The Three-Deadline Rule for Requesting Client Feedback

I’ve worked with a loooootttttttttt of kick ass writing clients over the years, and you know what’s always the hardest part?

Never the writing.
Always the logistics.

If you do any kind of creative work, at some point you will need to request client feedback before you can move onto the next stage. Maybe you need an opinion; maybe you need more information; maybe you want to get a gut check before moving forward. (I actually really like this part of the collaborative process because seeing a piece of work come to life is almost like MAKING BABIES WITH YOUR CLIENTS and since it's the closest I'll probably ever get to becoming a mother I'm not gonna lie, I totally love it.)

However, logistics are (really really really) not my strong suit. I’m an ideas person; a big thinker; a creative, and that means that I tend to be horrrrible when it comes to keeping other people organized and checking in and following up and doing all of the really important stuff that needs to be done to execute a project successfully.

Over the years, I learned two things:

a) Hiring a project manager will SAVE YOUR LIFE.
For example, Elizabeth is currently coordinating with all of our London clients, keeping everyone on track, and managing my deadlines and theirs. Because creative work is tricky; sometimes it takes longer than you expect, in order to really knock it out of the park, and sometimes it takes less time than you expect, but either way, it’s helpful to have someone managing all of the moving parts. To that effect, the second thing I’ve learned is even more helpful:

It’s not enough to shoot out an email and ask a client what they think. Why? Because everybody’s busy. Everybody’s got lives. Everybody’s got stuff going on, and that means that sometimes things fall by the wayside and sometimes it can take longer than you thought to get the answers you need to move forward. (Which can be tricky if things get pushed back and everything gets delayed.) That’s why I’ve made it a policy to follow THE THREE DEADLINE RULE for requesting feedback:

Deadline #1: Tell the client when their feedback is due.
Deadline #2: Check to see if they sent their feedback by the due date.
Deadline #3: Review their feedback to see if you understand everything they want/need, before you start working again.

These are all internal deadlines, meaning they are deadlines those that me and the team have on our calendar for each project. And every single one of ‘em is mission critical. The first deadline will help the project stay on track. The second deadline is an insurance policy in case the client forgets—this is realllllly important, because otherwise you’ll sit down to work on their project during their block of time, and realize you don’t have what you need to continue. (Which means further delay and befuddled discombobulation.) And the third deadline is important because not everything’s going to be crystal clear, and sometimes you might need further clarification before you can sit down and do the work.

The end goal: being able to sit down, during a client’s block of time, and dive into the creative work—without getting bogged down with all of these logistical details. Because then what ends up happening is, those two hours you had set aside to work on another page of copy, say, now become two hours sorting through things you thought you had, but didn’t, trying to figure it out on your own, and ultimately emailing the client, anyway—and then delaying the project another few days until you can get it all together.

And that ain’t good for anybody, because guess what?

Time is SANITY, baby.

And the smoother you can run your projects, the more of that blissful, wonderful shit you’ll have.



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