A guest post from Troy Dean
You Gotta Have a Process
Building websites for clients with WordPress is easy, fun and can be a very profitable business. However, every client has their own unique situation and individual needs and if you don’t have a great process in place, client projects can quickly start to drag out, become stressful and drain your profit.
In this post, I’m going to share my process for onboarding new clients and managing projects so you can stay profitable and have fun.
Let’s dive in.
Step #1: Ask Lots of Questions
When a potential new client expresses interest in a website, it’s very tempting to start talking about how amazing WordPress is and all the plugins you can use to add cool functionality like Gravity Forms, Yoast SEO and even WooCommerce.
Before you get carried away, start by asking your new client lots of questions about their situation. The three questions I always ask are:
- Why do you need a website?
- Why else do you need a website?
- How much budget do you have put aside for this project?
Yes, that’s right, I ask about budget right up front. I know what it costs me to build a website and I’m not a charity so I don’t want to waste anyone’s time with an in-depth meeting only to find out they want to build “Facebook for homeopaths” and they have a budget of $500 (this is actually a true story).
Once you have a detailed picture on what they want to achieve, it’s time to submit a proposal for the work.
Step #2: Propose a Solution
Again, it’s tempting to fatten up your proposal with long, detailed explanations of how all the technology works and how the plugins all tie-in together. In my experience, this confuses clients and leads to more questions and a sense of uneasiness as they don’t understand exactly what they’re buying.
Try communicating in very plain language and highlight the benefits your client will receive from their new website. For example, if your new client is a nonprofit and you just know that email sign-up forms are a sure fire way to help them attract new donors, frame this using language like “new donors joining the mission” or “an increase in donations from the website”. This is emotional language that will inspire your client, rather than technical talk that will likely confuse or bore them.
Step #3: Set a Timeline
The only foolproof way to meet (or preferably exceed) your client’s expectations is to set those expectations right from the start of the relationship. I outline my process of discovery, design, development and deployment and let my client know how long each phase usually takes, what the deliverables are for each phase, and what I require from them during each phase.
Then, rather than telling my client what my timeline is, I ask them about their expectations and collaborate on a realistic and reasonable timeline together. It’s much easier to get clients to respect a timeline if they have some ownership over it and have been included in the conversation.
Step #4: Get in the Browser Quickly
Now that you’ve done the hard work of landing a new client and getting them to approve your proposal, the real fun begins. Of all of the projects I’ve worked on over the years, the ones that derailed and ended badly were those where my client’s vision and my interpretation of their vision were so far apart, there was no chance of reconciliation.
Websites are a visual medium. I’ve learned the hard way that the sooner you can get your client looking at things in the browser, the more likely you are to get on the same page and stay there. I love using tools like Genesis Sandbox or Beaver Builder to build rapid prototypes with minimal styling so I can get my clients playing with functionality before we get carried away with colors and fonts.
Step #5: Get Paid Regularly
The final part of my process was a late addition and a complete game changer in terms of my profitability. I used to request 50% of the proposal fee up front and then 50% on completion. This is a terrible model. How many times has a client kept you waiting on content for weeks or months (or even 6.5 years!!!) and therefore stalling the final payment?
My new model requires 50% up front, 20% after the prototype has been signed off, 20% once design and development have been approved (with or without content) and then the final 10% once we go live. That way, if the client drags their feet on those last few product photos, I’m only in the hole for 10% which is pure profit at that stage.
I hope you’ve found a gold nugget or two in my process that you can apply to your business. The truth is, you can apply this model to any type of client services business, I just happen to be a WordPress consultant so I’ve adapted it for that.
The point is, if you have a process you can follow, you’ll increase your chances of delivering consistent projects, staying profitable and having fun.
An audio version of this post: