If you’re a freelance WordPress developer, then this article is for you.
Do you ever get overwhelmed by the scope of your current project? Do you struggle to stay on track and deliver work on time? Freelancing is hard, especially when you run your own business and juggle multiple projects at the same time. You have to learn how to prioritize your tasks, design a workflow that works for you, and manage your time effectively. Otherwise, it’s easy to spin out of control.
I’m going to show you how I keep my freelance process simple with a few key tools that help me stay organized and productive so I can crank out quality code quickly without overwhelming myself or delaying my delivery dates.
It’s not fancy I know some of my peers are using more advanced software solutions but it works well enough for me as I seek to balance my workload with my desire for free time while still getting paid on time!
Let’s dive in…
Know your strengths and weaknesses. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it’s the most important thing to keep in mind as a freelancer. Knowing your limitations is equally important. When I first started freelancing, I was working on my own site, which had a lot of complexity that went beyond my skill level at the time.
If you’re just starting out, then like me you might also be tempted to put in more hours into projects than you should. Remember that making money is not always about being the best programmer ever but also about getting things done quickly and efficiently.
Develop your own process. It’s important to develop your own process because one size does not fit all when it comes to freelancing or entrepreneurship in general. You need structure so that you can tackle bigger projects with multiple moving parts without getting overwhelmed or lost in the details.
Planning And Defining Scope
The next part of the process is to plan and define the scope. What is scope, you ask? Scope refers to what features and functionality a project will include, as well as any constraints that might be involved.
For example, if a client has an idea for a website with lots of different pages that require unique layouts and design elements but they want to keep costs low so they’re only willing to pay you $500 for the whole project, there’s going to be some conflict when it comes time for them to approve your invoice.
It’s best if this is brought up during the planning phase so everyone has realistic expectations from the get-go.
The defining scope also helps ensure that all of the requirements for a project have been discussed by both parties upfront. When you start working on a project mid-stream or after something has already been developed, there’s usually some back-and-forth about what was actually required versus what was delivered – even if both parties think they have agreed on everything.
beforehand! This can lead to delays in launching your projects and it can result in having clients who are less than happy with their final product because they didn’t get exactly what they wanted in the first place (even though you did exactly what they asked).
Define The Project Goals
Once you’ve got an understanding of what the client wants in their new website, it’s time to define the project goals. You need this information to understand your client’s needs better, identify how long it will take to complete the project, define project scope and requirements, and finally figure out what you need to deliver.
This can be done in a simple one-on-one meeting with your client or over the phone. Simply ask them:
- What is the purpose of their website?
- What will they use their website for?
- Who are their users (target audience)?
- Who are some competitors, if any? Or websites that have elements that they like and would like incorporated into their site?
Determine What Needs To Be Built
The first step in the process is to determine what needs to be built, which doesn’t mean starting by deciding exactly how the project will work or look. It means looking at the bigger picture, understanding how it will be used and why, understanding how it fits into the business overall, and understanding the user’s needs and desires. After that’s established you can begin determining what it needs to do (and equally important what it doesn’t need to do).
Decide How It Needs To Be Built
The next step is to identify what needs to be built. This is the fun part! I’m in my element, thinking of all the different ways the project can be built and how to make it work.
While working through that process, I need to keep in mind that there are going to be assumptions and dependencies for each solution. So, I have a little cheat sheet I created and reference as needed:
Assumptions: These are usually things that seem obvious but aren’t always 100% certain things like “the client provides all final text and images.”
Dependencies: These are things that must happen before another thing can occur, or you can’t proceed. If you don’t know this upfront, you’ll get stuck later when something doesn’t happen as expected. For instance: “I can’t start developing until the design is approved.”
Set Assumptions And Dependencies
I define the project goals and determine what needs to be built, how it needs to be built, and build flexible deliverables.
I want to be sure that my clients have a clear picture of exactly what they’re getting with each project, especially if there are different components or stages. There should be no surprises not for you or your client.
To do this, I create a list of requirements that includes everything involved in the project: all types of content (text, images), functionality (sliders, contact forms), security and SEO considerations, etc. If I need anything from the client before work can begin (a specification document or reference website) I set those expectations at this stage as well.
