I firmly believe that there is something to be learnt from every new project that you complete. It is incredibly easy to just briefly think about something you want to change in the process, never to write it down or remember it again. At the same time, it is easy to just slavishly move through project after project in the same way without a thought to potential improvements. Here I want to give you five steps that you can take to successfully evaluate all client projects and elevate yourself.
Projects start before the contract is signed. Don’t limit your thinking to just the project itself but broaden yourself to include the project proposal and estimate phase. Don’t wait to evaluate this until the project is completed. Immediately after signing a deal, go through the steps here. If a client is slightly unhappy with the proposal experience, why not take the opportunity and change it for the rest of the project which is likely to be a longer period of time anyway.
1.Don’t Wait. Do It Now!
Procrastination just has to be side-stepped. There is no reason to wait with the evaluation and block of a time every month when you sit down and do evaluations. This is dangerous. Waiting with evaluations ultimately results in less than ideal conclusions because you have forgotten much about the experience. Right after the project is completed or after a proposal is accepted, start doing your evaluation.
Keep a file together with the projects (in the business world this is called a delta file) which you can open at any time and quickly jot down a note about something that didn’t go well or that you want to change in the future. Not only will this improve your business in the future, but it will help you right now to remember it until later. Do it not and don’t wait. You will forget, I promise.
By being attentive you have an extra benefit to gain. Clients will be impressed by the fact that you constantly evaluate yourself and do it quickly and swiftly. Not only will you provide a better service in itself but being impressive in the way you do business never hurts.
2. Don’t Make a Fuss About It
Please don’t turn your evaluations into a selling-point by proudly pointing out how attentive you are and that you constantly try to improve and evaluate the project and proposal processes. Even though you might think that this is positive, it is not. By making a fuss out of something that clients will think of as obvious you end up looking like a fool.
Additionally, by making a fuss out of it you shift the focus from the result of the evaluation to the evaluations themselves which just sends the wrong signals. Plus, it makes it seem like another big task that needs to be completed.
3. Think Like Your Client
Much of the evaluation can be done by trying to put yourself in your client’s position. Questions like: How would I have reacted to this email? Would I have understood the meaning of this if I didn’t do this for a living? are good questions to start with. Not only do these provide you with an excellent base for evaluating yourself you can improve instantly by asking such questions before communicating with a client.
Be wary of assuming too much. Just do the basics of communication. Don’t try to ask yourself: “How would I have liked this design?”. You will just end up with a headache and a result that isn’t particularly helpful to you.
4. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask
When you have tried to think like your client, which I advise you do first, ask them. As before, don’t make a big fuss about it. Just ask them a few questions about the project. Make it easy for them. Keep the questions themselves short and try to craft them for a short answer. You don’t want to bother your client with a lot of questions that have very open ended answers. Your client will be impressed that you do ask them about their opinion but don’t abuse their time. The keywords are few, short, targeted with short answers.
5. Collect, Summarize, Review and Improve
Finally, continuously collect the material as a base for your review into a folder or file and then at the end of a project (or proposal) summarize the material you have. By no means should this be long. Again, keeping it short will help yourself. A summary could consist of a few paragraphs just highlighting some improvements that you and your client has put forward.
Once you have a summary, review it and think about how an issue can be addressed and the problem solved. When you do this, clearly write down a short goal for yourself in proper delta file that you review at least every week. This way you don’t forget what you need to do to improve.
You have much to gain from evaluating your projects and proposals as an ongoing process. Not only will it impress your customers but it will help you grow as a person and business by offering a better service. In turn, offering a better service means that you will sign more deals and can end up charging more for the same work, simply because you are better.