The most valuable insight I have gained from running a design agency is an understanding of my strengths and weaknesses. Like most agency owners or freelancers, I got into the business because I love creativity. While business is exciting and I love aspects of it, running an agency often requires performing tasks that fall in my weakness category. Project management is one aspects of business I frequently struggle with.
If it were up to me, I would spend time creating amazing things rather than planning when to create them or talking about what was created. That being said, any design professional respects the role of project management. Having been on both sides of the fence (client and provider) I know exactly how it feels to be in the dark about your project. If your a designer you must excel at project management, even if it’s not second nature.
Over the past seven years I have learned addressed my deficiency by harnessing my core asset, creativity. Rather than force myself to adopt the common methods of project management I have begun creating tools that spread the weight of PM tasks. My current tool — “Project Status” — is my favorite tool thus far.
A WordPress Plugin for Keeping Clients Updated
Anytime you experience the same situation a several times there is an opportunity to improve on it. My inspiration was a common occurrence of clients inquiring about the status of their project. This often happened despite setting dates, outlining milestones and creating schedules. To me, this illustrated two issues. Most importantly, clients shouldn’t have to proactively contact me to get an update. Secondarily the materials I delivered were too cumbersome to sort through and reference.
There are plenty of project management tools available, my company uses Basecamp for project management. While I still use it today, it’s use is primarily for internal communication. The problem with these systems is they are designed for the agencies, not clients. Most clients dread the idea of logging into a foreign system and the information provided is not what they are looking for anyways. In my experience, those who try these systems inevitably give up and resorting to e-mail by the time the project is over.
Most clients don’t care about what tasks we are performing or what the key milestones are. They just want a general idea of how far along their project is, what they are responsible for and an expected completion date. Everything else is noise or irrelevant. Being that I haven’t come across a system that easily does this I went ahead and created one.
This creation is called “Project Status.” It’s a simple WordPress plugin for service based businesses and freelancers. It’s primary function is to give clients a visual indicator of the project status. More specifically it lets you define four key phases of a project, currently activities and client responsibilities. Rather than requiring logins, clients can access their project status through a custom URL.
And that’s just the beginning.
This plugin is a simple way to give clients that information while providing you with a high level overview of open projects and their standpoint. It gives you the ability to:
- Create and manage unlimited projects
- Track levels of completion
- Track current tasks
- Identify client responsibilities and project holds
- Identify four major milestones (20%/40%/60%/80%)
- Send clients to a page containing the above information
Projects are displayed in a responsive template so clients can access and monitor their project from any device.
I have some big future plans, but first and foremost I want to know what the plugin is missing. In its current form this tool scratches my itch extremely well. That being said everyone’s business is run differently. I would love to hear what features and functionality would make this tool more useful to everyone.
For me, the only feature it doesn’t currently have is a method e-mail communication. My plan is to include some capability to e-mail project stakeholders letting them know their project has been updated (or even include the status in the e-mail.) I am debating if this should be automated, manual or an option. Time will tell.
Do you have an idea for an improvement? Let me know in the comments below. Otherwise you can download the plugin from WordPress.org.