Lessons learned from going large (part 1)

Luke MysseI’ve been MIA from blogging and a lot of things lately, mainly because I landed a large project at the end of last year that carried into January.

Traditionally, I don’t see myself as a project guy, but 2010 was not a great year numbers-wise. Taking on this project gave me an opportunity to make up some ground on those pesky financial goals of mine.

Now that I’m in the aftermath of a project that I ate, slept and breathed for weeks, I’ve started to reflect on some lessons I learned. Over the course of this week, I’ll share those lessons with you.

Tomorrow I will post the first of my four lessons learned. Here’s what you have to look forward to:

  1. Always make time for process – Everything is a rush but process can help you survive.
  2. One point of contact – This is project 101, but it can be difficult with larger companies.
  3. Know your resets – Don’t fall into bad habits.
  4. Sometimes you have to suck it up – Not every project will be dreamy and sometimes that’s okay.

Stick with me as we relive some of my favorite and not so favorite moments from the last few months.

But before I get started on my own trip down memory lane, I’d like to know this: What was the biggest lesson you learned from a large project?

5 thoughts on “Lessons learned from going large (part 1)

  1. heather parlato

    you forgot to mention that we also get to look forward to your awesome mustache pic every day along with this series!

    the thing i’ve learned on big projects that i’ve gotten to apply to some i’m working on recently is to step up the project manager role early and often. despite the fact that many of these people have assistants, they rarely task them with any point-person-type responsibilities or as a support role to help get things done, so i end up sending a lot more emails checking in and to keep things going. it’s not a role i love, but it makes everything so much easier.

  2. Sheila Hart-O'Connor

    Last year, I worked on a website that I thought I had allotted enough time for in the contract. As I tracked the time I was spending on it, I realized I had underestimated the time and ended up doing about 5-6 additional hours of work. Now, I make sure to track my time so that I’ll have something to go back to when similar project opportunities arise.

  3. Luke Mysse

    Heather you bring up a good point, besides how brilliant my mustache was, I don’t think designers (myself included) realize how much of our time is spent on running traffic…especially on large projects.

    To combat this I’ve started adding a line item to my proposals about how many meetings are allowed etc. It’s not that I always hold clients to that number, but I want to make sure they understand I’m on the clock for meetings.

    I’ve also found that a summarized email approach helps when a lot of email is being fired back and forth. On this particular project I ended up with over 600 emails alone. I made it a habit to wait an hour or so before responding, I would take multiple questions from the client and try to summarize my answers in one email at the end of the day vs treating email like AOL Instant Massager.

    Sheila, even though I don’t charge hourly I do keep track so that I can run periodic reports just to make sure I stay profitable. The more projects you do the better you will get at estimating hours. This particular project I underestimated by about 30 hours. Ouch! I haven’t missed one that bad in a very long time.

    My effective hourly rate is based on a simple equation of Expenses (including my salary) + Profit (every hourly rate should include it) divided by the number hours I want to work each month. Mine happens to be about 20 hours a week billable.

    The above equation gives me my hourly rate. From there I figure out my job costs: __ hours X my rate + Job Costs (anything outsourced) = Basement price (meaning I can’t go any lower than this price without loosing money). Once I have that basement price I price the project out based on the value of what I’m doing which could change depending on client, project type, my mood (ha).

    I love Harvest for time tracking. It’s online so I can access from anywhere including my iPhone. It allows me to put in total hour budgets for projects and keeps track of budget vs actual so I know how much time I still have allocated for a project. I run reports about once a week to see where I’m at.

    I also track things like how much time I spend reading, marketing myself, writing blog posts and talks. Tracking time is a great way to keep things honest.

  4. Jean Feingold

    I learned to remember that large projects end, so it’s important to continue doing my regular small projects at the same time. Some self-marketing while working on the large project makes sense, too.