Keeping Track of What You Learn From Your Clients
As a freelancer, do you ever stop and write down what you learned from a project as it closes? What made working on that effort awesome? What do you want to make sure you never have to deal with again?
Project managers often (but not always!) include a “lessons learned” exercise at the conclusion of a project. Agile fans might call this a Retrospective. Cybersecurity professionals often end an incident response with an After-Action Report. Regardless of what it’s called, the purpose is to capture what they’ve learned to improve their efforts the next time. Put that way, how can a freelancer not do this when it comes to their contracts?
Fortunately, no one ever has to see your records but you. This is probably a good thing if you’ve had some, shall we say, ‘character-building’ clients. While noting something like “Client X was as organized as a bunch of weasels on crack” might be very meaningful to you, it’s not exactly ready for public consumption. Still, it serves a purpose. When you are in a dialogue with a potential new client, making sure you understand how they are organized or how they expect you to help them get organized is obviously something you’ll want to remember to do.
Or, let’s say you had some assumptions about how a group would handle consensus. You may or may not have control over that if you are in a supporting role for your contract, but if you find this was a pain point for you, write that down. I often find assigning the old Dungeon and Dragons classifications to a project’s structure and scope to be both personally amusing and meaningful. “Lawful evil project chair” tells me the chair created order and destroyed dissenting opinions, which is not my idea of a good time. That said, a “Chaotic neutral client” tells me the client listened to everyone, but probably decisions weren’t so much a thing.
When you develop a proposal, this list can help you frame what you’re willing (and not willing) to have in scope . It’s all up for negotiation, of course, but you can make your expectations clear and up for discussion in advance. Keep your list of what works for you and what doesn’t in mind as you look for new clients; stress is easier to manage if what happens during a contract is what you expect and not something that goes in an entirely different direction.