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If someone came up to your clients and asked them, "What is that freelancer doing for you?" what do you think your client will say? Will they sing your praises or scratch their heads and wonder why they hired you in the first place?
While your clients can check your invoices for a list of accomplished tasks, invoices weren't designed to explain why these tasks are important, nor do they justify the cost. A project proposal may contain these details, but this is written at the beginning of the project. Clients need to know what you've done for them lately - and they need a recurring reminder.
For your client to understand your value, you need to assert it yourself. You can do this by creating a "Monthly Value Report". This document shows them how much you're contributing to their business.
Prepare Your Tracking Sheet
Before you create a monthly value report, you need to track everything you do for each client. You can use time tracking apps, or a paper tracking sheet. I prefer the latter, since you can use it even when you're working on something offline, such as brainstorming or sketching by hand. Also, you'd never need electricity, an internet connection, or a laptop to track something.
The best part of having a paper tracking sheet is you can format it any way you like. Crafting a finished monthly report will be easier, since there's an existing template based on how you work.
Step #1 - List your client's high priority goals.
You already know your client's goals if you conducted a needs analysis at the beginning of your project. The more you align yourself with these goals, the easier it will be to demonstrate the value of your work. It gets even easier if you know the specifics.
For example, if your client once declared that they wanted "more readers", you can track your contribution better if they expressed this in a more specific way, such as "we want 500 new email subscribers to our blog".
If you aren't aware of their specific, quantified goals, now would be a great time to ask.
Clients tend to have more than one goal, so you can include their less important goals if they are relevant to your work. Be sure to rank each goal according to priority - the client's priority, not yours.
Step #2 - List the tasks that are directly relevant to those goals.
Everything you do is about helping your clients reach their goals, otherwise it's hard to justify what you do for them. Which of your billable tasks are directly related to accomplishing their major goals? List them under each of the goals you identified in Step #1, so they can stand out from the rest of your tasks. Here's an example of a tracking sheet filled out with goal-related tasks:
Every task you write down for this step must have a direct impact on your client's goals. These will later be identified as your highest value tasks.
Step #3 - List the other tasks that don't fall under those goals
No matter how competent you are, not everything you do is directly related to your client's goals. They may hire you for other tasks which fall under your expertise, but aren't a direct step towards what they want to achieve.
Based on the above example, the copywriter hired to increase sales might also make changes on the client's Facebook page. This task may be important to the client, but it doesn't carry the same weight as the goal-related tasks. Make a separate list for these unrelated tasks, since they don't necessarily bring your client closer to their goals.
Client support and other forms of client communication also fall under this category. Other administrative tasks such as invoicing, scheduling, and even making this report, should be listed here.
Once you've listed all your non-goal tasks, label each of them "A" or "B". Tasks labeled "A" carry some serious consequence if you leave them undone. For example, "A" tasks may include other billable work. When you don't complete these tasks, you are paid less and your client may be unsatisfied. But, if you don't do a "B" task like ask for a client testimonial, the consequences are less severe.
Step #4 - Assign scores to each type of task.
Why score yourself? First, scoring is a way for you to compete against yourself. Scores can help you test whether you're doing high value work during your billable hours rather than spending it on minutiae.
This can also come in handy if you want to start delegating work later on. Also, with the score written next to each task, it's easier to spot which tasks you'll group together when finalizing your report.
This is the scoring system I follow:
- Goal-related tasks: 10 points
- A Tasks: 5 points
- B Tasks: 1 point
Step #5 - Log everything you do within the month.
It's time to use your task tracking sheet. After printing it out, log every single thing you do for a client within the month, including the following task details:
- Date: On which date/s did you perform the task?
- Task duration: How long did the task take?
- Score: The score for each task, based on how you completed Step #4.
- Result, if needed: What was a direct, concrete result of this task?
- Notes: Any non-result commentary should go in here.
It's okay if your logging is a bit messy - especially if done by hand. You're only collecting data, anyway. Your clients won't see your raw task tracking sheet.
Now, to Impress Your Clients...
At the end of each month, use all the data you've gathered and make a sleek report for your clients. Start by listing the goal-related tasks, including the finished result, and tying this in with your client's goals. Here's an example:
This is followed by your other key tasks, the most important A-level tasks that you marked in your tracking sheet. But don't just list these tasks, add their direct result (if any) and how the client was able to benefit from the completed task.
Creating task tracking sheets and monthly value reports for each client may sound like a lot of work, but they can help strengthen your client relationships. That way, your client can feel better about paying you each month. After all, they now have a concrete report that shows the results of their investment in you. Also, if the time comes for the client to cut spending, your services will still be one of the essentials they'll keep around.
Download a sample tracking sheet.