The one place projects always stall…

My favorite part of web design? Launching a client’s new website, of course! Yet too often, the launch part gets delayed. And it always happens at the same point—giving me with the content that is going on the site.

It’s one of my website nightmares, and I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with it. I’m hoping you can help. How can I get my clients over the content hurdle so we can share their new websites with the world?

Yippee, let’s get started!

Clients are super-excited. Most clients want the works: a newsletter, a blog, a free report and a number of website pages. We set a design schedule, and agree on a date when they will deliver the content.

And then momentum fizzles…

The site is designed and developed—ready for content. The content delivery date comes and passes. I follow up. The client’s excitement and urgency has diminished. Yet it’s urgent for me now! I want to launch the site so they can engage ideal clients! I keep following up; weeks and months go by. When (if) the content finally arrives, my timeline is thrown off. And depending on the amount of time that’s passed (sometimes years!), the design needs updating!

I’d love to solve this problem by saying to future clients:

“Before we start your website, I need content!”

In a perfect world, content comes first. When I’m given a Word doc that defines the pages and their content, the words inspire me! And when content is delivered first, a project always launches on schedule. It’s risky to make content mandatory at the start of the project, but I get so bummed when a project stalls, the risk is becoming worth it. If content is too hard for clients to write, they can get help from a copywriter—right?! Here’s what I’d like to ask clients for up-front:

  • Content: If a blog, newsletter and free report are too much to tackle at once, start with these 5 pages. We can build from there! If you’d like a blog, I need 3 posts to start. If you’d like a free report, I need at least a title and overview.
  • Portfolio:  Ideally, I need at least 6 projects for your awesome portfolio. If you don’t have 6 projects to show, send as many as you do have.

This isn’t just about getting the website done—it’s about helping my clients bring their visions to life. I hate when a website gets stuck in working-on-my-content-land. A website is constantly changing and evolving—so let’s get it out there!

What do you think? Can I require content up-front?

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14 thoughts on “The one place projects always stall…

  1. Getting clients to realise the true value of good content and how important it is to actually building and structuring the site is always challenging.

    Instead of just waiting endlessly for clients to produce the content I now set a deadline by which I will use placeholder text instead if it has not been completed. This is obviously less than ideal but it means projects now move forward and stay on track.

    I always try and educate my clients on the value of having content ready before the design phase, but unfortunately most clients just want to get the project going regardless.

    I think it’s wise to ask for content up front but you also need to have a backup plan to make sure the project actually moves forward. Without this progress will halt and you won’t be able to send the final invoice for months and months.

  2. Hi, Jill. Yes, it would be reasonable to ask them to provide content by a certain date in order to meet their schedule. I always ask for it up front because if they want to, say, throw in a sidebar at the last minute, after the original design (without on) was approved, that could throw off the entire design. That will only increase their cost. I would also be sure to include a clause in your agreement that states that if the project goes off schedule, you cannot guarantee the original schedule or that you could immediately pick up at a later date (although you’ll try but that your schedule is planned in advance much of the time). I would also recommend billing them incrementally if you get partial payment up front, as then you’re not waiting until the job is complete to get paid. I always tell my clients that rushing to get me incomplete or draft content is never better than waiting and getting me approved, finalized content, although they think it’s helpful “to get started.”

  3. YES! I feel your pain Jill! I’m in the middle of this with one of my clients right now and it’s so frustrating. My workflow (and invoicing) is all thrown off and it makes things quite difficult. I am in the process of moving to a “Content first” business model for just this reason (tho I like Luke’s suggestion too) and am trying out https://gathercontent.com to help things along.
    I’ll let you know how it works out and please do keep us posted on your progress too! 🙂

  4. Hi Jill! Great article and conversation. Requiring content up front makes sense, like requiring payment up front, but in this case I don’t think it’s addressing the root of the issue—the client’s difficulty in developing the content still exists whether it’s at the beginning of a project or in the middle. Stalled projects would instead be projects that never start. Perhaps a questionnaire would help them form at least a working draft of the website copy—a set of specific questions whose answers form the basic components of the site. Then you would have working copy and when it’s plugged into the site they can see how close it is to being finished and provide the final push to get it launched. In a perfect world. 🙂

  5. Content is king. You’re totally right, projects always seem to stall when the ball’s the client’s court *cough, content.* I don’t really have a solution yet, but I think it helps to have a copywriter in the wings ready to swoop down and save the day.

    1. I agree, Sheila. Always great to partner with a copywriter. I’m just thinking that I need to ensure that happens BEFORE we start on the design.

  6. I encounter the same stall-out scenario as well! I’m curious, have you found any solutions since this post over a year ago? I’m brainstorming ideas, but haven’t found any that work yet. (I offer outlines of content and images needed, follow up meetings and emails, but no luck yet.)

    1. Haven’t found any solutions yet except for requiring content up front (or at least most of it). I’m going to make that my 2016 resolution. Will you join me, Lisa? 🙂

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