Effective client project management: 6 essential tips and tricks

Ryan Forsythe, Content Marketing Specialist, Moxo

What’s a client project?

A client project is a venture that a business undertakes for a customer or client with the goal of delivering a specific outcome. It requires careful planning and management to ensure that the project is completed within budget, on time, and to the client's satisfaction. Effective management of a client project involves various elements such as scheduling, establishing clear communication channels, managing stakeholders, and defining project objectives.

Projects can take many different forms, depending on the nature of the work required and the needs of the client. These might include things like marketing campaigns, software development, event planning, or even creative design work. Essentially, any time a professional is hired to provide a service or complete a task for a particular client or customer, they are engaging in a client project. Project managers must have a thorough understanding of the client's needs and goals to be able to deliver accordingly. In addition, managing expectations and establishing a solid working relationship with the client is crucial. A well-executed client project can lead to repeat business, referrals, and an enhanced reputation.

The 4 stages of client project management

Project management typically consists of four distinct stages that can be applied to both client-facing and internal projects. This phase framework consists of:

Stage 1: Initiation

The start of a project is crucial for setting expectations, establishing a budget, creating a project schedule, and defining what needs to be delivered. To do this well, gather thorough data from your team and client, as it forms the foundation for success.

Even though it may be tempting to start planning right away, it's important to first have a clear understanding of the project's scope and make sure it aligns the vision. Managing client expectations can be tough, especially when they don't fully know what they want or struggle to explain it clearly. As a project manager, it's critical to navigate these early stages carefully and make sure you collect clear and precise requirements before moving forward.

During this phase, it's common to create a project charter, which is a concise document that outlines the key details of the project without overwhelming everyone with too much information.

Stage 2: Planning

Greater Clarity through Planning

The planning phase arises from and often overlaps with the initiation phase. During this stage, project managers further develop the details gathered in the initiation phase, transforming them into structured, easy-to-understand documents. A crucial part of this process is drafting the Statement of Work (SOW), which offers a more comprehensive perspective than the project charter and addresses the specifics.

Crafting a Comprehensive Project Schedule

With a refined understanding of the project, a project manager's key responsibility during the planning phase is to create a detailed project schedule. To maximize organization and collaboration, it's wise to utilize client project management software. This will help to establish deadlines, milestones, and timeframes for a smooth workflow.

Addressing Unique Client Requirements

When planning client projects, it's vital to consider each client's distinctive needs, especially for tasks that involve them directly. To accomplish this, pose these essential questions:

  1. When will the client review and approve elements throughout the process?  
  2. What deliverables does the client need to provide before work can commence?  
  3. Who should be the primary point of contact within the client's organization?  
  4. What is a reasonable expectation for the turnaround time of client tasks?

Securing Client Commitment

Obtaining client commitment to meet agreed-upon deadlines and timeframes is crucial for successful project execution. This may involve setting expectations, signing contracts, or establishing penalties for missed deadlines.

Key Milestones and Deliverables

In addition to defining the project schedule and ensuring client commitment, it's essential to break up the project into smaller, manageable parts. Establish key milestones, which represent the completion of significant tasks, and deliverables, ensuring each component of the project is thoroughly accounted for.

Effectively planning a client project requires clear communication, organization, and adaptability. By considering clients' unique demands and ensuring commitment, the project manager can construct a workable project schedule. Segmenting the project into milestones and deliverables also helps simplify execution and tracking, ultimately leading to a smooth, successful client project.

Stage 3: Execution

The execution stage of a client project can be both exciting and overwhelming for project managers. Effective execution requires a combination of careful planning, clear communication, and a willingness to adapt as circumstances change. Project managers must ensure that all team members are aware of their roles and responsibilities and are equipped with the resources they need to deliver high-quality work. They must also be prepared to handle unexpected challenges that may arise during the execution phase. By staying focused on the client's goals and maintaining open lines of communication, project managers can help ensure a successful outcome for the client project.

Stage 4: Closure

As client projects come to an end, it is important to ensure a smooth closure and off-boarding process. Project managers play a crucial role in ensuring that all loose ends are tied up and that the client feels satisfied with the outcome. This stage is an opportunity for project managers to highlight the successes of the project, address any concerns or areas for improvement, and ultimately, maintain a positive relationship with the client. Effective communication, attention to detail, and a willingness to go above and beyond the scope of work can make all the difference during this final stage of the client project. By handling the closure and off-boarding process with care, project managers can not only ensure the success of their current project but also increase their chances of attracting future business from that client.

