6 Ways to Help Clients Stick to a Schedule


Run-on projects can be a problem for a few reasons.

First, it’s difficult to schedule my work days and weeks if I don’t know how many hours I can dedicate to a particular project (or projects). This becomes an issue when you have a few projects with clients who don’t reply with their feedback in a timely manner, leaving you unproductive for those days. Then they reply all at once and demand artwork and revised drafts. As soon as possible. ASAP. How I dislike that acronym! This results in rushing, panic sets in and you have a bottleneck of work in the studio.

Second, it’s really difficult to set financial goals. If I have a project that I estimate to be 2 weeks of work and feedback but a client doesn’t respond for a whole week, I’ve lost a week of billable hours. That’s a whole week I could have either worked on something else: another client; a passion project; I could even have taken the week off instead of waiting around my computer hoping for an email).

Prevent run-on projects with these 6 tips to keep clients on a schedule

It all ends the same way: time badly spent and money not being made.

And I don’t know about you, but with a limited number of hours in a work day, I like to spend them well! And I also really like to be paid for them. Not because I’m greedy but because a girl’s gotta eat.

Here’s how you can help your design package clients stick to a schedule.

01 | develop a timeline

This is important! Don’t skip and don’t reinvent the wheel each time. Know your process and how the project runs. Then create a template timeline that every project will run along. For example, I start all my projects on a Monday and every first, second and third Monday - Friday of the 3-week project has the same deliverable or task due.

02. Propose your timeline to your client

During your onboarding process, propose the timeline to your client in the project proposal document and contract. Be specific with dates and deliverables and get their approval.

03. Include timeline clauses in your contract

As well as including the actual timeline of the project, it’s a good idea to include a clause in the contract pertaining to timeliness. If applicable, add fees for things like late payment, lack of prompt feedback and content not being supplied on time. Also let them know that their non-performance of obligations may result in their project being rescheduled and/or moved to the back of the queue.

04. Include a set number of revisions

And encourage them to batch all necessary changes together. This will prevent endless tweaks and the client never settling on a final design. If they really need more revisions than what your package provides (like, really) then give them an hourly rate and an estimate of time it will take to complete.

05. Include the timeline in the welcome pack

Once your client has paid their deposit and signed the contract, they’ve indicated they approve their timeline and are committed to sticking to it. Reinforce this with by giving it to them again in the welcome pack.

06. Use a project management tool and assign tasks to your client

This is a great way to keep them on track. I use Asana and schedule each client task to them, with due dates. This way they have an overview of when they need to supply content, provide feedback and approve artwork.

And, if all this fails, which it sometime may, email them with a gentle reminder of what is happening, where in the project you are and what their next steps are. As a bonus, I also include sentences like “I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this tomorrow” in my artwork delivery emails. Because, their lives, just like ours, are busy, and sometimes things fall through the cracks.

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How do you help keep your clients on track during a project? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!