You get the email:
“Hi there, thank you for your proposal, I’m happy to tell you that we have selected you for this project. Let us know the next steps.”
Well done! You’ve just landed a website project and won a new client! 🎉
But now what? Just five minutes ago this project was hypothetical. Now it’s real.
Your scattered mind starts to put together a project plan and even begins to imagine an end result. A great website you can be proud of. But then you back-track and start thinking about all the things you need to do before that point. Project planning, questionnaires, meeting agendas, invoices, deadlines…
It can be easy to become overwhelmed. I’ve been there.
But from experience I can tell you that the success of a project can largely be determined by the tone of your first meeting. I call it the “kick-off meeting” where we thrash out the details of the project and agree the key decisions.
First of all, “thank you”
The first thing to do is thank your new client for their business. This could be over email or on a call. Show your appreciation for the project and be excited. The way that you approach communications with your client really does set the tone, and if you sound bored or scared, that could negatively impact the relationship.
Contract and invoice: making it official 🤝
It’s very important to have your new client sign a contract (I use Signable) that stipulates you will carry out the work based on their brief and your proposal. In most instances, web development contracts don’t need to be super complex, but it should cover the basics:
- Legal name and address of the client and supplier
- A summary of the deliverable work
- Cancellation or refund policy
Now let’s get to the good bit: the invoice.
If a project is worth under £5,000 I generally invoice 50% up-front. If it’s over £5k my deposit invoice is 33%. Pro tip: this shouldn’t be a surprise to your client. I talk about fees and payment in my first conversation with a prospect, and make it clear that a deposit must be paid before any work is carried out. It has never been the case that a client has refused this, so if you’ve experienced hesitance, you may need to work on your assertiveness skills.
Set the meeting agenda
The next task is to suggest some calendar dates for your website kick-off meeting.
To avoid needless back and forth, use a system like Calendly to suggest dates or be sure to request alternative dates if the ones you suggest cannot be attended.
What I do at this point is outline an agenda for the meeting (which I’ll send over again nearer the time). This typically looks something like:
- Run through client questionnaire (see next step)
- Any important topics not covered in questionnaire
- Any other business
I then confirm meeting attendees and ask for input on the agenda.
This all sounds very formal.
The point here to establish yourself as the project leader. It is to build trust in your client and set the tone moving forward. If a formal kick-off meeting agenda comes across, complete with contract and invoice, this says to your client “I’m serious about this”.
Preparing for the client kick-off meeting with a questionnaire 📝
By now you will have agreed a meeting date and, hopefully, received a deposit payment for the project. At this point I generally send across a questionnaire to all stakeholders who will be present at the meeting. The point of this is:
- To capture and gather any outstanding functional requirements
- To get an individual view on the project (the CEO will have a different take to the salesperson, for example)
- To form the foundation of the initial meeting.
It doesn’t really matter what mechanism you use to gather answers to your questions. A Google Form would suffice, but to make sure it’s accessible I usually send a Microsoft Word document (because everybody can open a .docx file and everybody has a basic grasp of Word).
Be sure to get answers to this questionnaire in good time before the kick-off meeting.
17 Questions to Ask Your Web Design Client
Discover the questions that I personally ask my clients to understand their needs and deliver a better service with less stress.
Running your web design kick-off meeting
Running a business meeting can be a little nerve-racking, particularly for beginners. But let’s recap:
- You have an agenda to guide the meeting
- The contract has been signed, and invoice has been paid
- You’re armed with answers to your requirement gathering questionnaire.
The format and content is already in place, you just need to run the meeting now. Easy! Here are my top tips for running a successful web design client meeting:
- Lead the meeting and facilitate conversation — always begin with an introduction and try not to let one attendee talk over another
- Practice active listening and don’t feel pressured to have all the answers at this stage
- Be sure to take notes — I find it useful to note down people’s reactions to ideas, or capture interesting things that they say
- If appropriate, agree a date and outline agenda for the next meeting.
Once the meeting is over, be sure to email the minutes (or notes, as I prefer to call them) to all attendees. This will stipulate decisions and actions.
A decision might be something like “client has decided that custom photography is needed” and an action might be “Jane to find a local photographer”.
Again, keeping close communication in this way not only ensures the project stays on track, it keeps you in the driving seat. I go through this same process for almost every meeting throughout the lifecycle of a project. It creates a paper trail of decisions made and actions taken, and really helps to keep everyone on their toes.
It’s all about clear, consistent communication
Successful project delivery relies on showing up and speaking clearly. Even the most talented designers can produce a poor end result if the project is not managed well.
Good project management is core to delivering a good end result. It’s also crucial to building a strong relationship with your client. Bad communication is how tensions arise, and projects fall apart.
From your initial client meeting through to project delivery, keep focused and work smart, and you’ll enjoy a less stressful, more productive relationship with your customers, which will enable you to build a happier, more profitable web design business.