Yesterday we we talked about the reasons that projects get stuck. Today we’re going to look at ways to deal with a stuck project and get it going again.

Figure out where/why it’s stuck

The first step is to figure out why the project is stuck in the first place.

Have you been tracking the project properly?

Have things come up in your personal life (taking family to the hospital unexpectedly) that have kept you from work?

Were you just plain lazy and went outside when you should have been working?

Are you waiting on something from the client?

If you don’t know why it’s stuck then you can’t get it unstuck.

Your fault

In 2013 I had 2 projects that were stuck and totally my fault.

One was due to me not tracking the tasks properly and me being a bit lazy/tired so not getting much done.

The second was due to taking my wife to the hospital and needing to make sure she got some extra rest during some crucial times in her pregnancy.

No matter what reason you have for a project getting off track on your end, own up to it. When my wife was in the hospital I emailed clients about it and said I’d probably be off for a few days. All of them were understanding and said take the time that was needed and that family comes first.

Then when I simply got overwhelmed with all the work that needed to get done and I got a bit lazy. I didn’t dive back in to the projects and have solid task lists like I should have. I put things off.

Either way when I finally owned up to my issues (the sooner you do this the easier it is no matter how hard it feels) my clients were less annoyed.

The big thing I did was own up to it. I said that I got overwhelmed and just didn’t get to things. Then I laid out a clear plan to get the project back on track. I also offered them a full refund if they wanted to find someone else, and they’d get to keep the code.

If you offer that then you better be willing to have actually refund them. In both of my cases I didn’t have to give them a refund, they were happy with the proposed timelines (well as happy as they could be with a project that was off the tracks).

Once we had a new consensus on the timeline for project completion I went into overdrive on communication (at least a daily email updating progress) and built out the proper tasks for us all to see.

I was able to complete both projects by the new timelines and once I got over the fear of talking to the client about my failures the project was fun again.

Client fault

When it’s the clients fault the biggest danger is pissing them off as you try to bring the project back on track. The goal here is to be firm and open, without being a jackass.

Here is some sample copy I’ve used with a client.

Hey $name, hope things are going well

I was taking a look at the project today and currently we are waiting on content for the site. It was due 3 days ago and I’m simply waiting on it to get things going. That means the project hasn’t been moving forward for 3 days in any fashion.

Unfortunately since we’re now 3 days behind it’s highly unlikely that we can launch the site on $originaldate. Our new launch date is going to be $launchdate. If we are going to hit that I need the content by $date. If we miss that then I’ll be booked by other clients and we’ll have to put the project back in my schedule which would mean about a 3 week delay in me working on it at all.

Let me know if there are any questions

I’ve sent a similar email to a number of clients and responses vary. Most clients understand and work overtime to get things back on track. A few clients have been super upset about missing the deadline, and not willing to take responsibility for the project.

I’ve found that those that won’t take responsibility are clients I don’t want to work with anymore anyway so I let them be upset and try to respond clearly about where my expectations on the project were not met. Occasionally I’ve offered a ‘rush’ fee to get the project back on track.

A ‘rush’ fee to get the project back on track is just that, I hit my next deadline once I have the stuff (content in our example above). The fee changes based on how tight the deadline is but it starts at $1500 for a weekend of work and goes up from there.

Out of the few upset clients I’ve only had an even smaller percentage take me up on the rush rates to catch up. Most of those clients are just more upset that I want more money to catch up. With those I don’t budge, the lateness isn’t my fault and I establish at the outset of the project in my initial contract that if we’re late because I’m waiting for things from them the project deadline is affected.

The biggest thing to do now is figure out if you could have avoided the client totally during the client interview process since they are probably not someone you want to work with again.

How have you dealt with projects that are behind? Did I miss a strategy that has worked for you?

Tomorrow we’re going to talk about making sure that your projects don’t get stuck to begin with.

photo credit: drpavloff via photopin cc