Project Managing Micromanaging Clients

micromanaging clients

Project Managing Micromanaging Clients:

One of the hardest things to do when starting/running/growing your own business is to figure out the value of your time on a project.  Coding and designing are pretty easy to figure out.  How long it takes to get to the end result, is how many hours you’d bill your client.  But project management is a whole different ball game.  Each client is different; therefore the amount of time you spend with your client will vary.

The typical rule of thumb is project management accounts for 20% of the total design and development hours.  So if you’re project is 100 hours, your time handling the client should be billed 20 hours.  But how do you calculate the time if you’re responding to a simple email…20 emails later…they are no longer simple emails.  A “quick question” here and there adds up.  But you only really billed for the design and development… now you’re just giving your time away.  Giving your time away hurts.

We know you can never bill a client AFTER the fact.  If you’re client becomes too cumbersome with their constant hands on approach, you can’t suddenly bill them extra for it.  I mean, you can, but good luck keeping any clients.

All of this needs to be handled up front and in your contract.  In the pricing section, you call out: “20 hours for project management:  $XXX.XX”

Then in your after sales service section you include time and price blocks: “10 hours project management = $XXX.XX”
Or you may decide to simply charge them hourly for anything over the 20 hour mark.  You then let your client know when they have used up 60% of their project management time. So at 12 hours of used time, you send them an email letting them know.  Dear God, I sound like ATT&T.  I have become that which I despise.  I digress.

Anyway, It’s a way to make the client pause before they send you an email like, “I don’t know what I want, but I know when I see it…”

By telling a client up front that you’re going to charge an “excessive request” charge for hours that go beyond what’s in the contract, you’re helping mitigate a possible barrage of emails and phone calls.   Relationships always start out great, and you can make sure to keep it great by simply adding a few extra points to your contract.  If a client doesn’t appreciate your time, they don’t appreciate you.  And why put yourself through that.

You Gotta Know When To Fold ‘Em…Receiving Final Payment

website development receiving final payment

Never launch a website until you receive final payment.  Some exceptions apply, but we’ll get to that later.  Simply put, a client’s lack of planning does not constitute an emergency for you.

Most projects will encounter some sort of delay.  That’s fine, because in your proposal, you allowed enough time for testing, bugs, reiterations, vacation time, sick days, weekends, Sharknados…anything you can think of.  Because you have been doing this long enough to know that something always comes up.  As long as you stick to your delivery date, the less the client knows about “delays” the better.  Deliver on time, and no one’s the wiser.

But what happens when the client causes the delay, yet somehow still expected to deliver on time? Assuming you have established a deadline prior to start, you must let the client know that delays on their end will inevitably result in a delay of final delivery.  When you book a project, you put your team together and create a schedule based on a number of variables.  Skill level, budget and availability of resources.  So if a project becomes idle, so do your workers and no good comes of that.  You now put those idle workers on another project, only to have the client want to start up again, and of course that means, right now, today.

You shift gears, have your workers stop their new project, and get them back together to finish up, doing your best to make up for the client’s delay.  After all, you want to make sure the client is happy.  You want to make the deadline.

As the deadline fast approaches, it’s clear the client does not have all the material together so they ask you to launch the site anyway and they’ll give you all the final content after site launch.  Um, OK?

You’re now launching an incomplete site, because you want to help the client make their deadline, but you’re not going to get paid because the site is…wait for it, wait for it, INCOMPLETE.  How many issues do you think will come up by the time you launch the site and the time you get final content?  If you guessed one zillion, you’d be correct.

Trying to get your final payment now becomes an exercise in patience, self-control, and inner reflection “how could I be so stupid?”. With little regard to your efforts, the client will start to grind you down.  Requesting small changes, resize an image or two (“just a quick 5 minutes” they say).  All until they are satisfied.  Now they might start having issues with their new email, or newsletter…all points that really fall outside the contract, but that doesn’t seem to matter.  You can say NO all you want…but you want your final payment, so you acquiesce, foolishly thinking OK, NOW, now they’ll pay?! But on it goes.

The exception to this rule is client legacy.  If you’ve done work for them before, and they’ve always paid on time, then of course you trust them.  And don’t forget to break your payments up so in the event you are left hanging, it won’t be for more than 25%.

Be firm, make sure to add “will not launch until final payment is received” into your contract. If a prospective client has issue with that, you should probably walk away.  If they ask to launch the site, then pay later, run.

The Malcontent Clients

malcontent clients

adjective: (the) malcontent (client)
1.    1. Dissatisfied and complaining or making trouble.

