When the project is over, it really isn’t.
You might breathe a sigh of relief, but there’s still much to be done. We hear a lot about how to land clients, estimating and managing projects, but the follow-up seems to get forgotten and that’s what this is series all about.
Over the next several posts, I’ll address getting organized for your follow-up, the follow-up meeting, billing, along with some techniques for gathering referrals and testimonials. This will give you some ideas, so you don’t find yourself pulling your hair out.
Project Organization by the Numbers
Project follow-up begins with the start of the project. Hopefully, you have some sort of job number system in place. For example, my job numbers are set up so I know the date the project was started, where it fell in the month’s roster and the client.
A typical project number for my work would be 1110-12 AB. The first two numbers are the year. Next comes the month. After that is the roster number followed by the client. So 1110-12 AB tells me the job was started in October, 2011 and it was the twelfth project that month. Plus I know it was done for Acme Bells & Whistles.
With a system, all you need do is fire up your project roster spreadsheet, find the job number and pull the folder out of the file cabinet. Everything’s there.
When a project comes in and is confirmed, it’s added to my project roster, which is a simple spreadsheet. Next, a physical job folder is created with a nifty printed label. It has the job number, client and project title emblazoned upon it.
I use pocket folders from the local office supply, but not just any pocket folder. The ones I use have a bunch of info printed on them – project title, description, task listing with a spot for dates, an area for client contacts, phone numbers, email addresses, notes and what documents are enclosed. Sure, they’re a bit more expensive, but well worth it. They save me potential headaches down the road.
In the project folder go all the paper bits related to the job. These include the estimating form, proposal or estimate, contract, approval forms, time logs, invoices, receipts and such. I have a file rack for active projects. Completed projects are popped into the good ‘ole filing cabinet, chronologically.
Why do you need a system? Here’s what often happens. A couple of years go by and the client gives you a call. They either have a question about their gig, need some sort of change or have a similar project. Without a system in place you can go a bit short of crazy trying to retro-engineer yourself and figure out what you did.
With a system, all you need do is fire up your project roster spreadsheet, find the job number and pull the folder out of the file cabinet. Everything’s there. Of course, my Department of Redundancy Department requires that a digital folder is kept, as well, and backed up.
Another reason for having a system is that, over the course of time, you’ll have requests for similar projects. A well-kept system gives you the ability to look up previous projects with similar specs. You can easily see how much time was involved, what you billed and any other specifics. This gives you the ability to take action based on facts and not pull numbers out of the air.
I’ve been doing this a long time, so I have a lot of data to tap into for a variety of project types. My estimates are reasonably spot on. Yours will be, too.
With your project number system in place, it’s time to get out there and find some work to fill all those folders up with contracts, purchase orders and other project information. When the project is completed and your client is doing the happy dance it’s time to start your follow-up. This begins with a follow-up meeting, either offline for local clients or online for remote clients.
Handling the follow-up meeting is the subject of the next installment in this series.