Category: project management

How to turn ideas into projects

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We all have ideas that we want to turn into something real. It might be a book or website, or a new product, or a fully functioning business. For example, I wrote and self-published How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground. The idea for the book sat in the back of my mind for years until I decided to put my thoughts on the page, and then into book form.

Too often we let those ideas remain inside our head until they fizzle and wither into the depths of our memory. However, there are some steps you can take to get on the path toward turning those ideas into something real (as I learned from Charles Gilkey’s book The Start Finishing Action Guide).

  1. Start with the end in mind, why it matters and who will care about (or benefit from) the realization of your idea. Determine why the project matters, and identify its main purpose.
  2. Avoid getting stuck on just the idea. List everything that has to be done to turn the idea into a project. Turn each item into a process.
  3. Sequence your projects to create a roadmap. Identify when to start and finish each part of the project. Use mind mapping to organize your ideas.
  4. Celebrate after completing a project. Debrief by determining what went well and what did not work.

I think the second step is vital. Writing down what needs to be done will help you get closer to turning your idea into a real project, and giving it life. Putting ideas on paper, and getting them out of your head, will make those ideas more concrete. It will also help to understand the steps needed to get to your goal.

How do you go about turning your ideas into real projects? Let me know –

David Gargaro

Instructions are worth the effort

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I occasionally get requests to edit copy decks (the original manuscript) and the final layout (websites, brochures, etc.). In most cases, the client wants me to ensure that the content in the copy deck is the same in the final layout. On occasion, a designer will input an error or something will get missed from transferring the copy deck to the final layout. There are times, though, when the client wants me to do the opposite because the copy deck is an older version and they want to update it based on what is now in the final layout (not sure why, but that’s their business).

Sometimes, the client does not clearly explain exactly what they want and somehow assume that I know what they want. This is where one can appreciate the value of instructions. Had the client taken the time to write a few simple instructions, it would have saved time in going back and forth via email to determine what is required. It would also prevent me from doing unnecessary work, which is coming out of their budget.

Of course, when a project is not clear, it is up to me as the service provider to determine exactly what they want before I start doing any work. When work is assigned during a phone call, I can ask questions and determine exactly what the  client wants me to do. It’s a bit more time consuming when work is assigned via email, and instructions are lacking or unclear. In this case, I have to either call or reply with questions.

Take the time to explain what you want, clearly and briefly, before a project begins. Instructions are worth the time and effort because the payback is worth more than the investment.

David Gargaro

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Stay on top of your projects

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Most of my projects involve emailing documents back to my client when I’m done, and then sending an invoice. I’ve done this a number of times without a problem.

However, one time, I sent a document back via email, with no apparent problems from my end. The next day, my client asked when I was sending the files. I replied that I sent them as scheduled, and then re-sent them to make sure. She still had not received them. I tried several options – breaking the project into smaller emails, and sending them to another contact. It turned out that my emails ended up in the junk folder, which she never checks. Everything was resolved and we moved forward.

I thought everything was great. The client thought that I was late. Had I followed up with a separate email or phone call, this would not have happened. That might be overkill, but it is one example of good project management. Stay on top of your projects or set up a system of receipt requests and follow-up emails.

How do you stay on top of your projects, and make sure that everything is good on the client’s end? Let me know –

David Gargaro

Five steps to more effective project management

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Most freelancers and self-employed professionals have to manage their own projects and schedules. Some use software, others use calendars, and some just fly by the seat of their pants. But they can all benefit from simple strategies on making the process more efficient and effective.

The following tips can help you to more effectively manage your projects, and spend more time on doing the work than trying to figure out when projects are due and what to do next.

Define your deliverables

Describe the following details of your project:

  • What is being delivered?
  • When is it due?
  • How will you deliver it?
  • How and when will you be paid?

Define the project requirements 

Establish what is involved, how many revisions are allowed, and what you will charge for work beyond the outline.

Set your deadlines

Establish dates for when project elements are due. Set intermediate deadlines and goals to make sure that you are on track along the way.

Track your progress

Keep track of how long different tasks take to complete. Ensure that you are meeting estimates, or revise estimates to match reality.

Evaluate your results

Examine what worked and what did not during the project. Find ways to improve when problems or issues arise, and learn from what you did well.

How do you manage your projects? Do you have any tips that you’d like to share? Let me know –

David Gargaro