6 tips and tricks for effective client project management

Here are six proven strategies you can employ to enhance your efforts and achieve better outcomes throughout all phases of client projects.

Tip #1: Implement effective project management tools

Manage projects effectively with the right tools. Whether your projects are simple or complex, keeping track of all the details is crucial. Trying to do it manually with spreadsheets is a recipe for trouble. Even if you're not failing outright, it's a resource burden to handle research, tasks, notifications, and reports that could easily be automated.

A project management platform is a necessity, but not all platforms are equally suited to managing customer projects. Moxo is designed specifically for organizations that need to manage projects with external stakeholders. Map out your project workflows using actions such as forms, file requests, tasks, approvals, acknowledgements, meeting scheduling and more including third-party objects.

Tip #2: Cultivate an environment of open feedback with your clients

Create a culture of open communication with your clients. It's common for clients to be unsure about how to provide feedback, especially if they haven't worked with your business before. This hesitancy can make it difficult to receive honest thoughts about your service. However, obtaining their genuine feedback is essential for customizing your services to meet their needs. To overcome this challenge, it's crucial to establish from the start that you welcome feedback and understand its importance in improving the end results.

Tip #3: Transparency regarding the scope is crucial

The challenge of client scope creep is a common problem in project management. Service providers often struggle with lack of transparency, making it difficult to address this issue effectively. Many organizations try to accommodate scope creep to please clients, but this strategy usually leads to negative outcomes in the end. Financial losses, delayed deliverables, and unsatisfactory work are the unfortunate consequences of this approach.

Instead, it is crucial to be open and honest with your client regarding the scope. When they request a change to the scope, clearly communicate the necessary adjustments, be it additional time, increased cost, or both. The project management triangle (balancing time, scope, and cost) is inevitable, so addressing it early on is highly recommended.

Scope creep and other detrimental encounters with the project management triangle are pervasive across industries. According to a report by Wellingtone, nearly half of organizations (47%) claim a track record of success, implying that more than half of organizations fall short of this achievement.

Tip #4: Establish practical and achievable objectives

When setting up client projects, it is crucial to ensure that the goals remain within the realm of feasibility. Additionally, while evaluating what is realistic and achievable, it is important to consider the unpredictable factor: Clients may introduce delays, indecision, or imprecise communication that can impact the true feasibility and attainability of the project.

Tip #5: Ensure adherence to deadlines and milestones

Once you have diligently established realistic goals, it is paramount to remain committed to them. Meeting deadlines and achieving milestones not only ensures client satisfaction but also portrays you as a reliable and trustworthy partner.

Tip #6: Value your clients' time and prioritize their needs

Recognize that your clients have chosen to work with you to streamline their workload and bring their ideas to life. While they want to be in the loop, they don't want to waste time or feel the need to oversee every detail.

Streamline client projects with Moxo for enhanced project management

Effective client project management plays a vital role in fostering long-term client success, a goal that agencies constantly pursue. At the heart of enhancing your project management efforts is the need for a superior project management tool. By prioritizing client relationships and utilizing the right tools, agencies can achieve their objectives with finesse and expertise.

Enhance your customer, vendor, and partner interactions with Moxo, the ultimate platform tailored for external projects. Designed specifically for creative professionals collaborating with clients on a wide range of projects, from simple to intricate, Moxo stands out from the competition with its exceptional features, user-friendly interface, and client-centric functionality.

  • Set up your workspace: Organize your project by utilizing a range of actions such as forms, file requests, tasks, approvals, acknowledgments, meeting scheduling, and even integrating third-party objects. Streamline your workflow by creating templates for your frequently recurring projects.
  • Collaborate seamlessly: Engage and collaborate with ease throughout the project using secure messaging, virtual meetings, and file sharing with the ability to add annotations. Minimize the clutter of project-related emails.
  • Comprehensive project visibility: Gain a holistic view of your projects, allowing you to track progress at a glance. Dive deeper into specific key performance indicators (KPIs) such as completion rate and average duration, segmented by team or account manager.

Streamline your workflow and elevate your project management experience with Moxo.