Today was a Lean Coffee meeting – facilitated by Mark Root-Wiley. A great list of topics was generated and then prioritized based on how many votes each topic received (we each voted on the three we would most like to discuss). The remaining topics will be discussed in March (Mark has the list of what the remaining ones are).
Following are notes on the topics discussed today.
Keeping Firm Boundaries w/Clients
Lisette brought up this topic – mentioning that when money/clients are more scarce, it can feel harder to maintain strong client boundaries – for example taking clients for less pay than normal or without a contract, or allow clients to miss content deadlines.
- Hard to draw hard firm lines, move into the next phase and end continual revisions/additions.
- Teri has found it helpful to have a change order form, as it brings home the point that there needs to be a limit to those “little changes” – makes the client think through the importance of what they are asking for. Check out Teri’s change order form.
- Mark has found it helpful to have a solid, communicative relationship with at least one person when working with a team/organization. Helps to keeps things moving.
- Merrill suggested that even if it’s a small project, can be helpful to have clients pay SOMETHING up front.
- Teri requires half down up front, quarter due a month after that, final quarter due when done with work, NOT when website launches.
- Lisette’s contract is similar – there’s a deadline for when client content is due based on when they want to launch the site. If they don’t provide content by the deadline, the remainder of the fee (second half) is immediately due. If they do provide the content on time, then remainder of fee is due when website is completed (before launch).
- Barb pointed out that many times clients need help to produce content – need strategy, marketing resource.
- Sheila lately has been collaborating with a marketing/strategy person who is bringing her clients and it’s been a great collaboration because she doesn’t have to deal with strategizing and can focus on design. Would love to get more of this kind of work.
Building Client Base/Marketing
If it’s been a while since you’ve had to do some marketing to find clients – where would be a good starting point?
- Get clear on the type of client you want to have.
- Tap into previous clients – contact them individually, or create a regular email newsletter that goes out to clients.
- Providing referrals for others can lead to work for yourself – what goes around, comes around.
- Go to where the clients are that you want – meet ups, business meetings (goes back to knowing which clients you want to have)
- Developing a specific niche can also be helpful.
- Don’t get discouraged when receive poor referrals, stay in it – the good ones will come.
Clients Trying to Dictate UX
How to deal with with clients think they know better about website structure and organization. At what point do you put your foot down?
- Can be helpful to bring up data about user testing and navigation. Using a phrase like “studies show……” can help to provide authoritative voice that perhaps a client will listen to.
- Ask them where they are coming from – what are they really trying to accomplish (not just how they want it done). Maybe there’s a way to merge both your viewpoint and the needs of the client. (For example the client who wants minimal navigation but there are important things that should be top level in the nav bar)
- Mark suggested a book called “Getting to Yes.” Discusses negotiation and positions – and how to get at what the real issues are and come to a resolution/agreement.
- Mark often will write up a design brief (frequently a list of bulleted points) and then can go back to that as a referral point when dealing with design disagreements.
Useful Client Newsletters
Sending out an email newsletter can be a helpful marketing strategy – Sheila brought this up as a topic to be discussed.
- Sheila has a client newsletter that she sends out every 4-6 weeks (8 weeks max). Includes something that she has done, plus some topic that she thinks would benefit them – then she closes with asks for referrals. She has seen it really work for her business – she wouldn’t only rely on this but it’s helpful. Here’s an archive list of Sheila’s past client newsletters – as examples. She also has post she wrote some time ago discussing printed newsletters vs online newsletters.
- There is value in having an email newsletter as it will definitely end up in their email inbox – perhaps more efficient than blog posts in reaching clients?
Mark does use blogging as a way to put himself out there and it does seem also to be effective.
Barb has stopped doing a newsletter and mostly blogs now – but would return to newsletters if it seems that it would again be helpful.
- Lisette’s husband (photographer) also has used client newsletters as a strategy as he heard from his colleagues that it really kept them on their clients’ radar.
Post Launch Client Training
Teri has been trying Google Hangout “On Air” to record employee training sessions and is thinking it might be helpful to use for client training. She also brought up the topic as she is curious how others in the group are approaching training with their clients.
- One approach is to have clients do their own WP training use WP101 videos, then provide theme specific/custom training only.
- Barb tries not to give clients more than what they need. She also notices that many of her clients don’t ever go back and use the training/update their site themselves.
- Sheila (as well as many others in the group) installs the WP Help Plugin on client sites so she can easily include information about the site, including a few short (5 minute) tutorial videos she creates using Jing. She also usually includes a link to WP101 for general WP information (she has a subscription and shares her link with clients).
- Mark always starts from the beginning regardless of their WP knowledge – “because I want them to use WP the way I do.”
- He also uses a plugin he created to remove certain buttons/functionality so clients can’t inadvertently mess up the site: MRW Web Design Simple TinyMCE.
- Mark also does pre-launch training as opposed to post-launch because his clients usually enter a quarter to half of their content themselves.
- Lisette also uses a plugin to restrict what each role sees on the dashboard – the pro version of Admin Menu Editor. This helps with clients only seeing what they need to see and not creating unnecessary havoc. The pro version seemed worth it to her.
- Another approach Lisette shared is that she often waits to train clients until they have changes to make to the website – so not necessarily at launch. They then can make the changes themselves during the training which helps the information “stick”.
Daily Schedules & Routines
Teri brought up the topic of managing daily schedules and routine to maximize productivity/efficiency.
- Of course everyone has their own style and preference – for example some prefer working in the morning, others in the evening.
- Everyone agrees they enjoy the flexibility of freelancing – can match one’s schedule to partners/spouses/children/other life activities
- Mark shared the tip of not waiting to stop working at a “natural stopping point” – as it can sometimes be harder to get going again. If you are mid stream when you stop – there is a inclination to want to dive back in and keep working towards the goal.
- Managing distractions of life, other clients, other jobs, children, etc can be challenging, always a moving target.
Barb installed a theme on her own server – personal blog. Elegant theme, very visual and simple – lots of thumbnails. Made some changes – only css changes were to typography, not margins, or layout changes. Looks great on all browsers except Chrome. Has tried everything (disabling plugins, new OS on computer, flushing caches, etc). Not happening on other computers, just hers. None of the support at Elegant themes has been helpful. Known issue with the theme but they haven’t fixed it. She will send a link to the group so that we can take a look – including support threads.
- We will continue the lean coffee next month – still many great topics to discuss!
- March will be the last time that we will be meeting at the Braeburn – Sheila is moving next month but has access to the Braeburn meeting room until the end of March.
- Not sure if her new place will be ready for us to meet in in April. If not, we could meet at a nearby coffee shop.
- Big WP Meetup is being resurrected – will be happening the 3rd Tuesday in March (March 15) in the evening.
A few more topics that were suggested afterwards:
- Easy ways to increase affiliate link usage
- Better networking (where to do it?)
- “What makes you an expert?” How to respond