A while back I wrote about figuring out when you’re ready to work with a developer. There was a section in that post about having a clear project process. When it comes to project processes, timelines are a big part of it.
Having your timeline down and accurately scheduled will allow you to book clients in advance and do so accurately. Even though it’s not something you can sit down and do right at this moment, with a little bit of time and review, you can build an estimated project timeline to help you with booking out your calendar.
Now, it’s important to note that your project timeline will not be the same for every project. Sometimes things just flow more freely or you’ll have a client who approves the first draft of everything, rather than using every available round of revisions, but it’s worth taking the time to have a clear picture of how long your projects usually take.
To help, let’s go over how to get clear on your web design project timeline!
step 1: write out your process
Take a few minutes to think about the process you currently use for your web design projects. If you have this process written out somewhere or saved as a template in Asana or Trello, grab that for reference.
Write out each of your higher-level tasks and be sure to include things like: send a questionnaire and wait for response, review questionnaire, send Pinterest board homework and wait for a response, create moodboard, etc. Think of each step included with your client projects.
step 2: note how long those tasks take
Go back through each line item and note how long each listed usually takes. If you use a time tracking app like Toggl, reference those numbers as well for your estimates (more on that later).
It’s up to you if you want to list it all out in hours, days or weeks. I usually do days when I complete this exercise myself.
step 3: consider your most recent projects
Think back to your last few projects and review how long each step actually took. It can help you make adjustments where you need to. By reviewing your recent projects you can get a good idea, but remember that it’s still not perfect.
step 4: add some wiggle room
As a rule of thumb, always add room for parts of projects that may end up falling behind. Whether it’s because your client was late providing feedback, or you struggled to come up with the perfect logo concept, or someone got sick – it’s better to be safe than sorry!
With each line item in your project timeline, add extra time. For example, you may want to add 1-2 days of extra time whenever you’re waiting for client feedback.
Another benefit of adding extra time to your projects is that it gives you the opportunity to under-promise and over-deliver to your client if you end up wrapping up an item early.
step 5: track your time during your next couple of projects
Download a time tracking app and make sure to use it. After you’ve timed yourself for a few projects, you can use this data to make adjustments in your project timeline template as needed.
Timing your work will always be an ongoing part of creating an accurate timeline, so no matter what project, get into the habit of turning on that timer. Plus, your project process and your skills will always be changing, so don’t be afraid to adjust your timeline at any time.
While there isn’t a magic or simple answer when it comes to project timelines, these tips can get you to where you need to be. Having an accurate project timeline to provide a client is especially important if you want to give your clients a set launch date! It’s also extremely helpful when you’re working with someone like a developer or SEO specialist within your projects. If you start tracking that time now, you’ll get your project timeline refined in no time!