The Good vs. Best Project Managers: What Differentiates the Two

In managing different projects, with different people and different outcomes, I’ve noticed that with practice, it’s not too terribly difficult to become a good project manager.

As long as you’re responsive to client needs, effective at managing your team members (if you’re of a larger organization), great at active listening, and an overall decent communicator, you’ll get the project done. Good project managers work hard to maintain client satisfaction, and they make sure there are no loose ends untied.

So why aren’t the good project managers the best? There’s one characteristic I’ve noticed that distinctively separates the two: breaking outside the boundary.Keep Reading

How Project Estimating Can Lead to More Money and Happier Clients

The most highly sought after goals in a freelancer’s work life likely include more money and increased client satisfaction. But oftentimes, these two goals seem at odds — we equate higher client satisfaction to better project quality that doesn’t burden the customer with increased or hidden costs. Unfortunately, this leads to less money for us, and frankly, that sucks.

So how do we make more money and deliver a better project experience and keep our clients happy?

Simple. It all starts with the very first phase of your project — before any serious work actually begins. I’m talking about the preliminary project estimations you do (well, hopefully you do) before starting client work.

I consider this one of the most essential stages of a project, if not the most important. Why? Because it’s at this stage where not only do you discover the client’s needs, but you also have the opportunity to provide an honest assessment of the project, including its costs, resources, time commitments, and whether or not you actually want to take it on. After this stage, you’re pretty much locked into the project, and changing even the most minor aspects could prove dangerous to your relationship with the client.Keep Reading

Spotting Problem Projects: Read Between the Lines

I recently ran across a Craigslist post requesting web design and development work. Requests posted on Craigslist are often not even worth eyeing, but this caught my attention for the obvious reasons: it was so badly reeking of everything you should avoid in a new project.

In fact, I found the request so horrendous that I wanted to run through and analyze each phrase and word that stuck out as a red flag.Keep Reading

8 Provisions Your Web Design Contracts Must Have

Anyone serious about web design understands the essential role contracts play in the process. A contract is a legal document binding two parties to a trade, and it can carry heavy weight should a dispute arise. Unfortunately, not every project goes well — despite your best efforts — and there may come a time when the enforcement of a contract is necessary. It’s at that point you’ll thank yourself for having gone through the trouble of creating a sound legal document, and in the end, it’ll probably end up saving you time and money.

I’ve come across all sorts of contracts in my experience. Some are the size of books and others are mere one-pagers. I’ve seen ambiguous contracts and I’ve seen rock solid contracts.

Having a poor contract is almost as bad as having no contract, so I’ve compiled a short list of the most essential provisions you must consider adding to your contract template.Keep Reading

Project Management Should Not Be Written in Stone

Finding something that works — whether it is a process, methodology, or system — can be a defining moment. It means we have succeeded in our hard work to develop an approach that is in alignment with our core beliefs. If the quality of outputs increases because of a tried-and-true process, who wouldn’t be happy?

But project management doesn’t stop there. Never settle for what seems to work. Instead, pat yourself on the back, and then get back to work at refining.

Good project management processes, methodologies, and systems maintain an expected level of quality, but the excellent ones — the ones no one can match — continually strive for new levels of quality.

Achieving excellence is obviously no easy feat, but the path is there, and the only way to begin traveling down that path is by adapting what I call the three pillars of learning.Keep Reading

Fixing the Non-Updating FeedBurner Issue Once and For All

A month back, I ran into a continuous issue of FeedBurner refusing to update feeds for a couple of my blogs. No amount of pinging or feed resyncing would solve the problem, and endless Google searches proved futile. After finally stumbling across a fix, I think I have this issue solved.

So, if you’re having issues with FeedBurner not updating, I recommend these actions:

  1. Use the FeedBurner FeedSmith plugin (you have to download it from Google).
  2. Remove any 301 redirects you may have setup in your .htaccess file for the feed.
  3. If you have a caching plugin installed, make sure it’s not caching the feed or the feed path (/feed/).
  4. Once done, go into FeedBurner and ping and then resync it.

This has worked for me in every case — hope it works for you, too!

Oh yeah — just a little reminder — if you haven’t seen the previous updates from this blog, I’ve moved all of my project management related postings to a new blog at The Project Web ( — please check it out and make sure you update your RSS subscription.

Running More Effective Project Meetings

People always cringe when a meeting request hits their inbox, especially web designers and project managers. To us, meetings are boring and endless, taking far too much of our time. Perhaps that’s an overstatement, but the fact remains: meetings can be tedious. But what if our meetings with clients and project stakeholders weren’t tedious? What if after every meeting you walked away knowing you accomplished something important that will push the project forward?

I’ve been running meetings with a variety of clients on a variety of subjects, and through these experiences, I’ve compiled a list of my own tactics that I employ to ensure meetings are efficient, valuable to everyone, and on point.Keep Reading

5 Questions a Project Manager Should Always Have Ready

Feedback is essential to any project that has stakeholders. Feedback communicates desires, requirements, ideas, emotions, and a whole load of other useful insight that will help your web project achieve its goals. There are multiple ways to gather feedback, and one of the best tools to equip yourself with is fairly standard: a good question.

Good questions, by my definition and as it relates to a web project, have three common aspects. First, a good question is open and does not lead the respondent into an answer. Second, good questions are revealing – they unravel information that otherwise would never have been known to you. And finally, a good question is conducive to active listening. In other words, the question you ask contains the right amount and mixture of substance to enable you to ask further questions and to relate back to the one answering, thus engaging you in the process and showing the respondent that you’re listening.

Here’s a sampling of five simple questions that you should have prepared at all times during a project.Keep Reading

Preventing Design Redirection in the Middle of Projects

Web design is a very subjective field where changing tastes and expectations can strip the gears of a project and cause you – the designer or project manager – a whole heap of annoyance. If you’ve ever been faced with a client, who after approving a design, decides to change direction, you know what I’m talking about.

For web designers and developers, and especially project managers, this is a tough nut to crack. We work hard to create a design that not only gains the acceptance of the client, but also works for the target audiences and true users of the site. Oftentimes, in the midst of the project’s final stages, clients may desire to change a color or adjust the header or request alterations to the layout of content. This is a time consuming barrier to finishing the project, and frankly, many clients don’t know what they’re talking about.

Nevertheless, design redirection occurs, and we live with it, pushing on to find the light at the end of the tunnel. What we can do, however, is manage projects in a way that prevents and reduces the potential for design changes further down the road.Keep Reading

When a Client Hates Your Work

I recently recorded a podcast that delved into the topic of difficult clients. Among the criteria I included to qualify a client as being difficult, I highlighted those who are overly critical of your work. However, I prefaced that criterion with the stipulation that the client must consistently hate ALL of your work.

Now, what do you do if a client doesn’t seem critical or difficult, and they truly do want to work with you, but they just don’t like your work?

It’s a tough question. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some clients on multiple projects where they approve nearly all my outputs except for that one outlier project in which nothing seems to look right in their eyes. So good clients–those who are fun to work with–can get stuck in a hate-everything mode, and unfortunately, the project will suffer as will your relationship with the client when communication becomes strained.Keep Reading