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
(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.
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.