Three ways to deal with a project going wrong

One of my best friends is an SEO. I’ve always had a vague interest in what makes a web-site work, how to improve your conversions, how to make a page that sells. But it’s never been my focus. I’m much more the technical guy that builds things and leaves it to the others to promote it.

So when I get a new contract, I tend not to worry about that sort of thing.

Until it goes wrong.

What do you do when you’ve done your job as well as you can do but the site you’ve built still fails?

When your client is inexperienced and hasn’t got her marketing plan in place…

When she isn’t set up on Instagram and Pinterest (or whereever is relevant)…

When she doesn’t understand how much work maintaining and updating a site actually is…

I tend to take it personally.

I think “what could I have done differently to make things better for them?” The client may have been paying the money and calling the shots, but to me whole project was a joint venture. In fact, it was my venture.

And when it doesn’t work out, the guilt gets you down, the feelings are hard to take.

As I see it, there are three ways to deal with this:

1) Move on

They brought you in to do the building, the nuts and bolts. Much as you like to help, it’s none of your business what the client does after you go live.

Technically, you’re correct.

But, as I mentioned, it’s not something I’m comfortable with. Maybe it’s different for you, but I want my work to be a success, no matter what.

And there’s a more important point underlying this as well. In this age of outsourcing and competition from across the globe, you need to be able to justify your rates. If your client just wants a technical resource they can probably find one cheaper than you.

2) Get outside help

You’ve done the technical work, but that alone is not enough to make a project a success. They need a marketing strategy. They need a social media plan. A search engine optimisation process. A sales sites needs measurable funnels and A/B testing to optimise those funnels. There are a whole raft of other services needed to make an online project a success.

So refer your client to an agency.

Say “it’s not my speciality, but it these guys'”. Be helpful and you’ll be remembered. And maybe the client will refer you to their friends in the future.

3) Build a business

Your client didn’t want your technical prowess. Your client didn’t want your fantastic test-driven development process. Your client didn’t want your amazing database design.

Your client wanted more sales

You were just a means to an end.

Remember when I talked about the global competition? They can hire technical resource from anywhere in the world.

What they can’t hire is someone to solve their problems. Someone who will sit down, with a coffee, and take the time to understand their business. Someone who will build a plan to take the company forwards.

A true partnership.

You may not be able to deliver it all by yourself. You may know nothing about SEO or sales funnels or design. But instead of referring them, agree an ongoing contract with the client and hire the agency yourself.

Become their trusted partner, their go-to person when dealing with things online.

The client will get the results they want.

You’ll gain a long-term relationship and a fabulous case-study to stick in your portfolio.

And as a bonus, you can distinguish yourself from every other freelancer or contractor out there.