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Process and rules

Just published a blog post on Blimp’s blog.

One of the key strategies to deliver project on time is to make sure your client understands what’s going on. The best way to accomplish this is to establish a simple process that you can explain in a few minutes and then follow it throughout the whole project.

In my freelance experience I developed a very simple strategy that has helped me be more efficient and look professional when meeting with clients.

Processes and rules are boring but they produce happy clients

Blimp’s new blog

The Blimp Blog

 

Just a quick note to let everyone know that today we are launching a brand new blog just for Blimp. If the design looks similar to this one is because the theme is based on elweb’s theme.

Also, we are announcing an extension on Blimp’s beta tester plan offer for 7 more days (until January 9, 2013). The details are on the new blog.

Let us know what you think about the new blog.

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Blimp: project management for doers

Blimp: project management for doers

Today we are happy to announce that Blimp, our project management software is finally open for business. We will be offering our “beta tester plan” until January 1st. The plan offers unlimited projects for $12 a month, you can keep it for as long as you want and cancel anytime. Sign up today to take advantage of this limited time offer.

For those who have not being following the updates on Blimp, here’s the summary.

José Padilla, Elving Rodríguez and I have been working for some time on a project management solution for creative companies. We call our customers doers. People that like to actually work on their craft instead of becoming full time managers.

Our clients have told us that they love coding and designing and even after growing a successful business, they still want some time to actually code and design. We are building a tool that will empower doers to do just that.

We love making things and we like helping others who have a passion for creating. You and I know, that when we started our businesses, we were hoping to change the world in meaningful ways. We didn’t sign up to become Michael Scott.

Everybody knows that good management is essential for any business to succeed, but taking the time to create awesome things is what gives us strength to move forward. Blimp is offering doers a tool and a vision to achieve a balance between doing and managing. A world in which you will have more time to create and actually get a shot to work on leaving a dent in the universe.

We know that the project management software space is filled with great products like Trello, Basecamp and Asana among many others, but they only fix half the problem. They provide awesome tools to help you implement your own workflow. But what happens when you don’t have a workflow? You now have more work, you have to learn how to manage projects and how to implement the different approaches in the app of your choice.

We’ve done the homework, read the books, read the blog posts, watched the videos, talked to people with much more experience than us and most importantly we’ve tested our learnings with our own clients. After trial and error we ended up with a simple to understand workflow that can help doers, manage projects without having to read the 500 page book or having to go to a geeky conference.

We’ve been using this workflow for years and today we are sharing a tool, a process and a vision that will help others take advantage of our learnings.

We believe project management software can do much more than just provide a set of simple tools. Our vision is to help our users with their actual project management. Blimp will help you implement a process that is simple and makes sense, for you and your clients. Blimp will make status meetings obsolete and it will keep you team in sync with no effort. It will make sure your team keeps their status updated. It will always provide fresh and important information about your projects. It will empower you to make your clients happy.

Blimp will become your project manager.

I know that’s a really big statement, but that’s where we are heading. We can clearly see the path to that vision and some pieces of that puzzle are already in place. I know we have a long way to go but it can and it will be done.

Join us in our journey to help doers, do more and manage less.

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This is how we work with clients

I’ve been working on freelance jobs for years. A client calls me and we setup a meeting, discuss what they want me to build and after signing a very short and easy to understand agreement, the project starts. But just before signing that agreement we have the “this is how we work” talk. This has proven to be very helpful. I make sure clients know what to expect and make sure they are satisfied with the level of control we give them during the project.

The method
The key to our method is that we make sure the client can tweak stuff along the course of the project. Every step has at least 2 iterations. After the first iteration or draft round the client comes in, we show them what we have and incorporate any changes.

We also explain the client that anything that does not get revisions or comments from them is automatically approved. This is specially good because it makes clients think very hard and it forces them to be very conscious about the approval process. You see if they approve something it will cost them more to change later. So, they know that if they don’t ask for changes that’s what they are getting at the end. I know this sounds kind of strict but it produces happy clients on the long run, believe it or not.

Once the client has provided comments and revisions for the draft iteration we incorporate those changes into a new version and send it right to the client. This is the final approval stage. The client can make minor tweaks, nothing major and finally approves. Have in mind that the client can always make changes whenever they want. The good thing is that they understand that changing this little process will cost them more and it might mean that we have to delay the project completion date.

The big picture
In order for this method to work we have to split projects in many small goals. The process to complete each of this goals is the one I just explained above. Let me try to make this clear by giving you an example. Let’s say we have to make a website for a corporate client. The first thing we do is split the project into small pieces that we think the client might want to give us feedback on. The process is very straight forward, we do a first draft of something, we show the client, they give feedback, we make recommendations, we improve the work with very clear goals, we show the client again and we are done.

That’s it. That’s how we make stuff for clients. Small units of work with 2 chances for input, comments and changes by the client. If the client requires more than 2 revisions, we charge them more and we’ll need more time to complete the project.

We’ve been using this method with clients of all sizes on many projects. Every time we deliver on time and with a happy client. When the project gets delayed is mostly due to the client changing their mind about what they wanted. When this happens we get to charge more for the project. We have to work very hard to be on time but that’s something we can handle. On the past, client changes of mind drove us crazy and we left a lot of money on the table just because we where not clear about how to go about this situation. Now clients are more engaged during the revision and approval process and we end up with less delayed projects and happier clients.

For some this might seem logical, for others a bit too much but in my experience this is the best way to work with clients. It makes them happy and you are almost always working on what the client wants instead of working on what you think they want.

This works great for us, so we wanted to share it. We are even working on a tool called Blimp to make this process easier to handle and automate. In a future post I will explain a little bit more about that.

If you’re interested in getting notified when we launch Blimp don’t forget to sign up for the beta. We are launching pretty soon.