Tuesday Evening Staff Meeting

I visited five different locations to work today: home, Starbucks, Ashish’s office, Bonhoeffer’s (a local coffee shop), and Sid’s studio (with no Internet). So I’m just getting to the Staff Meeting report.

Current Business

I’m getting close to finishing two of the projects, now that final content is in. What is interesting is that every one of these tiny projects takes many weeks of calendar time to complete, with scattered bursts of activity. I could complain about that, but instead let me just list the criteria that small client projects seem to share, so I can design a process around them:

  • These projects are very “spiky” in terms of activity. When the project starts, there’s a surge of activity. Then, as time goes on, the urgency ebbs as other priorities take over; a new job-related priority springs up, difficulty in finding time, changes in direction. The low-cost website is, perhaps by nature, a non-priority purchase because the amounts involved are small. This leads to rescheduling and delay. It’s difficult to run an efficient creative production engine with that kind of input, so I think I need to design a spiky creative production engine that is modeled after a fast food sushi system in reverse; empty trays float around the track, representing available work units on certain days. The enterprising client needs to load the tray with their work before production begins. The main idea is to make it apparently that there are limited production slots, and that timing and preparedness is required. This would also help even out my own planning; being reactive to client needs that can strike at any time, without a maintenance or retainer structure in place, is tough on scheduling and energy.
  • Clients often don’t have their own project managers. I have not been offering project management beyond what I have on Basecamp, because the least fun thing in the world I can imagine is chasing after other people’s projects when they are not ready to move. It’s not their fault, but it takes time, and that requires money that is not in the budget. To handle this, I might just have to add a project management fee, so people feel they are paying to be managed. Often times, it’s a relief. I may call this a continuity maintenance fee for projects that linger beyond the original date, if the client needs help getting the ducks lined up in a row. This would be very minimum project management, consisting of use of the Basecamp area.
  • Content Quality Assurance is implicitly included in this as well, in areas where the client feels they aren’t expert. This includes supporting content creation, such as photography, logo design, copy writing, marketing, and business strategy. The website often can’t go live until this is done. To identify this as a hangup, I am going to create a website preparedness checklist for clients, with boilerplate copy and links to resources to pound them out. I can also provide custom services at a higher rate.
  • Website Maintenance I’ve talked about. I think I have some solutions in place.

Agenceum Processes

There is enough stuff going on that it’s becoming a significant mental burden. This is the combination of scheduling creative time, sending off status emails, doing the creative and technical work away from distraction, and making sure I’m not forgetting anything. And this is with only a handful of clients. On top of that, there’s the need for R&D and expansion of all the support material for each client. This material is reusable, but it’s a drain on my mental capacity the more I have to switch between clients. Ideally, I handle all clients and projects the same, which means I am feeling the need to establish a methodology.

I spent the past day writing up and distilling what I know about web agency processes into a diagram that will help me contextualize everything I’m doing. I’ll post that next as a separate article.

On Deck This Week

  • Finish integrating Chelsea’s website with new content and photos
  • Convert Chelsea’s Website to CushyCMS or something similar
  • Logo work: Chelsea
  • Logo work: Leo
  • Catch up with stalled projects, get new status update, evaluate need for new support docs and methodologies.
  • Create small website kit, based on a single template.