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Tip of the Week | Start Project Closing Processes During Project Start-up


This Tip of the Week covers suggestions on how a freelancer can start the successful close-out of a project as a part of project start-up processes. 


As with all of my Tips of the Week: other freelancers may have strong opinions that are at odds with the ones I express. A useful contribution to the forum could include a professional-level business discussion of what steps they take for project closeout, if any, during the Project Start phase.  Then, we all have many opinions to consider.


We experience projects in four distinct phases
(1) Project Win
(2) Project Start-up
(3) Delivery
(4) Project Close.

Projects are also a unified body of work that can be managed holistically.  Said in formal project management verbiage: activity steps that occur in downstream phases can be prepared for in the current phase. Said simply: we can prepare for our Project Close functions in the Project Win phase.

Make sure the prospective client understands how the projects will be completed

- Prepare, in advance, a written set of content (for email communication) or spoken dialog (for calls and video conferences) that describes "what will happen when we get to the project end phase".


I recommend this:


1. Before work starts: indicate a formal end-of-project communication will occur to make sure everything contracted for has been delivered successfully

- This step happens naturally one way or another anyway. 

- It is simply a good tactic and polite to codify the step, meaning ask in specific ways.

- Indicating this will occur in advance of work starting can bring a calmness to the client

- They potentially feel like, "I will get a final say on it all".  Which they do, anyway, in most cases.


2. Engage in a discussion of how the rating system works.

- This step is primarily for clients who are new to Upwork. Those who have worked in the system already know.

- Explain the front-end rating system and the private ratings system

- Explain how you leave ratings.

- For all clients: specifically indicate in advance that your Job Success Score is a key business asset to freelancers. (This concept is good to cover with all soon-to-be-clients.)

- That sets the stage for clients to understanding when ratings time come, this is a serious step and it does have vital impact on our business interests.


Discussion: some freelancers will find it potentially horrific to even allude to the JSS score as a part of any project discussion. I have found that it brings the air of professional business recognition of reality.  The JSS is our primary business asset. I relate it as such.


3. Indicate during the project close call: we'll engage in an open dialog about what went great and what could have made things flow more smoothly.

- It may be counter-intuitive to indicate some parts of the project may not flow perfectly.

- There is no such thing as a perfect project.  I find recognizing this in advance is helpful


Discussion: This pre-planned dialog can help clients feel freer to leave better ratings as "they have covered what they want to say" personally.  No need to air it out twice.  And we need to hear it anyway.  Again, I trend toward expressing reality.  Nothing goes perfectly.  We'll talk about what did and did not flow perfectly in an open, fair dialog. It is helpful to both parties.


The client viability check | final opportunity

This is also the final check of client viability.  If for some reason, they do not want to discuss these topics.  Or, if they are too busy to talk about them.  Or, if they get snippy or hostile or any other a half-dozen negative behaviors are exhibited: we have not yet clicked the [Accept Project] button.

Once that button is clicked, we are in the for the ride and our most precious business asset is risk. Making sure the client will have a balanced discussion of project end steps is the final chance we have to decide it is best to not engage.


To conclude

The final step I take during the Project Win phase is to formally discuss how projects are closed out.  I view realistic discussions help set the stage for end processes that result in what we all want. (a) Be paid completely, (2) Gain 5-0s in public ratings, (3) Gain perfect scores in private ratings, and (4) Have a pleasant project close process.





My 2020 mentee has a client who has 'disappeared' and not yet left a rating.  Mr. J has been instructed in the assertive techniques of tracking this client down, ensuring a successful project close, and positioning correctly with the client -- the knowledge -- JSS scores actually do matter.

Goal: My 2020 mentee will not be one of the ones out on the forum, commiserating that a client did not close a project down correctly.  Which is fine, that is one reason this fine forum exists.  That's not the point.   It would shame me if he had the circumstances to do so.

This what mentorship in professional consultancies is like.  We play the game for real.  Bets, anyone, he gets this project closed down successfully?

Mentee? John, the jargon police will come down on you like a swarm of flea-infested ferrets if you aren't careful. 

Yes, I checked, You were pretty clean until you used mentee twice in the same posting. Commendable, really. 

Thank you, Anthony.   I have really struggled with this one.  First I wrote Mentoree -- and the WordsPolice smacked me for not knowing that is not a word.  It is mentee.  So I took that hit already (lol...)

Then I get stuck with describing young people I mentor. 


- Proteges?  That sounds kinda haughty. 

- My young'ns?   Well, they are, but that sounds a bit too personal

- Freelancers I mentor?  Fits, but a bit clunky.


I have really struggled with this one.

What makes all this mentorship stuff high-pressure and high-risk.  At this very moment, I have my 2018-2019 and 2020-2021 mentees / proteges / young people I work with -- integrated into a high-pressure Investment Prospectus development project.

Things get real serious, real fast in projects like this.  Money will be on the table and the start-up depends on getting it.  This is all-eyes-on delivery, every day, and at times every hour.

