August 2019 Freelancer Meetup Notes

1 Aug 2019, 10AM | Good Shepherd Center – Wallingford

Planned Topic: Freelancers – Client Relations
Actual Discussion: since 4 attendees were new to the group and to having a business we mostly covered business models and all things related to getting started as a freelancer

Hosts: Sheila, Patty, Vanessa | Attendees: Sam, Nate, Austin, Connie

TO DOs

First things first

Overview of Seattle WP Group & code of conduct & Introductions

Challenges & Questions

What is a good way to structure bids, pricing, estimates for freelance work?

What’s the best way to set expectations w/ customers without over-promising or under-delivering?

  • Ensure there is a clear vision of what the customer wants to do and what the goal is. This should happen during customer intake & requirements gathering.

What’s the best way to work with / subcontract other freelancers for aspects of site design & launch that you don’t have?

  • Example: I’m a coder but not a designer.
  • Patty suggests her method is to work together with the customer & other freelancer during the bidding phase, then bill & invoice the customer separately.
  • Vanessa suggests that she gets subcontracted from other creative agencies, so her main customer is usually an agency and she will bill the agency.
  • Sheila suggests her approach is more of managed hosting, so she will charge the customer for everything, then subcontract / farm out gigs to other folks in the Seattle WP community when/if needed.
  • Caution: using other freelancer marketplace sites like fiver or upwork will have mixed results. The strong recommendation is to work with folks you know or leverage the Seattle WP community. If using another freelancer site like Fiver, etc make sure you review the other freelancer’s portfolio before working with them.

What’s a good way to build out portfolio as a new freelancer?

  • A good resource for finding gigs / networking is the wpseattle.org slack channel #gigs
  • There are many pro-bono opportunities & tools for finding these: catchafire.org
  • Sheila can hook you up with pro-bono work for this purpose too.

What are some tools to use during the requirements gathering & estimation phase?

  • A good tool for pricing out gigs or estimating work is NuSchool: https://thenuschool.com/how-much/#/start
  • Vanessa suggests that you practice strict time-tracking methods and always record the number of hours you spent working on specific aspects of the projects. This will help you calibrate your estimates over time. Here is a scoping template (to edit make a copy to your personal drive). Edit to fit the project you are scoping.
  • Sheila suggests that you always keep in mind the triple constraint of “price vs quality vs speed’ or ‘budget vs scope vs schedule’. You can usually have two but not all three so what can be sacrificed?
  • Work with the customer to define what high-level goals the site will be using a template like this one:
    • Basic Info Needed To Capture An Idea

    • What is it? What it is in 3 sentences exactly, stated in layman’s terms. This is the ‘elevator pitch’ version of the feature, and it should take about 15-20 seconds to state out loud to a person who doesn’t have intimate knowledge of the product or website.
    • Why does it? Why we should do it in 3 sentences exactly, on a value basis. Use comparisons with other features/products/features. Use other expressions of ‘Why’ while avoiding the $ or time spent, because that goes into the next section.
    • Benefit & Value: Why is it a good idea? It should be expressed in terms of ‘WHO / BENEFITS / HOW MUCH / DOLLAR VALUE / TIME SAVINGS or EFFICIENCY VALUE’
    • Who benefits? Fill in or delete the below example personas, or add new persona if needed.
      • PERSONA site visitor: What’s the benefit for someone visiting the site?
      • PERSONA site owner: What’s the benefit for someone who is maintaining the site?
      • PERSONA site contributor: What’s the benefit for someone who contributes to the site (like writing blog posts, updating the membership database, or scheduling events in the calendar?)
    • Definition of done: include what the ultimate goal is. This should basically be the same as the Benefit & Value but restated in terms of actionable tests or things that need to be validated to get to ‘DONE’. Nothing more or less will be accepted as ‘done’ when the project is completed.
    • Measurement: How would the benefit be measured? How do we know the efficacy? Can we measure the value if we implemented it? How would we measure it? This can be suggested using simple IF / THEN statements.
      • IF: If we do this,
      • THEN: Then this will be the result

How do you handle customers that have strong opinions about aspects of the site design or UX?

  • One approach: use UX research studies from sites like Nielsen Norman Group https://www.nngroup.com/reports/
  • Another approach: leverage your professional experience over your personal opinion.

What are some good tools for gauging or measuring UX performance?

  • Heatmap tracking: crazyegg.com and hotjar.com are good for finding out which pages & links are used most commonly by end-users. This requires registering for an account and putting a code snippet on the WP site to work.
  • Page analytics: Google Analytics will show you the most viewed pages on the website, user flows and much, much more. Requires Google account & code snippet on the WP site to work.

What are the challenges of inheriting an old, crusty site and fixing up an old site vs creating a whole new site?

  • Patty suggests that figuring out how the old site works and estimating/pricing the gig is much harder when you are inheriting an old site.
  • Consider: sometimes it might be easier (faster) to create a whole new site instead of fixing up an old site.

What kinds of information do you leave-behind for the customer after the project is finished?

  • In a managed hosting model, you shouldn’t leave behind too much technical detail for the customer. Instead, focus on training the customer on how to use the site functions they need, instead of detailing out ‘how you built it’.
  • In a one-off project, ensure the customer is trained on which aspects of the site they will interact with and control, then provide some technical details which will help the customer take on a new project.
  • Use a plugin like WPHelp that will allow you to customize the help your customer will see while working in wp-admin.
  • Ensure you give the customer any account information or links to relevant pieces of their website (like wp-admin, hosting info, or other accounts needed to work with plugins)

What tools are best to use as you develop a freelancing practice?

  • This is very dependent on the types of customers you are serving.
  • Try to avoid using too many tools and instead focus on using tools that you are familiar with as you grow.
  • For example, if you are proficient using specific site builders (like Beaver Builder, Divi, etc) or plugins (backup, import/exports, forms, etc) then keep re-using these tools instead of picking new tools for each project.

What are good / recommended / common managed-WP hosting companies?

  • Siteground
  • WPEngine
  • WPOcean
  • Flywheel
  • Pantheon
  • You especially should look for a hosting provider that will provide you with  separate staging environments & backup features

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