Your client wants to be kept in the loop with what you are doing. Period. Nobody who is exchanging money for professional services feels comfortable being left in the dark by whoever is providing a service. This is true for lawyers, general contractors, and yes, web developers. As a web developer, perhaps your communication isn't as imperative as that of a lawyer, but you should treat it like it is.
I generally have three primary goals when providing a project update to a client:
- Share the progress that I have made on the project since the last update
- Share what my next priority is following this update
Covering these two items in a project update will allow you to reflect on the progress you have made on a project and look to the future for what you plan to do next. Most clients want at least this amount of information communicated with them regularly.
You might also provide context-specific updates depending on the preference of your client, or the project you are working on:
- How you are pacing to meet a deadline
- Un-billed hours that you have accrued
- Circling back on issues that might have arisen in the past related to the project (are they resolved, what do you need to resolve them, etc.)
- Anything that is blocking you from making progress
Ultimately, you will be the best judge of what to include in a project update to your client because you are the one who is interacting with them and working on the project. Use the ideas above as a jumping-off point when thinking about what you want to include in your project updates.
The title of this article includes "regular project updates," but how regular is "regular"? The answer to this will change depending on the client and the project.
I default to providing project updates to my clients at least once per week at the beginning of the week. While once per week is my default, I always ask clients what cadence they prefer for updates. Some clients like to be updated more frequently than others, so understanding what makes a client feel comfortable allows you to tailor updates to meet their needs.
The format I use for providing a weekly update usually looks something like this:
Hello [stakeholder name],
I hope you had a great weekend! Here is my update for the week of DD/MM/YYYY:
What I accomplished last week
[describe what I accomplished in the last week]
My priorities for this week
[describe my priorities for the project this week]
[Pacing for deadlines, unresolved issues, billing, etc.]
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Here is how I might ask a client what their preferred frequency for communication is:
Hi [stakeholder name],
I'm reaching out to see if you have a specific cadence for how frequently I provide updates for [project name]? I default to providing weekly updates, but please let me know if there is a different frequency that you prefer.
You can provide updates using whatever medium you and your client use to communicate. I usually send updates via email, but tools such as Asana and Slack (or countless others) are also suitable for providing updates to your client.
The important thing is not what you use to provide an update, but rather, that your client is seeing your update. Providing project updates to your client will do you and your client no good if left unseen. If you can't decide the best way to provide an update to your client, just ask!
It can never hurt to ask your client what they prefer. Asking shows that you care, and allows you to tailor your updates to the client.
Providing regular project updates to your client is something that you need to do regularly. Providing updates can help build trust between you and your client, hold you accountable for what you are responsible for, and provide transparency to your client on how a project is progressing.
Also, remember that the frequency that you provide updates, what you include in your updates, and how you deliver an update are all context-dependent. What works for one client might not work for another client, so you must ask the client yourself to answer each of these questions.
How do you approach project updates with your clients? Do you have a frequency, format, or approach that you prefer to use? Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts; I would love to hear what you all think.