I have always tried to prepare myself and my business processes as fully as possible for the different requirements/questions/challenges that projects may involve. I’ve got rates sheets, quotation and estimate templates, checklists of questions to ask clients, etc. Nevertheless, each project is different. Perhaps because of its size and scope, this particular job has involved a lot of eye-opening moments. I certainly learned a great deal from it, and in this post I would like to share some of the most important points.
- Face-to-face meetings are invaluable
Face-to-face meetings are also useful for getting all the details of the project straight. Making clear, extensive notes is helpful, as is sending a summary of the points discussed in the meeting to the client afterwards. The aim is to be unambiguous about every aspect of the job (see next point).
- Certain aspects of your job will be a mystery to the client
When I worked in a research laboratory, I attended many meetings where researchers proposed new inventions for patenting. 95% of attendees were also research scientists, but they often worked in different fields. On several occasions I overheard people commenting they had not understood this or that aspect of the invention, but always after the meeting and rarely in front of the presenter. People generally don’t like to admit that they don’t understand something. As a result, the presenters who took it down a few levels and did not make too many assumptions about what their audience already knew were usually more successful.
I think the same holds true in this industry, especially if the client is not an agency. Misunderstandings can easily occur if you don’t spell out exactly what your service does or does not involve, how long each task will take you to complete, which aspects incur extra charges, etc.
- You don’t control how your client manages their project
It’s worth bearing in mind that your client (i.e. the person you’re dealing with) might not even control how they manage their project themselves. They could be bound by what their publisher/supervisor/co-workers require. Other people may be revising the text, for example, but you might never deal with them. It certainly makes organising your own schedule interesting...
- You had better love the project, or at least know how to motivate yourself
- Extra Quality Assurance steps to ensure consistency are important
Another potential issue is getting stuck in “language rut”. I’m the first to admit that I have favourite words, expressions and turns of phrase. However, over a long text and with a repetition-averse language such as English, it’s a sure-fire way to send your reader (and possibly yourself) to sleep. The solution for me has always been to read extensively, especially material that is related to the subject I’m working on. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as finding a juicy new word or expression to use!
These are some of the lessons I've learned first-hand from working on a very large project. As part of your own work (or when you've commissioned someone to do a large job for you), have you noticed any other important points?