So You Got the Freelance Project, But Do You Have the Project Specs?

2683796968_c4b86cf780_bMost blog posts I’ve seen around the internet focus on how to get a new client. While finding new clients is essential – what do you do when you get the new client? After a client very enthusiastically wants to work with you, pays your deposit and hands you a PSD (or less) do you just start working? I made the mistake of accepting and starting a new project and not requiring project specifications (or specs) up front. Throughout the project I’d gotten very frustrated at the fact I had to guess and think out what I thought the client would want – only to now have to go back and change half the coding because it wasn’t what they wanted. So how do you avoid this?

Before the project begins

Before you even start coding, start designing or whatever it is you’re doing, you need to ask the agency or client for a full list of specifications. You really need to do this before you even quote out a project, so you understand the full scope of what is needed. This is totally your responsibility and it’s going to make your life easier from start to finish on this project. The specs need to include:

  • What am I doing on this project? Designing and coding? Just coding?
  • How many pages? Are all the subpages the same layout?
  • Do you need jQuery/JS/AJAX?
  • What programming functionalities are needed?
  • What needs to happen when these buttons are pushed?
  • How do you want these forms/pages/animation to act?
  • What needs to happen at the “end” of the website?
  • Do you have all the required logos, pictures, content?

As the project progresses

I normally don’t get to start working until after normal business hours, and I normally don’t show the project to the client until I’ve finished coding. This is ok, unless you’re working with a very specified project with specific functions. If this is the case, you should stop after you’ve completed the first page or two to ask the client a few questions like:

  • Is this how you want the pages to function?
  • Do you have any changes so far?

After the project ends

This is when doing the above can really save your butt. If you’ve received the full specs and followed it, the client should accept the finished project with little to no changes. If the client rejects the project and claims that this isn’t what he wanted, you can show him all the specs he sent, along with the emails where he accepted the first couple of pages. From there you can tell the client that you’ll make the changes for $XXX amount of money, since it was out of scope.

If, like me, you didn’t have full spec, then the client has full control and a right to make you change it until it’s right. Since you didn’t ask them what they wanted ahead of time, why should they have to pay you to do what they really wanted the second time? This can be the make or break of your client relationship, so it’s better to suck it up and learn for the next time.

Your turn

Have you ever gotten stuck because you didn’t ask for project specs, and you ended up working much more than you charged? What happen?

Photo courtesy of GregoryJamesWalsh