When most consultants start their businesses they are scared. Scared that they won’t be able to pay the bills. Scared that when that happens they’ll end up closing their business and heading back to employment with their tail between their legs. This fear brings a bunch of pain in two ways.
First they say yes to terrible clients that treat them poorly. These clients keep asking for more value without wanting to pay more for the value. They treat you as little better than an employee they don’t have to pay benefits to.
The second painful part is that because of all these bad clients with continually changing requests you have a hard time finishing projects. Things continually get backed up and you end up working late into the evening seven days a week. These late nights lead to poor decisions which decrease your ability to finish projects even more.
To help you combat that let’s look at the 4 biggest reasons that projects fail to get completed. With just a bit of planning you can stop them all from happening.
1. You didn’t scope the project properly
The biggest error most consultants make is they assume they already know what the project is about. They have a single 30 minute call with the prospect and then they send over an estimate based off a few hand written notes. They get the deposit and then get working only to discover there are about 56 extra things and they are all required and as the client talks you realize how they could have assumed they were required.
Unfortunately now you’re backed into a corner and need to complete the project, hopefully.
Solution: Before you can do any project you need to write up a detailed project plan. No the RFP the client sent you doesn’t count nor does the project plane they supplied. Use these documents as a base for your project plan.
Sometimes these sessions to write up a proper project plan are referred to as scoping sessions and what they come down to is going through all the items the prospect has asked for and writing out the deliverables but more importantly the outcomes for each item.
I say more importantly the outcomes because the outcome is what’s really valuable to the client. They’re hiring you to increase sales, or decrease costs, not to just deliver a feature. At least that’s what they hire good consultants for.
2. You are working with the wrong client
All consultants have had clients that were simply needy. They want a call every day and have 22 new requests which of course should just be included in the original project and where are the 26 things they asked for yesterday? It’s no fun and it sucks the life right out of you, but it’s entirely your fault.
Solution: The solution to this is to establish a solid client vetting process. To do that you need to do a few things.
Second, setup a repeatable system to weed out the clients you don’t want. I use the same set of 9 questions in my initial email to prospects and don’t move forward with the sales process unless I like the answers they provide.
Third, you need to get them on the phone preferably with video to talk about the project. Nothing will give you a better read on the prospect than seeing their mannerisms and if you can’t meet them in person, video is the next best. At the very least you need to hear their voice so pick up that phone and have a call.
3. You just forgot about it
Ever get that email on Monday from a client that’s paid you money wondering where the project is at? You feel terrible because you simply forgot about the project and haven’t been working on it very much.
Solution: The problem here is that you’ve relied on your memory instead of having a reliable project management system to use to manage your projects.
The simple fact is that if you don’t write it down, it won’t happen. Choose a project management system. It doesn’t matter much what you choose just get a system and use it for all projects.
4. You’re too busy
We love to say yes as consultants. We want to help people and it feels awesome to have people want to work with us. We’re also brought up to be people pleasers, so it’s hard to say NO to prospects.
Sometimes even with a good client vetting process you’re still going to have more good qualified leads than you should be handling. The problem is you keep saying yes and then projects take a bit longer (because they always do) and then you’re running to many projects at once.
Solution: The only solution to this is to say NO more, even if the lead is a qualified lead. One way of saying NO more without actually saying no is to raise your rates. Some of the leads that you previously got will now think that you’re too expensive and just won’t come to work with you anymore.
Another way is to add criteria for your ideal clients. Instead of just working with fitness coaches, only work with Crossfit coaches. That will eliminate some of the leads you would have taken before.
No one wants to leave a swath of ruined projects in their wake. With just a bit of planning and a few processes in place to vet clients and manage projects you can help ensure that you don’t fail to finish projects.