3 things you need to know before you start a freelance project

Improve your project experience before it even starts.

Mat Vogels
January 5, 2016
Freelancing

We’ve all been there. Working on a project you undercharged for, that’s now 3 weeks overdue, for a client who’s demanding more than you originally agreed to.

Unfortunately, it’s 100% your fault.

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Sorry, but it’s true. Because you can avoid projects like that by asking the right questions early on — or better yet, before the project starts.

Paul Jarvis breaks the process down into 3 steps:

  1. Setting expectations with your client
  2. Discussing these expectations
  3. Contractually agreeing on them (so they don’t come back to bite you)

Now, sometimes projects like this are simply unavoidable, even with strong contracts and guidelines in place.

But by following the steps outlined below, you can eliminate the vast majority of them before they hurt you.

1. What are the project deliverables?

Before you even consider taking on a project, you need to know what it’s all about. Is it a website? A logo? An entire marketing strategy? You need to ask your client what they want.

I like to to list out each deliverable we discuss in an extremely straightforward manner, like so:

Deliverables for this project:

Website

  • 1 mobile-friendly/responsive page with 4 to 6 sections of content
  • 1 signup form that will add submitted emails to MailChimp
  • 1 content editor

MailChimp account

  • 1 MailChimp account
  • 1 campaign
  • 1 list
  • Integrate with website to add new submissions to the list

Be as detailed as you possibly can with this list. Why? Because when the client asks you to “add a popup modal to allow users to subscribe to my newsletter,” you can respond, “This wasn’t included in the original proposal (see attached proposal with details). But I am happy to discuss adding this as an additional piece of the project.”

Be 100% certain that both you and your client fully understand and agree to the project’s scope before you move on to any of the details below.

2. What’s the timeline?

It’s incredibly easy for projects to creep beyond their original deadlines. My rule of thumb here is to simply double the time you think it’ll take to complete something (on your end), and set hard deadlines for your client throughout the process as well.

For example, when I’m building a website, I’ll give my clients deadlines for providing feedback. So I’ll set myself a deadline for finishing a first draft of the site, then give my client 48 hours to let me know what they think.

In my contracts (which may be more aggressive than most), I define penalties for missed deadlines, usually double my daily rate for each day the client delays the process.

This works both ways — I subtract the same amount when I miss a deadline too.

But to make this all work, you need to set a strict calendar, and agree on the due dates for each stage of the project.

3. What’s the budget?

This is where you really need to stand your ground. I know: easier said than done. So many freelancers undervalue their work, but fully understanding the monetary scope of the project is one of the most important details to square away — if not the most important.

At this point, you should know both:

  1. The scope of work (what you’ll build)
  2. The timeline that it’s getting done in

That’s all you need to put together a proper proposal for the client.

Now, you can ask your client, “What’s your budget?” But this is often just a waste of everyone’s time. Clients will typically suggest a lower number, presenting you with the difficult task of convincing them to spend more.

Instead, know exactly what you want to charge for a project of this size, and throw out an amount you feel comfortable with. And don’t budge. This value should be more than a number you pull out of a hat — it’s the actual value of the product you’re offering.

You don’t go into a movie theatre and say, “Hmmm. I don’t like that amount. I’m going to pay half that.” They’d ask you to leave. If your clients try it, you should do the same.

After all, you’re only as valuable as you say you are. If you waver on that value, you’re also wavering on your belief in yourself.

What else should I consider?

While speed, reliability, scalability, and security should be your chief concerns, Webflow offers a host (pun sheepishly intended) of other features that have a significant impact on SEO and performance, and may not be offered by most hosting services.

HTTP/2

2015 saw the release of the first new Hypertext Transfer Protocol since 1999: HTTP/2.

This new standard promises faster websites across the web — but not all hosting platforms support it yet. Because Google has always cared about page speed, there’s a good chance that HTTP/2 will become a component of their ranking algorithm soon.

Here are some benefits of HTTP/2 support/compatibility:

  • Multiplexing: Your browser can receive requests over multiple connections, not just one. Think of it like switching from a one-lane road to an interstate.
  • Header compression: Your browser loads the top of your pages first, before the rest of the page, which means your site visitors see content faster. On mobile especially, this is a big improvement.

Webflow’s hosting has been HTTP/2 compliant for a couple years now, unlike services out there. (And even hosts who do offer it typically only do so on higher-tier packages.)

Today, all assets published to a Webflow site are served via HTTP/2 — increasing page load performance when a large number of assets need to be downloaded.

Other powerful features of Webflow hosting

Everything above is more or less essential, but there are many other features that can make managing your website a lot easier and more convenient. These include:

  • Automatic backups and version control (you can also save and name a site version whenever you’d like with the key combo Command + Shift + S on Mac or Control + Shift + S on Windows)
  • Site-wide and per-page password protection
  • Simple publishing workflows
  • Responsive images
  • Protection against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks

On top of these features, Webflow hosting includes:

  • Form submissions (manage lead gen and let us store your data for you). It’s like Wufoo, but built into Webflow!
  • SEO and social tools: manage OpenGraph and SEO meta tags in one convenient interface. Easily combine it with the CMS to automate your metadata optimization.
  • Dynamic embeds: integrate Webflow CMS with Shopify for ecommerce, SoundCloud for music, Eventbrite for events, and anything else that uses custom code embeds.

Webflow combines all these elements in a first-class global hosting infrastructure that’s available at the click of a button. This means that when you publish with Webflow, your site’s files and assets are published across the globe and immediately ready for any amount of traffic, from any location.

Want to know how much we believe in Webflow hosting?

We put a lot of thought and effort into making Webflow hosting one the the best hosting services out there. We’ve seen Webflow-using businesses like Kisi grow their organic traffic by over 300%, while also supporting thousands of requests per second for businesses like Eventbrite.

In fact, when Eventbrite launched their Amstel Live festival page with Webflow, they received over 10,000 requests a second — resulting in over 3,000,000 page views in just one hour. Webflow hosting was able to handle it without a hitch.

But above all, we believe in our hosting platform so much so that we use it for our own websites, which see hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the globe every day, and have seen nearly perfect performance over the last year.

Mat Vogels

I'm a web creator and Webflow evangelist. Follow me @matvogels.

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