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When Your Worst Client Comes Back for More

Nightmare clients. We’ve all had them. If lucky, you turned lemons into lemonade and salvaged the relationship. If you weren’t, those clients now feature heavily in your literal nightmares – possibly accompanied by your terrifying fourth-grade math teacher.

Either way, you probably didn’t have to deal with the nightmare clients for too long in the grand scheme. Unless, of course, you’re like us and found your nightmare client coming back for more – in our case, looking for a complete website redesign.

If you’re starting to think, “Gee, Erika, it sure seems wildly unprofessional to talk about a nightmare client in a public forum,” let me reassure you that we are describing ourselves.

I recently sent an email detailing our work with “The.Worst.Client.Ever.” The email described the difficulty of doing work for your own organization. Well, we continue to be our own worst clients. And despite all the lessons we learned the last time we worked for ourselves, I would be lying if I said we were better clients this time around.

Although I’m proud of the final product and am excited to share more about the changes we made and why we made them, let’s focus on how to make doing work for yourself a smooth process.

Challenging Focus Demands

I think we can all agree that all projects have an inevitable ebb and flow to them. Clients will have other, more pressing needs that require their full attention, and your specific project will get shifted to the back burner until they can regroup. However, it’s a natural part of any long-term partnership, and most clients will refocus their attention as quickly as possible. (After all, they want to see the project completed just as much as you do!)

But, when you are your own client, managing your focus is much more challenging. You know that there are items on the to-do list that stop the project from moving forward, but there’s always something else demanding your attention. Sometimes that’s unavoidable, but other times it’s a matter of resetting your priorities.

Why are you ignoring yourself if you wouldn’t ignore an outside party nudging you for information for weeks? Schedule the time to give your project the attention it deserves so you don’t end up in a situation that sees a project dragging on for twice as long as initially estimated. Not that we know anything about that. (Ahem)

Setting Realistic Timelines

Staying on the theme of “treat yourself like an outside client,” be realistic about your timeline from day one. It’s also good to include some buffer time at every stage to allow you to pause your personal project to direct your attention toward your paying clients.

Then, once you have a timeline, treat it as though it were etched in stone. This means hitting deadlines – large and small – at every stage. And holding yourself accountable for missed ones. Once again, you wouldn’t promise your other clients to get resources, feedback, or edits by a particular day, only to ignore them for weeks. Stop blowing yourself off, too.

If you do need to rework your timeline, be purposeful about it. Sit down, identify the milestones you’ve missed, and devise new target dates that reflect your current reality. Don’t just hit the “snooze button” ten minutes at a time until the project is seriously behind schedule.

Be Decisive

Once you’ve established a timeline and you’re giving your project the focus it deserves, you need to ensure it doesn’t get mired entirely in endless edits, experiments, or tweaks.

I understand that it’s tempting to hold your own project to a higher standard or to use it as a kind of case study to test new ideas as you come across them. But even the most minor changes add up over time and can result in significant delays. And, if you do decide to move forward with more extensive edits, make the time to spell out precisely what those edits will do to your timeline.

What Can You Do When You’re Your Own Worst Client?

What’s the bottom line? Treat your personal project with the same respect and urgency you would use for a project spearheaded by a stranger. I promise it will make the entire process more efficient, less unwieldy, and more pleasant.

If you’re managing your own marketing or website design project and it’s just not running smoothly, consider the above tips to help you get things back on track. Or, you could outsource it to a team who is great at managing their clients’ timelines (even if we’re still working on it for ourselves). Contact us today to see how we can help you with your upcoming website creation or marketing campaign.