So I am carrying both young people on my Upwork project, which means I have three resources who can screw up and torpedo my JSS. Me and those two mentees.

They are delivering brilliantly.   I am so proud of them, my eyes tear up.  Thats the ROM.  Return on Mentorship.  A high stakes game, but worthy of the ante.

It is possible to close down projects, get the appropriate scores and it does take, at times, extra effort to ensure such happens.

I am pleased to relate the newcomer I am mentoring had a client with TWO open projects -- and went dark when ratings time came about.   The young man patiently worked through communication routines, "kept the topic in front of the client respectfully", and with but a two week or so delay, the projects were closed down with top ratings.


Chalk up two 5-0s. It took a bit of 'spittin' and cussin' in the background to deal with this -- who wants to chase this administration stuff down. It is frustrating.


Consistent. Respectful.  Planned, sequenced communication does work in some circumstances.  And here's the inside secret.  Sometimes 5-0s have to be earned two ways.  Delivery, and the patience to hunt down the client to do what they should do.


Are you seriously suggesting discussing the public and private feedback system with a client before the project? That seems very needy and tacky to me. 

Yes, I am seriously suggesting discussing the process of feedback with a
client after the project is concluded.

If you were to work in a corporation. You would discuss your next job
performance review in advance of starting the work period. You would
discuss your job performance in very candid ways after the work period
completed. And you would not suggest to your boss what ratings they send.
But you darn sure discuss the process of ratings, the ratings, and provide

Just because we are freelancers, does not mean we benefit behind "hiding
behind the keyboard". And to not discuss job rating processes, is, in my
opinion. Exactly that. Lack of connection to standard, proven,
historically successful job practices.



Nope.  Didn't remotely suggest it all.  I put it up like a two-by-four then nailed it to the way 4x over just to make sure.


I get a disturbing number of replies that basically range from "tacky" to "omg, I'd never do that!"   (Having an end of project communication to directly address project ratilngs processes, with clients)....


To indicate providing them are vital to us - WITHOUT any suggestion of what they are.

Folks. If you were working in a company.  Most surely a progressive, top-flighit corporation.

1. Ratings systems would be discussed openly, prior to a job work period
2. A formal meeting would be held to discuss the ratings.
3. Those ratings would impact your career and perhaps income.

I do not abide by "hiding behind the keyboard" with this "oh... gosh.  How tacky, to suggest how ratings are left, why they are important to do so" -- WITHOUT suggesting what those ratings should be.


This is how it is done in professional corporations, be it online, or offline.  In the corner office, or CEO.  Or newbie in.


Thus explained.  And that is exactly position we are in.  We have to put in structure for us, since no one is there to put in for us.



As two follow-up notes, as I can get mentally energetic over this topic.

- As it turns out, my client did forget to leave ratings.  He was focused on financial close down, he is a busy CIO, this is his first time out.  He just... forgot and this is not a natural process to him.


- So I will contact him and remind him.  That ratings are one of my most important business assets, provide directions to the button to click to leave ratings and SAY the most vital words. "Please ratings as you best see fit".  I steer 1000 miles clear of breaking Upwork rules.   Bet's anyone, I'll get that 5-0.



There is a special circumstance here.  I am of the last business generation that did not have the Internet.  We did not have "remote" work unless one wanted to drive into work every day to get the assignment or receive them by mail.  Circa 1986 when I started my career, it was all face-to-face. There was no such things as rating systems.  We waltzed into or got hauled into Performance Reviews at least every 6months and it was all on the table, all on the line.  


- That has conditioned me to understand and believe, honest, correct, process-based dialogs about ratings is neither tacky nor inappropriate.

I also got to be the first business generation to experience the Internet.  My consulting firm helped build some of the first .coms and ours survived.


On the good news side.  I can still head out to a social environment...  see a member of the opposite gender I think might be a good fit --

Then go up... and introduce myself.  The guts that takes is immense.    And it takes years of practice....  to do elegantly.


Interesting comparison.



Try it once.  Just once.  Script something out so you do not step on yourself during the conversation.  Plan in advance for a project closure call.  Indicate one will happen in advance (or do it by email with less interaction but have a project closure email series codified).

**Edited for Community Guidelines**





The only absolute certainty about a project is that it will end. Thus, preparing for that early is best. I heartily approve.


Deming didn't like evaluation systems, and I'm on the fence. The problem isn't the 80%, it's the 20% that produce 80% of the value. Actually,  it's usually a 95-5 ratio. As soon as a ranking system is introduced, some zealous regulator will want to make forced distribution of rankings mandatory. Hence, the least qualified astronaut conundrum.


I only once went to a client asking for a rating. That was when my JSS went down the toilet because I declined to do free work for a client, who described that as the reason for the low rating. The client posted a glowing rating, but I still felt unclean. That's one reason that very little of my work is through online boards, and of that work through UW is minuscule.

Deming?  How long has it been since I have seen that referenced?   (Bill is referencing a globally-impactful management theory first exposed in the 1950s).  I think-eth our gray hair shows, though I do use a gentle shade of brown these days.  (lol...).

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