When I started this business, I was pretty naive. I thought that I would be free to design until my hearts content, customers would just magically appear, and the business side of running my business would just sort itself out. I never expected how hard it would be to figure out how to approach and organize projects. Without a a clear step by step process, I was rebuilding my workflow for each and every client, my client experiences were inconsistent, and I was wasting so much time redoing every step.
I decided that I needed a change, this is how I did it:
1) Evaluate my Current Workflow
I wrote down every step I took, from first inquiry to launch date. I discovered that my workflow was not always consistent. I decided that in order to offer great customer experience, each step needed to be the same for every client.
2) Build & Automate my Workflow
I looked over my list, and started to build my “official” workflow. I reviewed each step to see if there was some way to automate it.
For example, I found that I was sending many of the same emails, but I was rewriting them each time. Adding an email “template” for each step ensured that I covered everything that I wanted to for each and every client, but also saved me time. Also, during the discovery phase, I was asking many of the same questions, sometimes in an email, sometimes on the phone. I was finding that occasionally I would forget to ask something, so I created a questionnaire. The questionnaire allows the client to grab a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) and really get into thinking about their project.
A basic outline of my current Web Design Workflow look like this:
- Send Contract
- Create Client Page
- Send out a Welcome email that explains what we need to do to get started, and how to login to the client page
- Send Web Design Discovery Questionnaire. This questionnaire helps me discover more about the client’s business, her design preferences, and who her target audience is
- Web Design Consultation: (to go over the questionnaire, and any questions we might have). During this consultation I might send rough sketches, discuss how we can organize content, show samples of other websites to get an opinion on style elements, etc… By the end of the consultation we should have a really good idea of the direction we will take for the design.
- On Project Start Date I will send an email that lets the client know that the project has started.
- First Pass Proofs: I will send the first pass proofs for the design. Once the design is done I send out an email letting the client know that the proofs are ready to review on her client page.
- The client will have time to review the first pass proofs and provide feedback.
- Second Pass Proofs: After receiving the feedback I will send the second pass proofs for the client to review. When they are ready I will send an email letting the client know that the proofs are ready for her to review.
- The client will have time review the proofs and provide feedback.
- Third Pass Proofs: After receiving the feedback I will send the third pass proofs for the client to review.When they are ready I will send an email letting the client know that the proofs are ready for review.
- After receiving the third pass proofs, the client will need to review the files and, if everything looks good approve them for launch. At this point only very minor text changes should be requested (such as spelling errors). If the client would like to request changes other then minor text changes additional fees may be added, and the launch date would need to be reassessed.
- Launch Day: Make Website Live and submit to search engine. Finalize the Client Page and add relevant tutorials, information, and resources. Send an email out letting the client know that the Project is Complete, and where she can find tutorials and resources.
My workflow takes about 2-3 weeks (that’s about how long I schedule each web design project for). This workflow is not written in stone, and will be altered for each project if needed. For example, if this is a website redesign, I may not need the Discovery Questionnaire or Consultation (especially if the project scope & quote is defined in detail).
One thing I was worried about was automating some of my processes. I didn’t want to loose the personal touch of working with me. But I found that even though some of my processes were automated, I still “touched” each and every correspondence I sent out. My clients are still talking to me, just now I’m sure not to forget something important.
3) Find a Way to Track Each Step
In order for my workflow to work I needed a way to track what step I was on for each project. I ended up signing up for 17Hats, but you could use a notepad, calendar, or whiteboard (whatever works for you).
Each time a project begins I review my workflow, alter it to suit that particular project, and then check each step off as I go.
Check out 17Hats
Do you have any workflows or processes in place? If so, how did you build your workflow?
Featured image by: Jeshu John