Far be it for me to speculate on the life of a malcontent, and how they got to be that way.  I just know it’s a pretty Grimm situation when you run into one.  Moreover, doing business with one.   It’s easy to spot one in the flesh, they have they classic sour look on their face, wagging their finger at passerby’s. But over the phone, or on the line, it’s tricky.

At first, everything is always rainbows and lollipops during the discovery phase.  Laughs abound.  But then you deliver the mockups.  Majority of the time, the client likes parts of sample-0a and parts of sample-0b.  Perfect.  You combine the differences come up with sample-0c and you’re now in development mode.

Sometimes they don’t like either of them.  That’s fair, we love feedback and we’ll come up with another round.  It’s the way in which they deliver their discontent that always interests me.  I’m fully aware that I work for the client, but to accuse me of having just come out of design school, or of being deaf when we were talking…is pretty choice.  Especially when at the end of the conversation they ask when the new concepts will be ready.  You already cashed the chiseled down check and paid your team the dozens of dollars they are rightfully owed… so you bow your head, careful not to make eye contact and sputter out your standard, 5-7 days response.  But of course that’s not good enough, they want it in 3…

Finally when the design does get approved, you think your headache is gone.  Fool.  These are malcontents.  It’s never over.  The font is wrong; their bio picture needs to be bigger, now it’s too big.  They constantly tell you they are frustrated, they keep making change requests, because you just can’t be bothered, and want the project done.  Fool.  It’s never done.

The most frustrating part of the whole process is not that you have to do the work, or that you’re way under appreciated.  You have kids.  You can take all that.  No, it’s that you feel into the trap once again.  You thought you’d be better this time around, you thought you were better prepared.  But rust never sleeps, it’s just creeps real slow.  “It’s A Trap” indeed.

Think Global, Buy Local. The Benefits Of Local Web Developers

sherman oaks web developmentThe Benefits Of Local Web Developers ~ The hippie adage, think global, buy local  doesn’t just apply to buying groceries.  Much like the corner farmer’s market, shopping around for a local web designer or developer has huge benefits.  Mainly, you know exactly what you are getting, and if you don’t get it exactly what you want it, you can drive right up to their shop.  It’s a lot cheaper than a plane ticket to India.  Your website is your identity.  You need someone who will sit down with you, and listen to your wish list, ideas and goals.  Remember when we actually used to sit down with someone…in the same room?!  Crazy, I know.  So that couple/few hundred dollars that you think you’re saving yourself by hiring a company overseas, will be spent on the extra luggage fees they charge you on the way to Delhi.

Lalo Schifrin Just Got Way Cooler!

bullitt vinyl release

Coolest composer (and client) on the planet just got cooler. How? Limited release vinyl of the movie classic, “Bullitt” BOOM!

From Theresa Eastman Schifrin:
“Excited to share our first vinyl release to the classic film score of “Bullitt” starring Steve McQueen. Art and design by yours truly, liner notes by the fantastic Nick Redman and the hippest score I know by Lalo Schifrin. It comes out tomorrow exclusively for Record Store Day and it’s a limited individually numbered edition of 1000 and features both the record and movie versions of the score. If your visiting a record store this weekend have a look!”

Lose The Fat. Convert To WordPress

convert website wordpress

Lose the fat.  All that extra weight making you feel sluggish and tired?  Can’t keep up with the others?  Tired of being picked last?  Then get back into shape.  Convert that old, over inflated website of yours into WordPress and get yourself back into the game.  Lose all the redundant code, cut the fat and streamline your online presence.  You’ll look and feel much better.  Convert to WordPress today.

How Much For A Website? Prospecting New Clients.

prospecting new clients

A good buddy of mine runs a photobooth company, hollywoodphotobooth.com We love getting together to talk business.  We’re in completely different  industries but it’s always interesting to compare notes on our various work projects and clients.  What I have learned, regardless of industry,  is that our grievances and challenges always seem the same.

He told me about someone who called him and immediately asked, “how much?”

One challenge we face as small business owners is prospecting new clients.  Learning what questions to ask, learning the difference between clients that are serious about buying, and those who have just come to waste your time.  If someone calls you and the first thing out of their mouth is, “how much?” then safe to say they’re not really looking for anything but the cheapest price.  They are not asking any qualified questions, they are
not giving you any info, they simply want to know, how much.

Of course, “how much”, depends on what and how.  What kind of website are we building, what is the functionality and how will it be built.  Are we going with a, from scratch custom CMS, or are we going the more convenient and cost effective WordPress route?  How many pages, forms and how many images do we need to treat and prep.  What is the time frame?  The client should already have some answers to these questions.  If they don’t they haven’t done their research and are expecting you to do it; which is fine, so long as they are willing to pay you for consulting time.  If they don’t seem organized and are just calling to ask random questions, always be courteous, but be respectful of your own time.

