I’ve been there more times than I would like to admit: the elusive five-yard line of a web project. The point where the only thing you are waiting on is to get the content files so you can copy/paste them into the CMS and cash your final payment check.
But there is just one problem…
The client hasn’t even started putting together their content. Maybe they didn’t want to start until they saw your template all set up and the pages created. Doesn’t matter, whatever the cause, you are about to have your cash flow situation crushed because your client is going to delay your project by weeks, months, or maybe even years.
5 Years and Counting
To date, my worst content-violator-customer has delayed the completion of a project for over five years. At the time of signing the contract, I did not specify enough constraints around content.
So here I am holding a 50% completion fee for “go live” because I can’t go live with an empty website.
This is an extreme case, but we’ve all been there. Our client is falling down on their obligation to get us their content, and therefore we can’t bill our final cut to close out a project.
This affects cash flow. It affects your recurring revenue (since you can’t start billing monthly hosting and maintenance fees if the site isn’t live). And you can’t add the project to your portfolio.
Not to mention, project delays often negatively affect your relationship with your customer.
Tips to Correct
There are a lot of things you can do in an attempt to manage your customer during the project process:
1. Set content deadlines and put the fire to your customer to hit them.
2. Add contract language that states you are not responsible for content, and payments have nothing to do with content.
3. Coach your client with their content.
4. Organize everything around content that is humanly possible without doing it yourself (content inventory, sitemaps, outlines, etc).
5. Schedule standing weekly meetings to get a regular opportunity to hold your client accountable if they are missing their content deadlines.
And these are all great tips. They are all things that I have done over the years and each one helped improve our project process a little, and reduced the amount of projects that flew off the tracks due to content misses.
But these are all half-measures.
The Ultimate Solution
Your client is not a writer. You probably aren’t either (and if you are, you still probably don’t want to draft up pages and pages of client content each and every week). Your client is not a photographer. And your client is not a videographer.
And these are all the realizations you and your client need to make. You have no business doing the content 100% yourself.
When I started selling content as part of my projects, everything changed. We started nailing our deadlines. Our clients were a lot less stressed about content. They could help edit and clarify content, but they didn’t have the burden of producing it all.
The real big win for us was that the quality of our projects got significantly better. Our homepage headlines were solid and engaging, our About pages didn’t suck, and all of our text drove toward conversion-based strategies that delivered real results for our clients.
If you are suffering from client-content-soul-sucking-itis, then take a moment to think about how you are going to build value and sell content on your next opportunity.