 so making it longer and longer. 4:03 Review the ideas list at the end of each project, 4:05 and that can turn into the repeat business we talked about earlier. 4:08 Finally there's unpredictability, 4:13 those aspects of client behavior that are hard to predict 4:15 and can really throw out a project. 4:19 Communication is a key aspect of that. 4:22 If you're communicating with them often, 4:25 then these things are less likely to arise. 4:27 Also avoid surprises. 4:32 Show your client stuff often. 4:34 A classic example of where this can go wrong is with design. 4:37 Designers like to work in isolation. 4:41 They like to go away and produce their beautiful designs 4:44 and then present them to the client in this ta-da moment. 4:47 The problem with that approach is the client is surprised 4:51 with a completed design that may or may not be in line with their expectations. 4:55 If you had shown them sketches and mood boards 4:59 and wireframes and all of these other things along the way, 5:02 then you would have identified problems earlier on 5:05 rather than having this problem hit you after you've spent 5:10 a lot of work and a lot of time working on a design. 5:13 So show the client often what you're doing. 5:17 Adding contingency as well to projects. 5:20 Make sure that there is ample time 5:22 for these unpredictable things that clients tend to do from time to time. 5:25 And when they do say something that surprises you, 5:30 that sets the project off in a different direction, that is unpredictable, 5:35 don't go in and just say, no, I'm not going to do that 5:39 because that doesn't help with the client relationship. 5:42 Instead explain the consequences. 5:45 Point out to them that if did this, it would have a knock on effect on the project. 5:47 Most importantly, make sure that the client understands 5:52 that they might only be adding a day’s work onto the project 5:56 with something that they suggest, 6:01 but that doesn't necessarily equate to just a days delay 6:03 in the overall time of the project. 6:07 The reality is you have other commitments with other clients. 6:10 And this—your clients wouldn't like it 6:13 if their project was pushed because of another client. 6:15 So if you set a certain time to work with a certain client, 6:19 you need to stick to that. 6:23 So if the previous client overruns, 6:25 then it's going to be a while before you can come back to that project. 6:27 So there you go. 6:32 Working with clients is never easy 6:34 and does have an effect on your productivity. 6:36 You're not going to get to sit endlessly coding without having to deal with clients. 6:38 But working with clients is something that's manageable. 6:43 If you set meetings that happen at a particular time, 6:47 if you have a way of dealing with scope creep, 6:50 and if you have methods of dealing with the clients unpredictability, 6:54 then you will get a lot done, 6:58 and the client doesn't need to dominate your day. 7:01
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