Finally, I always ensure we’re on the same page when it comes to who owns final deliverables at the completion of a project.
Defining Deliverables Upfront
The first step of a successful project is defining the deliverables upfront. By doing so, you are better able to predict the cost of the project and you will know what to expect throughout the development process. It’s also something that you can refer back to later on if there are any issues during development and determine if your client has changed their mind about what they want.
By defining deliverables, you save yourself a lot of grief in trying to figure out what it is your client wants. There’s nothing worse than spending hours (or even days) working on a project only to find out that your client expects something completely different from what he paid for. Having an upfront definition of deliverables gives you and your client an agreement about what it is exactly that the client will be getting for his money—and means less time wasted on unnecessary work.
Identifies Bottlenecks And Helps Catch Issues Early On
Reducing the number of change requests on a project is important. Not only does it affect your bottom line but it reduces issues in development, helps to ensure sites are finished in a timely manner, and keeps clients happy. We do this by identifying areas where issues may arise, either in development or when the site goes live.
Fixing these issues early can help speed up development as well as avoid any embarrassing errors once the site launches. There are also other benefits:
Helps you plan better – if you know that there might be an issue with something then it’s better to identify and fix that now rather than later.
Helps you estimate more accurately – if you have a good idea about what some of the roadblocks might be then it means you’re less likely to underestimate the time needed for a project which means no sleepless nights at 3 am trying to get everything done and your client gets their site on time.
Can help identify possible issues earlier – if something is likely to cause an issue during development or after launch then why not find out sooner rather than later? This can save both you and your client from headaches later down the line.
Gives you a feel for how long a project will take – when going through this process we often get an idea of how much work is required so planning work schedules become easier and projects are completed faster.
Helps Reduce Change Requests Or Scope Creep
Another method that helps me to stay on track is to present a project proposal before I begin any work. In the proposal, I’ll include the cost, an overview of what the client asked for, and a detailed description of what they can expect:
- The cost
- The deliverables
- An outline of any limitations or restrictions on functionality or design
- A timeline and payment schedule
A Section Outlining How Change Requests Will Be Handled And Their Associated Costs
When you’re first getting into WordPress development work, it can be scary to send in a proposal. You might feel like you need to get started as soon as possible because you want the money, or you don’t want to lose out on your opportunity. But sending proposals from the start will help save you from scope creep (and those dreaded “re-dos”) down the road.
Documentation Is Good For Everyone Involved
Documentation is something that’s often forgotten, but it’s actually very useful for everyone involved in a project. All of the client’s questions are answered in one place should they need to refer back to them later or pass them on to another person.
The next developer who works on the site won’t have to waste time figuring out what has already been figured out. And you’ll have a handy reference if you come back to the site 6 months after working on it.
Creating documentation doesn’t need to be complicated or require a lot of working your notes from your first meeting with the client are a good start. Once all the features have been decided, you can start compiling these notes into a document that serves as your “development brief”.
Using a simple process can help you manage your freelance WordPress development projects more effectively
One of the biggest keys to success when it comes to running a small business is staying organized. A simple process can help you manage your freelance WordPress development projects more effectively, and put your clients at ease as well.
Ideally, you’ll want a process that’s both simple and repeatable –– one that isn’t going to take up too much time (either for you or for your clients), but will ensure that nothing important gets overlooked.
If you’re looking to start a freelance WordPress development business, all of this may seem intimidating at first. You need a portfolio website that you can use to display your work, and you need to get it off the ground with the proper documentation, marketing strategy, and pricing model.
And I would be lying if I said that I have everything figured out perfectly after years of trial and error. But what I can tell you is how I personally keep my freelance process simple, so that I can focus on more important things.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Keep Track Of Things?
I use Trello for project management. It’s easy for clients to use, and it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance on my part. If you don’t already have an account, you can sign up for one here: Let me know if you need any help getting started!
What Do You Use To Communicate With Your Clients?
I primarily use email and Slack because it allows us to reference previous conversations easily when we need them, but I also love using tools like Zoom, Skype, and GoToMeeting for video conferencing and screen sharing when we need it.
What Do You Use To Send Files Back And Forth?
Google Drive is my go-to way to send files with clients because it’s easy and accessible from anywhere there’s an internet connection.