I’m over it.

Luke MysseEver have one of those projects that takes forever? Not because you’re not motivated, but for whatever reason the client is dragging his or her feet or has just vanished. We’ve all been there.

This situation presents some interesting issues. First is that you’re unable to beat your chest and say it’s done, unable to show half-finished work in your portfolio, unable to check it off that to-do list. Second is that ever important final invoice. We aren’t doing this for fun (well, some of us are). In the end, we need to finish work so we can ship the product and send the bill. So what can you do with that slow as molasses client?

1. Test the relationship.
It might be time to see what the relationship is made of. Can you be frank with this person and let them know where things stand on the project? I’ve found that in most cases, I’m scared to bring it up. I let them drag because I don’t want to enforce the rules, and that does me no good. Time to have that tough conversation and test the relationship.

2. Provide options.
We all know why web projects stall out. That’s right. Let’s say it together now, “waiting for content.” If the project has come to a halt because of a client-assigned task, such as copywriting, offer a solution. Connect your client with a writer that can get things moving again. What is the client waiting for? Can you offer a solution?

3. Set a deadline with consequences.
Talk to your client. And not in the “I need you to get back to me still” sort of way. Instead talk specifically about the problem and consequences. Say something like, “Seems like we’ve come to a standstill on the website project. I’m looking to check some things off my list this week. Can we wrap this up by Thursday next week? I’m going to need to bill for the final balance.” When you talk specifics, you often see results.

4. Rehash your terms for the next time.
A good contract or proposal should answer the question, “What happens if this project is canceled or delayed by the client?” I’ve found it helpful to break down larger projects into phases in both description and billing practices. For example, I may outline: 1/3 billed at signing, 1/3 billed at presentation of creative, and 1/3 due at completion. I describe what is due or what is expected of the client for each phase. For example, client must sign off on wireframes in order to proceed to phase two. You can also base your billing on scheduled dates versus project phases, which has been a very effective solution for some creatives I know.

So, how do you get a stalled project moving again? What jump-starting strategies have succeeded for you or any that have failed?

BTW: There is an active discussion on this topic in the Creative Freelancer LinkedIn Group as well. (See link above in the right margin).