3 tips for web designers to help keep clients on schedule and meeting deadlines
Drag-on projects are one of the very worst things that can happen to your web design project, both as the designer and as the client.
Basically, no one is a happy camper when a project that should have taken 1 month takes 3 or more.
For a lot of clients, this is their first time undertaking this type of web design project and so they really aren't sure how things are supposed to go and when certain deadlines are coming up, and their importance.
As web designers, we've been around the block with our process many, many times and it's our responsibility to ensure the project moves along at the right pace to ensure we'll hit the completion date with a finished project that's ready to be handed off.
But keeping a project on schedule is no easy feat at times.
So, here's a few tips I've found invaluable to ensure that not one of my projects has dragged on past it's completion date.
1. Scheduled the project to have a definite end date
A lot of creatives will ballpark an end date but not nail down one finish date in case things go crazy or deadlines get pushed.
But I'm going to be honest, straight up do not give yourself or your client that rope to hang yourself with in the first place. Pick a definite end date for each project.
The project does not end when the project is 'done,' the project ends on the end date.
Coincidentally, because you have a set-in-stone end date, projects always get done on time.
Here's what I mean by that.
A lot of web designers estimate 6-8 weeks for a project and have a rough schedule outlined for certain phases of the project. If the designer needs an extra few days to get something done, they push things back. If the client is taking longer than was scheduled to give feedback or give content, things get pushed back.
Do not allow push backs in the first place. Set in stone when each phase will be completed and stick to it.
That means yes, as the designer, if something goes wild in your life or business, you're going to work late, cancel all non-essential tasks and work your buns off until you get things done by the deadline you set yourself.
(Or plan ahead, and always set yourself an extra day for those 'oh shit' events of life.)
That means as the client, if they do not provide feedback by the deadline to send in feedback, they don't get to give feedback and get edits.
Again, coincidentally, because there is a significant downside to not meeting a deadline, in my experience, every single client for years now has submitted feedback by the deadline.
When there's something to loose on the line, people move mountains to prioritize tasks and make things happen.
While the downside to having a set-in-stone project schedule and end date is it will at times put the pressure on you and your client to meet deadlines, the benefit is you will be able to schedule client projects better, knowing nothing will drag on, and your client will be able to rely on the date you provide them, and plan other business tasks accordingly.
I do a 2 week process for every web design and just take on one client at a time. A friend showed me her project calendar where she takes on a couple clients at a time, but has 1 month for the projects.
For both of us, after the deadline for a project to be completed has passed, we're on to the next client project. And it wouldn't be fair for future clients to have their projects pushed back because someone earlier in the schedule wasn't ready, so again, that sets a real deadline in your and your clients minds to know something has to get done.
In summary, set a definite deadlines for phases of projects and the end date, not wishy-washy, easily changeable project schedules.
Tip: If you're new to the working with clients thing, give yourself a few extra days through the project so you're not completely stressing out and setting unrealistic deadlines. The more projects you do, the better you'll get at gauging how long things take and can set tighter deadlines.
2. Communicate deadlines again, and again and again
Of course on your part, you should have your deadlines clearly in view on whatever calendar/planner/project management system you use.
But remember, clients meeting deadlines is a very important aspect of the project staying on schedule and it's your responsibility to help keep them on schedule.
They've got 99 things happening in their life, the project with you is just one of many things going on for them. It's your role to remind them of what's happening when.
Err on the side of caution, and give too many reminders instead of too few.
Here's when I communicate deadlines to clients:
On the very first initial consultation call I very clearly detail the project schedule and mention the deadlines for each phase. I have them pick a design date but remind them of the homework they need to have completed before we start and tell them to factor in the time it'll take them to prepare their homework into the design date they choose.
In my Welcome Package I have our project schedule laid out too with the deadlines for each phase. I also detail the repercussions for not meeting deadlines (forfeiting a round of edits if they're not in on time, or having to loose their deposit and pick a new design date if their content isn't ready by our start date).
I send reminder emails to each clients a few days before their content is due to remind them of the due date.
On our consultation call on the first day of the design period I again explain the timeline moving forward and tell them the date they'll see the first look of their website and when their edits must be in.
When I show the first version of the site, I explain how to submit edits and the deadline to give them in by
While this sounds kinda intense, you can communicate these deadlines in a kind manner. I've previously sent my clients Starbucks gift cards as a gift by email and say something like, "I hope the coffee helps with getting that homework done!"
In summary, send a lot of reminders, provide the schedule written and verbally so your client knows it just as well as you do.
3. Set payments at times clients are excited to move on
Straight up get rid of your payment schedule that has clients pay once so much of a percentage of work has been done.
Instead, set payments to happen at times clients are motivated to get moving!
If you do this, you'll never be pushing back working on the next phase of the project because you're waiting for your client to pay you.
I have my payments set as 50% to book their design date (which they're motivated to do because they want to hold the date they've decided on before someone else takes it. Never let someone book your time without giving a deposit - only have a spot with you be booked once a payment has been made.)
I have the second 50% payment due once their website is completed and ready to launch, but before I give them permissions to the site. The client is excited because their site is complete, they've seen the finished product and are excited to get it launched!
I also hold a final lesson + launch video call with clients, so if they haven't had a chance to pay their final invoice by then, they can do it while we're on the call.
Not once has someone paid me late, and it's all because I've strategically placed payment times to not hold anything up.
Of course, one thing which would always make payments take longer were cheques and other forms of payment that take a few days to go through. Eliminate the ability to pay by ancient methods and get a payment processor that immediately clears a payment (eg. PayPal, Stripe, etc.).
If you're making it difficult for clients to pay you, of course it's going to hold things up.
In summary, be smart about when you're collecting payments and obviously, make it superrr easy for the payment to be made.
So, there you go, keeping your clients on schedule 101! Now, go revamp that process and be free of drag-on projects for forever!