How To End Your Client Project
I'm not a big fan, from a business point of view, exiting-- People used to say, "Oh you should know how you're gonna exit the business before you start it." I don't, I don't buy that. I wanna build a business that I'll be in for a very very long time. So this is about ending the project, like, how does-- how you exit the operations piece of this, how does this thing end? I think it's crucial upfront to know like whether or not this is going to be-- Is this a long term relationship? Are we gonna be-- Am I on retainer forever? And we're just doing things together forever? 'Cause I'm probably going to-- I'm gonna operate things differently. I'm gonna exit the specific deliverables differently. I'm gonna capture data about the relationship differently. I'm gonna think about pricing and scopes differently. So like the duration, like, "Is this a long term thing?" versus a short term thing, makes a world of difference. If it's not a long term thing, this is my best possible piece of advice. I...
f this is just a project and many of you in the audience and then online will do projects, and so these will be one day projects, or one week projects, or one month projects, or three month projects, whatever they might be, you have to get out before the honeymoon is over. I can't say that any more emphatically. If you do, you will love me for having told you this. And you will be so much happier and your clients will be happier and your reputation will be so much bigger, people will be over the moon about this. So let me describe a little bit about what I mean. So I don't mean to use this like marriage and relationship thing in a cliche way but it is probably the most accurate metaphor or analogy. I don't know if I ever learned the difference between a metaphor and analogy so please forgive me. For how this works, when someone's hiring you to do something from a service point of view, so you're in that that in love phase, that "Oh my God we found the best possible agency or freelancer to work with together." And like, "Yes, of course, we wanna get married. Gimme that proposal. I'm signin' that thing and this is great." And you want that energy, you gotta get out of this project before that energy ends. So, what you'll find is that energy starts to ebb as you get into the production of the deliverables, right? So you're making the thing, maybe it's a website, You're makin' and makin' and makin' and makin' everythin'. Still cool. That was pretty happy. And you're getting close to launch and then like, some things starts to happen. It's a-- "Hey, Peter. Ah, yeah, I know that like for the two months we've been working on this project. We said that, you know, we didn't want this calendar feature and the home page should be blue, and the logo's this size, but like, we changed our mind now. And like, we want the calendar thing and we want you to do it for free. And we want the logo to be bigger, and we want it to be blue." And now, I'm just like "Oh God. You're just, you're changing, you're really changing your scope on me right now. You're really changing your mind on this?" And now, I'm the one, I'm falling out of love at that minute. Right? And now, I can deal with it. I'm the project manager. I can deal with falling outta love. It's not a problem, The problem is like when you're engineers and your designers fall outta love and they like, "Ah, they want it purple? They must be crazy." And now, the honeymoon, the honeymoon is starting to end. And now, we're gonna launch. We're about to launch. And now they've asked for, like, two or three other things that were never in the scope, but like we'd have to launch right? So like, okay, we can just jam it out. Like, let's just not sleep for a night. Okay we got that done. We're gonna jam it out. And now, but when you jam it out, the next day they like "No, it's not that good." And you like, "But I didn't sleep. I worked so hard for you. And why are you so mean?" Right? So honeymoon is ending. So you wanna get these projects done while there's still a great high note because if you do, project's done, thing launches, they get their video, they get their photos, they get a website or whatever it is. And they go "Oh my God. I worked with iStrategyLabs and it was such a pleasure. They delivered everything on time and it was such high quality. And it launched. And it was great. And we never had a problem." So your reputation builds and referrals are so much easier. And that client will say, "They were the best agency I ever worked with. I've never worked with an agency when we had such a good project." So if you can get the project done before the honeymoon is over, please. Part of it, part of it is really getting the thing done, like getting, getting it clearer that this thing has finished, which is not always clear to people. So I'll describe that. We could launch a web-- You know, do a web project. The project is done when the website launches right? It goes on the Internet. Now the Internet plays with it. That's what websites are right? They just play with these things. That is the clearest indication to me that a website project is done. And then, they go "Yeah, we wanted like change some of the photos, and like some of the copy and like that other page. And--" "What? Are we do-- Is this a new project?" I go, "We-- What are we doing now?" Oh, oh that's called scope creep. Oh now we're just doing free work for no reason because we're not professional enough to have been clear enough to our clients when our job starts and ends. So the reason there are, there's a picture of very small boxes on a keyboard, if you had noticed, very small boxes, very small boxes, you sometimes have to be very literal with this stuff. So in the early days, back when DVDs were a thing. I dunno if you guys know what DVDs are. They're a thing and they're like a plastic thing. It spins around, has data on it. We would burn to DVD the full code base and all the project files so that when a website launched, we'd Fedex it to client. And there's a little ribbon around it, "Congratulations! If you need any backup sources, here's the thing." And we give them full access to the code base. It would normally be on their server, somethin' like that. And then when you get that call, four days later, saying, "Hey, we wanna do this thing where we changed the photo and the copy." The response to them would be, "That's great! Um, I sent you the email with all the access information and the DVD's got all the source files. Let us know if you need another project in the future. If you don't have enough time to do those changes, our hourly is about x an hour or our weekly or whatever it is." And they go, "Oh yeah, I have, I have this nice little finished, and this nice little finished product on my desk of the thing that we bought from them. And oh yeah, they did do their job. Oh they did do everything. Oh I'm reminded that I can't just ask for infinite amounts of free work." So try to figure out a device like this, that will help you exit clearly. You don't have to send-- you don't have to burn a DVD and send 'em their project files. You can send a bottle of champagne. Better than not answering your emails ever again. That's not a great way to build a great reputation. Right? So you have to figure out how to be done done, which is the other phrase final final, done done. If you're getting in those multiple word endings, it means it's not workin'. It's just gotta be final. It's gotta be done. So any questions about this before we-- We still have to finish out out with upselling and referrals and we're probably done for the day.
I'm curious, you know. Have any of you done a project that has just lingered on like that where people wanted to keep adding more on to it? I mean, horror stories. Lucky, you're nodding?
Yeah. I mean, we had a client that we just, we really truly enjoyed working with them but they kept kind of missing some internal deadlines and so that last ask that they had for us, we just had to say no 'cause we couldn't project manage it on our end.
And so when we did that, you know follow up call, the check in and see how they did in the project launch and talk about referrals, like, of course, that's that thing that came out like, "Well, I really wish you would have helped us with x" And it wasn't about cost. It was just about time. And so you know, still, I'm still just really conflicted about whether that was a good move on my end or not.
In extreme cases, what we have done is we have removed the project manager in terms of-- They literally get banned from like communicating with the client. And, I'll say to the, a very difficult client has them, difficult endings. They got everything needed, and just, they just keep hammering this poor project manager for more work. I'll say, "Hi John. Just you know, Mary's been removed from the project. There's no one project managing your project anymore 'cause it's over. So if you need everything just let me know." And then they'll say, "Yeah, well, we need like five more edits." We're like, "There's no editors assigned to your project 'cause the project ended. Do you-- Is there anything else I can help with?" And I'm not tryin'a be a jerk. I'm just trying to get that person to like fully understand that the project has ended. And John, if you were a professional in the world would say, "Oh I get. No, I mean, we're gonna, we're gonna pay you. And we wanted like do another thing." You know like, "Okay cool. Yeah we can do that. It's $5000 or whatever."
One of the issues alongside with scope creep is when our clients bring in kind of stakeholders maybe too late.
Oh the best! (woman laughs)
And then it's those people that wanted the changes or offended by something. So do you do any kind of like client education even on your end? Like, "Hey, now is the time to show your board."
Of course. Not only do we do that, we try to bake it in the timeline. So you can say like stakeholder review that week five, prior to rough cut or, no, can be-- They're gonna see the rough cut, after rough cut. What I would like to do-- I don't know if we do this or not-- we could bake in like top ten things that could make this project go south. So let's not do that. Number one, you bringing your stakeholders way too late, once we've sent you a final cut. Because none of their feedback is gonna get inluded. We will not include it 'cause it will be done. It will have been the final cut. And they go, "Oh. But what if they want, what if they want feedback? And what if they wanna influence this piece" I'm like, "So have them do it at the rough cut? Like it's not--" You make that a recommendation. So I like the idea of like pre-warning the things 'cause not everyone understands that. Especially if they've never done a video project before, how would they know? They don't know how you do what you do. They just think that like, they're paying you to do stuff. That's not-- It's not their business. They're not operating the business. You're operating the business so it's incumbent on you, I think, to sort of manage their expectations and do all that. So that's the more you can do, the better. Make a video.