You know how some supermarkets have automated checkouts nowadays? They tend to be faster, have fewer unnecessary interactions and allow people to go at their own pace. A similar strategy has been becoming increasingly popular in the freelancing world: I like to call it self-service project planning.
What is a Project Planner?
Essentially, it is a way for you to let clients summarize their needs and the particulars of their project by filling out a form on your website. Clients can explain what they need and you are left to decide whether or not it is viable and doable for you. Aside from sparing you a lot of time, it might also encourage clients to contact you – they just have to fill out a form.
11 Elements to a Add to Your Project Planner
What your project planner looks like will determine whether or not it is successful or not. There are a lot of different elements you can include. Most of them allow your potential client to paint a better picture of what they’re expecting. But too many might make the process too cumbersome. It’s essential to find the right mix. Here are the eleven elements you should consider including in your project planner.
1. Basic Information
There is no getting around this first part of your project planner. You’re going to need a name of the client, their company, an email address, a physical one and a phone number. Those are pretty obvious, but make sure you don’t forget any of them.
2. Summary of the Project
Right after getting the basic contact information from your potential client, you’re going to be curious what the project is about. Give them an open field where they can express their thoughts here. You might also want to give them a frame of reference as to how much they should write. 50-100 words or around 500 characters should be enough for a rough summary.
Extra hint: Don’t forget to include a counter to let them know if they should be more specific and put it together.
3. Goals of the project
Now you’re starting to get into some of the more important details about the project. You know what it’s about, but what does it want to actually achieve?
- Are they looking for page impressions from their new website?
- Do they want to reach a specific audience?
- Do they just want to present a solid brand?
- Are they looking for new leads for a new product?
Consider letting clients make a list with their three most important goals. This will help you really understand the project.
4. Company Aims and Values
This is definitely an optional element of your project planner. If you’re doing work that tends to be creative or reflective of an overall company philosophy, you’re going to want to know how the company sees itself. That’s the image the project should transport.
5. List of Similar Projects
A way to anticipate the expectations of clients is to ask them what other projects serve as a reference point for them. They might have expectations that are either too low or too high and that will require a different selling strategy on your part.
6. Current Competition
Understanding how the competition of your potential clients is going about stuff is also often a part of a freelancer’s job. Instead of doing the research by yourself, ask the client who the real competition is. Believe me, they will have an answer to that question much faster than you.
Of course, you can ask this after the client has sent the filled form but having this information upfront can also help you understand the difficulty of the project at hand.
7. Previous Work with Freelancers
Work with clients who are inexperienced in dealing with an external workforce can be a challenge. It’s not something that should push you to decline a project by itself, but knowing it can help you adjust.
Again, this is an optional question, but depending on your field it might be very important.
Extra tip: Do not hesitate to share with you client our article “10 tips to get the best possible results form your freelancers”. It’s a guest post from a consultant who works on both sides of the freelancing table, so it will definitely help!
8. Required Features/Skills
People looking to work with freelancers can often be unclear about what they actually want. Whether they’re unfamiliar with the essence of the work or haven’t really answered that question for themselves, a question in your project planner can help both you and them. Having a list of skills and services you offer and allowing your clients to tick off only the ones they need is a great first step towards that.
For example, let’s say you are a freelancer working with WordPress. You could add a list like this one:
- Complete new WordPress site
- Landing page design
- Web redesign
- Theme customization
- Site maintenance
- WordPress security set-up
Or one specifying your skill set:
- Plugin development
- Theme development
- Web development
- UX design
9. Deadline (if one is set)
This one is pretty self-explanatory – you want to know if your client has an end date in mind when the project should be finished. This will help you prioritize the right projects and, in some cases, refuses the ones that are expected to be done unreasonably fast or that do not fit in your current schedule.
This can be a tricky question. Many clients don’t like to reveal their budget, because they are hoping to get a lower price than what they can afford to spend for the project. To alleviate that, you can create a number of range categories. For example, < $500, $ 500-999, $1000-1999 and so on. Or even add a last option “I don’t know how much this would cost” for those clients who are really unaware of how much the project would cost.
11. Preferred Payment Method
I’m not talking just about paying by PayPal or credit card here. This question is about whether your client would like to pay you an amount of money upfront, by milestones, at the end of the project or in any other way.
This is a way for you to control how you get paid – create several payment strategies that work for you and let your client chose one of them. Once you have gathered all this information, it’s time to set up a time to discuss the project in further detail.
Extra tip: Once the client send the contact form, let him know that you will get back to them in XY days. For example, “Thanks for telling me about your project! You will hear from me within 5 business days”.
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