I’m a big fan of HGTV. I love watching homeowners go through the renovation process, because I enjoy seeing the before, the after, and all the snags and glitches that inevitably happen in between. The process reminds me of project management – or as I occasionally describe my job, making sure work gets done well, on time and under budget.
What does it take to be a good project manager? For starters, let me acknowledge that project management can be stressful. I’ve occasionally had elements of a current project make their way into my dreams for the evening. As I thought about project management tips, they seemed to fall into three main categories – managing the client, managing a team, and managing the project itself. Here are my top tips on how to manage a project without losing sleep, whether you’re supervising a kitchen renovation or overseeing a large marketing assignment.
Managing the Client
- Manage your client’s expectations. Make sure you’re on the same page about what you’re trying to accomplish and what the desired end result should be. This will also help you measure the success of the project in the end.
- Be very detailed in your scope of the project. Make sure the client knows what’s included and what isn’t included in the price. Sometimes little extras come up along the way that can have a big impact on your workload and your budget.
- Don’t be afraid to make recommendations. Say, “Did you think about possibly doing it this way instead?” Don’t assume your client has considered all the options available. You may end up saving them time and money by simply asking. They will appreciate the fact that you’re looking out for them and working as a team.
- Get your client to “sign off” early in the process so you can set out in the right direction. Create a template/sample, and get it approved by the client. Don’t get halfway through the work in an effort to meet your deadlines, then have the client look over what you’re doing. I’ve learned the hard way that even though clients say they want something done a certain way, they often see the finished product and change their minds. Give the client an opportunity to make changes before you set your team loose.
- Communicate from the start that major changes after the work begins may bring about additional costs and delays. This usually prompts a client to be more detailed and thorough when making initial decisions.
- Update your client regularly. Send a regular status report showing your progress so they know you haven’t forgotten about them. Spell out what’s completed, what’s in progress, and what is coming up next.
- If you’re having trouble meeting deadlines because of delays on the client side, don’t hesitate to send a reminder. Don’t assume your client remembers that today is their deadline to get back with you. I like to provide hard dates by saying something like, “If we don’t get approval on this item by the 15th, we’ll have to push our deadlines out by one week.” Just don’t be annoying and send a reminder every single day, because your emails will start to be ignored!
- Don’t nickel and dime your client. If you’re being paid to complete a large project, don’t charge for every minor tweak. Allow room for a few small adjustments along the way. The client will consider you easy to work with and will appreciate your flexibility. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should get halfway through the project and re-do all the work because a client decides to completely change directions. Choose your battles.
- If a client does change directions, a good compromise is to say you’ll make the change going forward. But keep in mind that this doesn’t apply if the change is a result of something you did incorrectly. Errors and mistakes on your part should be corrected immediately, at no charge.
We’ll discuss “managing a team” and “managing the project” in parts two and three. In the meantime, what helpful project management tips can you share related to managing the client?
Suzanne Youngblood – Director of Content Marketing