Cost is crucial component, and a client’s budget should be respected, even if it falls well below your going rate.  It’s not the concern of cost that’s the issue, but that cost is the ONLY concern.  Not quality of work, nor ability or experience.  If the only concern is about price, chances are you won’t make the sale.  You won’t make the sale, because you shouldn’t make the sale.

So if there’s no consideration given to the dozen or so variables that go into determining a final quote, it puts you in a corner.  And NOBODY put baby in a corner.

Finding A Good General Contractor Is Hard To Do

reliable webmaster

If you own a home, then you know that finding a good, reliable and honest general contractor is pretty hard to come by.  In fact, finding anyone these days who’s reliable and honest is pretty dificult.  It takes time.  Maybe you hired a guy to fix some wiring in your house, messed it up, doesn’t take accountability for his mistakes and now you find yourself having to find another guy not only to undo the mistakes that were done but to fix whatever was broken in the first place.

I hear it all the time with web development.  “My last guy did this, or told me that…”  leaving the client in the dark with a half working website.

So how do you find a good reliable general contractor for your website?  ie. a webmaster.  Like most things that matter to you, you ask people you trust.  You ask people who have websites and are happy with it.  How is the response time when you need something updated?  Does the webmaster provide different options, explaining the pros and cons of each.  Is the webmaster responsive and attentive?

If not, then you need to get with Frog On Top.  Our team of responsive professionals will make sure all your questions and concerns about your website and your web presence and thoroughly answered in a timely manner – typically within 12 hours.  So if you’re not happy with your current web situation, it’s time to end it.  Why go through another day of aggravation when there are better options out there.

Get in touch with us today and we’ll have your brand new website up and running before you know it.  Ask us about our WordPress solutions starting as low as $800.

Say Bloody Mary 3 Times Into A Mirror, An MLS WordPress Plugin Will Appear

mls plugin myth wordpress

MLS WordPress Plugin ~ Hopefully you will read this article before you agree to develop a website for a real estate client using a WordPress solution.  At first glance there appears to be 100′s of awesome WP plugins to help when developing an MLS (multiple listing service) website.  It’s only after you spend about 20 hours of research you realize you’ve been chasing a dragon.  There is no such thing as a plugin that will retreive MLS data and import it to your site.

I stumbled across this (after all my research)

“I receive calls and emails daily for a WordPress Real Estate plugin that will magically import data from a MLS database into a WordPress real estate website. That plugin does not exist and never will.”

There’s no simpler way to put it.  MLS data is very heavily guarded.  They can’t have their info splattered everywhere, in any format.  They need to control it and more to the point; you have to pay for it.

So let’s start there.  Your client needs to be part of the MLS club.  They need to have an account number.  With that, we can get access to the coveted data.

What seems to work is WP-Property in conjunction with WP-Importer.  You can import/collect the data from a RETS server http://www.realtor.org/retsorg.nsf/pages/developerstart then from there you lay it out as you wish onto your site.  The downside is, it’s not live.  You’ll need to set up a little cron job to fetch the data as often as you need.  But we’re selling homes, not hotcakes.  So I think refreshing the data every hour would be fine.

One headache… or trust me, there’s more than one.  The data comes back incomplete and in some cases, lumped together.  For example, everything comes back as single family dwelling, so you have to manually set the listings to categories that you have assigned.  Condo, high rise, townhome etc.  You also have to set the, “sold” feature.  It’s work, but if the client wants the design to be exactly the way they want it to be within budget, there are sacrifices.  Unfortunately, this isn’t good news after you have signed on.

If you need absolute real time listings site where you don’t have to touch a thing, it’s best to leverage off of something like www.mlxchange.com. Use the client’s existing company and create an out of the box ready to use template.

Know your song well before you start singing.  Do some in-depth research on the limitations of WordPress and MLS/IDX/RETS.  Understand the pro’s and con’s.  Most importantly, be involved as best you can with the design phase and the supporting documentation.  But then again, no matter how involved you are, unless you know the beast that is MLS, agreeing to wireframes and outlines on a project, means nothing.

