For many website owners, it is anything but business as usual. COVID-19 has forced temporary closures or otherwise limited companies with physical locations. And even online retailers are feeling the pressure of working remotely and the domino effect of impacted vendors.
It’s apparent that a number of businesses are scrambling to survive. This has meant developing new revenue streams on the fly. Brick and mortar stores are throwing together eCommerce sites or expanding existing services. Those who rely on in-person events are now turning to online video.
This is a major challenge for web designers. Clients are expecting to make big changes in a very short amount time. If you’re a freelancer who manages a lot of websites, this may be result in an avalanche of work coming your way.
How can we best deal with these rapid changes? First, take a deep breath. Then, review the following tips for making the process as pain-free as possible.
Advise Clients to Start Small
If a client approaches you with a big idea that will fundamentally change their business, it’s likely to have just as big of an impact on their website. This could mean refactoring a shopping cart or implementing entirely new features.
From the client’s perspective, they are focused on survival in a very uncertain time. Therefore, it’s understandable that they may want to “go big” and will want to do so ASAP.
Designers and developers, however, need a little time to come up with the right solution. In that sense, we need to slow things down a bit.
It’s vital to explain the situation in plain terms. Let your client know the full scope of what’s involved. Fill them in on the process and the potential ramifications of getting this wrong (such as rebuilding the whole thing in six months).
Advise them that, when possible, it’s better to start things off with more incremental changes. For instance, rather than putting all 1,000 or their products into WooCommerce, maybe start with 50 of the top-sellers. This way, they can get their feet wet with selling online. They’ll get a sense of how to best handle shipping and customer service, etc.
Big changes in a short period of time can wreak havoc on a business. Remind clients of the benefits of taking baby steps.
Charge Extra for Tight Timelines
For clients who have very accelerated timelines for launching a new feature, designers should charge accordingly. This is not to say that we should ever take advantage of a crisis. However, these types of projects can be incredibly stressful. We should at least be well-paid for it.
While some people may baulk at a higher price, most should understand the reasoning behind it. But if a client is attempting to push you to your limits without properly compensating you, perhaps the job is just not worth the trouble.
In a sense, part of the challenge is to encourage clients to get their priorities in line. One way to accomplish this is to provide multiple pricing options. The shorter the timeframe, the higher the price.
This can force a client to decide whether or not that feature is must-have-now or if taking a little extra time is more prudent.
Encourage Big-Picture Thinking
For everyone involved, the overall goal should be to get things right the first time. Or, as much as possible given the information we have on hand.
As web designers, we will likely recognize this more quickly than our clients. One reason for this is that we know the technological challenges involved. Our experience with various software packages and types of websites are a great resource for spotting potential roadblocks.
A client focused on making up for lost revenue may not be thinking about the long-term. This is something we’ll need to communicate to them.
Explain that the best option for getting a feature up-and-running quickly isn’t necessarily the same as the best long-term solution. They need to know that, if they choose the short-term option, they’ll likely have to invest in something better down the road.
This is especially the case when dealing with third-party software such as WordPress plugins. There may be ways to implement a feature immediately, but will be a nightmare to maintain if business expands.
In the end, a client may still choose the quicker path. That’s okay, as long as they understand the downsides of doing so.
Directing Clients to the Best Solutions
Maybe the best way to both help clients and maintain sanity is to start a dialogue. Clients hire us because of our expertise, after all.
In more normalized times, we would want to take the time to ask the right questions. Find out a client’s pain points and their goals. From there, develop the best solution to make it all work.
But the present time does feel different. Business owners are worried about the future – and rightfully so. Still, that doesn’t mean that we should shrivel under these circumstances.
It’s just as important to have those same conversations. Perhaps even more so, as communication is what will ensure that everyone is on the same page.
So, listen to what your clients have to say. Gain an understanding of their concerns. At the same time, help them to make rational decisions when it comes to their websites. This will save both you and them some major headaches in the long run.
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