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3 min read

Michael Janda's 4 workflow success hacks

The agency veteran shares his advice for managing projects for big-name clients like Disney and Google.

A black and white headshot of Michael Janda placed on a dotted grid over a gradient background.

Image courtesy Michael Janda. Illustration by Anita Goldstein.

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At a recent event hosted by Editor X and Dribbble, 56% of the designers who attended said their biggest challenge is pricing websites in a profitable way. Michael Janda, acclaimed agency owner and the event’s host, says he can relate. In the history of his agency, both his biggest “money losers” and “money winners” were website projects. Now he’s on a mission to share the lessons he’s learned that have helped him tip the scales in favor of profitable projects. These are his key insights.

1. Research is a valuable investment

A solid website project scope is the most powerful tool you can employ to make sure

every client project runs smoothly. In Janda’s words, “Good questions yield good answers, and good answers will give you a good scope.” His discovery meeting checklist helps agencies identify how a project will take shape.

The most important conversation starters he recommends are asking your clients about their business objectives, issues they have with their existing site, features that they expect the site to have, resources they have for creating content for the site and maintaining it and, finally, when and how they want to launch. By confirming this scope with clients before the project begins, in the research phase, agencies can then create a contract clause that prevents their clients from requesting extra work that’s not part of what they’ve agreed.

2. Reduce providers, reduce complexity

Janda tells us his systematic process is the result of him making every possible mistake when it comes to client projects throughout his career. Every aspect of his workflow is designed to preempt issues before they get a chance to happen, but the first step is to identify what can go wrong.

One potential pitfall he highlights is underestimating the moving parts involved in the production of a client website. By crystalizing the exact services and associated technologies required by their clients, agencies can avoid any unexpected requests that can lead to scope creep throughout the project.

Janda recommends breaking this down by asking clients about hosting, the design platform itself, project-specific features such as event services or on-site search, e-commerce, and blogs. If you’re using Editor X, the platform consolidates all of these capabilities, saving agencies time and expense.

3. Execute, document, profit

Providing your clients with a roadmap for each phase of each project is another essential step towards website project success. By following the process for scoping projects mentioned earlier, agencies will be in a position to clarify the size of each website and the specific phases and milestones that will lead to its completion. Janda shifted his entire agency to this phase-based production process when he saw the value it provides for both the business and its clients.

The key value is that this approach gives both the client and agency a clear view of completed work. It also helps the client see the level of effort put in by the agency, which in turn helps the client to understand what they’re paying for, helping the agency show the value of their work and justify their pricing.

Generally, Janda prefers the following phases: strategy, UX design, UI design, beta development, and alpha development and launch. (For a detailed breakdown of what these phases look like and the feedback process involved, access the recording of his presentation.)

4. Don’t skip steps

Perhaps one of the most reassuring mantras Janda lives by is this: “You run your business, not your client.” Given that the steps above are a streamlined, systematic process, the key to the workflow’s success is sticking to the program.

Janda uses this analogy to explain why this procedure is key: “I don’t tell the plumber how to fix my plumbing. I hire them for their expertise. And if the client doesn’t trust you and wants to change the process, then you need to work to build more trust.” But how do you build that trust? One of the best ways is to give clients transparency and share detailed explanations about what they can expect every step of the way.

Ready for more detail? Dig into Michael Janda’s workflow workbook, a recording of the session, and additional resources.

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