Forecast Budget And Schedule Completion

forecast budget and schedule completion

Forecasting your budget and your receivables is crucial for any business, let alone a small one.  And by small, I mean you.  You and a ragtag  team of merry men that may include a couple of developers and designers.  After you ask your client, their budget, you then should ask what their  time frame is.  This helps in 2 ways.  It let’s you figure out who you have available and how to schedule them, and of course, yourself.  The other reason you are asking is to give you an idea of when money will come in.  Put those reasons in whatever order you like.  In a perfect world, you want to finish the job within 2-3 weeks.  That happens about 10% of the time.  It happens when your client has a very specific launch  date that may include press releases, screenings, or launch parties.  The rest of the time, 2-3 weeks turns into 4-6 and in some cases, 8+ weeks.

The reasons why, vary.  But it’s typically the client that holds things up.  If they are in no big rush, if their livelihood isn’t directly  impacted by a web presence, if they’re just doing it as a hobby, you can expect delays.

Unfortunately what happens is, you’re 90% done on your end, and the client owes you 50% of the final payment.  There’s really not much you can do. You can hound the client, but that’s just poor relations.  You can drop them an email every few days, then every other week…if it happens to go on that long.

So depending on the project itself, not the cost, but the actual project requirements, you can break your payment structure in 3, rather than your usual 2 (50% up, 50% completion).  So this way, you’ll at least only be stuck waiting for say, 25% of final payment.  The downside, you’ll get a smaller payment up front.  If you’ve been doing this a while, you can pretty much gage those who needs to adhere to a specific deadline, and those who don’t. So what’s it going to be boy…

Know Your Truth: Developing Strength In Business.

strength in business

I’m a pretty obsessive guy.  This characteristic didn’t bode too well with girls in my high school, but it seems to be working well for me in business.  So when tasked with a project, I make sure to see it through to the end, no matter what.  I’m a pitbull of web development and project management.

I think this obsessiveness of mine started when I was growing up and having a need to be liked by everyone.  That, coupled with the fact that my parents or teachers never believed anything I told them.  I digress.

Knowing who you are, your strengths and weaknesses are key to running a successful business (and having a happy life).  For example, nothing is worse than being pushed around by a pushy client.  We have all had experiences with clients who suck everything out of you.  No matter how many times you follow up with them, or keep them informed they are never happy.  Nothing you do seems to be good enough and you soon find yourself going way over board in making sure that they know that you are doing everything possible to resolve any issues (or challenges) you might be facing.

It’s that feeling that they don’t believe you are doing everything you can to make it work (enter mommy and daddy issues).  So believing in who and what you do will prevent you from being pushed around in both life and business.  We also know, that clients who never seem happy, are generally never happy, period.  So don’t be dictated by clients who are malcontents. It’s a losing battle.  Actually, don’t be pushed around by clients at all.  I know, I know, rent is due.

If you’ve been in business for 10+ years, chances are you’ve worked with an array of characters.  From programmers, to designers to developers to social media marketers to other project managers, you’ve had your fill of over sellers and under deliverers, your ups and downs.  That said, you know your market.  You know what service others provide.  You’ve experienced not having your emails or calls returned for 3 days…you’ve been over quoted. You’re developing your strength with all this experience.  You know who you are.  You know your quality of service and you know what you can deliver.  And what did we learn from Saturday morning cartoons?  Knowing is half the battle.  Honest.  Now please be my friend on FB.

New Zealand’s Hidden Gem

all_blacks

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been getting email newsletters from, ihiphop distribution.  These newsletters took me back about 7 years ago, when Frog On Top was commissioned by Chuck Wilson to develop an all hip hop based, social media network.  I knew Chuck from the time I worked with Vin Diesel on his web projects, so naturally I wanted to keep the good connections going.  I accepted the contract.  Great, now all I needed was someone who knew WTF they were doing…

A guy I worked with at the time, got in touch with some kid in New Zealand.  When I say kid, I’m not being condescending.  I really mean, a kid.  I think he was about 15.  With no budget, there was little choice, I had to hire him.  I forget how long the job took, but I do remember being blown away with what the kid was putting together.  “A video converter?  Sure, I can do that…is $200 OK…?”

So in-between cleaning his room and dates with his girlfriend this wonder kid put together an incredible social media platform called, HIPHOP Crack… which eventually became what you are seeing here: ihiphopdistrbution.com  The site landed us a mention in Billboard magazine which helped FOTS reach the next level.

If you’re wondering why he’s not working for FOTS anymore, that’s because he got some job at some small company called twitter doing something called a, Senior Software Engineer..?  Not sure what that means, but I think it means no more video converters for $200…

Anyway, the “kid” is no longer a kid.  His name is Tom Rix and it’s been awesome to watch him grow.  I’d suggest you follow him because chances are you’ll be working for him one day.