Coaxing Web Content: How to Get Your Clients to Get You the Content You Need
June 11th, 2008 in Business & Process
by: Matthew Griffin
Coaxing web content can be one of the most frustrating parts of being a web designer. It's a part of our work that's completely out of our control; and yet a job is never complete without it. No matter how well you stick to your time-line, or how hard you work to meet deadlines, or how on-top-of-it you are, missing content will shut you down. When you can't finish a project, you can't get paid. And when you can't get paid, potential bad situation start becoming reality. Unless you write copy for your clients, I'm sure you've had a bad experience with web content at one time or another. That's why the art of coaxing content is such a desirable skill. Here are some tips for sharpening that skill and keeping your projects rolling.
In the Beginning...
I'm referring, of course, to the beginning of the project—not the beginning of time. As early as possible, start asking for content. I usually, ask clients to start sending over content before they even agree to my proposal. That may sound a little fanatical, but I've found that it helps with research and usually adds a couple of weeks to the amount of time I have the content in hand. The earlier you start asking for it, the earlier you're going to get it. It's really that simple. An added bonus to aggressively pursuing content from the beginning is that it let's your client know you mean business and you're passionate about their project.
As best you can, keep a checklist of the content you need for every project. When you're juggling five or six projects at once, it's easy to forget what you're missing on a particular project. Every time I get to the end of the project and realize there's some huge piece of necessary copy missing, the cause is invariably that I didn't keep track of what I needed. Even though, it may not technically be your fault when this happens, you'll still suffer the consequences. It's better to stay on top of it throughout the project.
The Reverse Deadline
Clients are usually the ones setting deadlines for us. But in this case, it will help you and your client if you turn the tables. Of course, setting a deadline for you client doesn't look exactly the same as when they set one for you, but the idea is the same. The moment you start feeling the a hint of a content problem, just flat out ask when the it will be ready. This usually forces the client to set a time frame. True, they can break it with essentially no consequences (other than a delay of site launch), but just having one out there is an impetus to get it done. It also keeps you covered. In the event that the site launches late, there is no question where the problem was.
Send an Invoice
When the wait is getting ridiculous, I usually go ahead and send the final invoice. In reality, if a project is 99.9% complete and the only thing left is a three-paragraph writeup for the about us page; it's time to bill. Once the final bill is paid, the content will come pretty quickly. No one likes a free-and-clear piece of equipment sitting around rotting. Something about paying that last invoice seems to drive that concept home. Plus, once you've been paid, the pressure is really on them. Just make sure you stay true to your word and finish the project when you get the missing content. There's no need to blow your reputation over a little copy, paste, and format work.
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