Aligning client expectations at the beginning of a project is the key to their happiness and yours. Availability and communication expectations are two of the most important to align.
It's important for clients to know when and how they can reach you. It's also important for them to know when they can't.
And it's OK that they can't sometimes. I agree with Jason Fried, CEO of 37Signals, that sometimes work can wait -
If you’ve used a modern chat, collaboration, or messaging app, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a growing expectation of being available all the time. Someone at work hits you up on a Saturday, you get the notification, and what are you supposed to do? You could ignore them, but what’s the expectation? The expectation is “if you’re reachable, you should reply.” And if you don’t reply, you’ll likely notice another message from the same tool or a tool switch to try to reach you another way. And then the pressure really mounts to reply. On a Saturday. Or at 9pm on a Wednesday. Or some other time when it’s life time, not work time.
…We believe Work Can Wait is an important notion. 9pm on Friday night is not work time. 6am on Wednesday morning is not work time. It may be for you, but it’s not for me. And I don’t want it to be work time for my employees either.
(My gratitude to Ian Patrick Hines for pulling out this version of Jason's quote in his post about fostering a healthy work culture in a client services business.)
Here's the template I use to set align my clients' expectations. I send a version of it to each new client I work with, at the start of our first project -
I find it helpful to set availability and communication expectations with new clients and partners. Here are a few notes about my availability and communication style.
I've learned these guidelines enable -
-You to do your work with minimal disruption and distraction, while not having to worry about what you hired me to do
-Me to perform at my best for clients
-A successful collaboration and project delivery
A big reason I freelance is to maintain a healthy work/life balance. I have a strong appreciation for balancing hard work and well-being. This balance enables me to bring sustainable high performance to the work I do.
You can read more about this approach on my blog.
I'm generally available between 9A-5P US ET. I can be available outside of those hours if needed. The more advance notice given, the more likely I can be available outside that window.
I believe in the power of asynchronous communication.
I've also learned it's important to have uninterrupted blocks of work time.
This is why I'm not tied to email or chat/IM at all times. I check email often enough to not miss key messages. I'm on chat/IM when we've scheduled a time to talk, etc.
It's also why I use Asana to manage projects. Using Asana helps us streamline our communications and keep our Inboxes clean! Hopefully most project communication happens in and through Asana.
If you need to get in touch with me right away, please text or call on [my mobile #]. I'll respond as soon as I'm able to.
(Photo credit Galen Crout via Unsplash.)
It's OK for project managers to have a personality. Here are 4 ways to breathe some life into your project manager personal brand.
Figure out what your differentiator is as a project manager.
Mine is that I’m good at fixing broken projects and getting stuck projects unstuck.
What’s yours? What are you particularly good at as a project manager?
Highlight your differentiator in your -
-LinkedIn Profile (here's my LinkedIn profile as an example)
-VisualCV to supplement your LinkedIn profile (here's my VisualCV as an example)
-Clarity expert profile, here's mine as an example
"I specialize in getting projects and their workflows launched, fixed and optimized, even for difficult clients. I've done this for startups, Fortune 500 companies and large federal government agencies, across a wide range of industries. Let's talk if you need help getting your project launched, unstuck or back on track. Think your project can be doing better? Let's talk about how to optimize it."
-Expertise listing on Clarity, here's one of mine as an example
"Is your project stuck? Is it at risk of going over budget and/or missing key deadlines? Is your client about to fire you or are your investors about to pull out since things aren't going anywhere? Let's talk to get your project unstuck, on-track and moving in the right direction."
Keep an eye on the questions people ask on Clarity. Answer the relevant ones.
I blog about being a remote technical project manager in the freelance economy. Don’t worry if your writing’s not great at first.
Don’t let that stop you. It will get better. Read this quote by Ira Glass if you don’t believe me 🙂
Start writing about the project management angles that excite you. I write on my own blog and republish those posts to a collection on Medium. I republish on LinkedIn too. I publish on my blog first, LinkedIn a week later and Medium a week after that.
Write more. Write in places where people who are actually interested in PM hang out, like Quora.
Don’t write about the same old stuff, e.g. What's the best PM tool?. Or, if you do write about the same old stuff, offer a unique perspective. Do this by combining your differentiator with the same old topic.
Let your personality shine through.
Most people think PM’s like us are dry, boring and have no sense of humor.
They think we look like this 🙂
Don’t be one of those guys.
Be one of these guys!
Be yourself, be confident in what you do, be aware of what you do better than most and don’t be afraid to tell people about it!
Oh, and have some FUN along the way!
P.S. - Need some help bringing your project manager personal brand to life? Contact me using this form and I'll help you discover your differentiator.