There I was, working for a local WordPress agency. I was building websites and felt, at the time, like I was in heaven.
I was doing something I loved. In the process, I got to learn a little about the inner workings of an agency and a team.
I remember getting an assignment.
The website was pretty straight forward.
I got the design from the designer, and there was nothing overly complicated on the backend.
I struggled with my usual front end tweaks but was making good progress, trying to complete the build in less time than before.
I felt good about it all.
And then it happened.
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Just like slamming bricks on a dirt floor.
Part of my job was to work with the owner of the business. There was no one else between him and me.
We had some really nice conversations and I was impressed with his company.
They had two locations in our rural state.
He seemed pretty smart and we had a good working relationship.
As we got closer to the point where I put content into the site, I begin to hear less and less from him.
The dreaded content issue
He had a wife or someone in his family that had an English degree.
That’s not even counting the issue of images.
For some reason, our designer decided to have a huge slider on the home page.
So, I had to find images to fit that slider.
It became a nightmare.
I believe the project took over a year to launch.
The site wasn’t hard at all, but gathering the content was straight from the pits of hell.
This is an ongoing problem with website agencies, developers, and freelancers.
Today, I am going to suggest 4 ways you can help remedy the problem and help with gathering content from your customer for a project build.
4 Ways for Gathering Content
Since you are already onboarding the client, it is smart to include expectations that you have for the customer.
Explain that the project stays on task with their part of completing the process.
Remember, you will need to project manage this part of the process and, by all means, include it in your project proposal.
You may need to include a questionnaire to help them think through this process.
Now, if you are working with a larger company, their marketing team or member may take the lead. Smaller companies need more hand holding.
Make sure to give them a list of content that you need including copy, images, graphics, logos, links, and any other thing you will be inserting into pages during the build.
Provide a checklist for them if needed.
Create and gather copy first
Another thing which may help is to create and gather the content first. The content very much affects how the website works and functions.
You can make a valid argument that creating content should be first.
There needs to be a strategy, keyword planning, value proposition and much more behind the website objective.
Larger web agencies, of course, will build out an information architecture and create sitemaps.
A sitemap can be a very valuable guide.
There are three things here that you can do to help.
First, hire a copywriter to create the copy part of the content. This can be someone already on staff or a freelancer you know. Either way, having someone to handle the heavy lifting for the copy is a good idea.
For images and graphics, you may need to hire other creatives to help.
Second, partner with someone. It might be a good idea to have an ongoing relationship with someone that does copywriting as well as photography and graphics.
We are website people, right? Some of us may do those things, but most of us probably do not. Also, it comes down to a time issue. These services can be added to the project proposal.
Third, hand out templates to help the client. If the client isn’t willing to pay for copy and wants to do it themselves, hand them some templates to get them thinking about the pages.
If you need to, you can hire a copywriter to help you come up with the templates.
Also, don’t forget the checklists.
Send client to the back of the line
It seems a little harsh, but if you have timelines and projects schedule, a lack of getting content from the client when it is time will throw off your schedule
Include this in your agreement that they sign off on. You have to do this or you will not be able to implement.
Brent Weaver explains in this podcast (see transcript) and he talks about a restart fee.
Explain to the client–put it in your contract– that the project is inactive and it will need to be rescheduled and there is a fee to restart.
Jared Atchison explains in this interview:
Some people put an “inactive” clause in the contract: if the client disappears for x days, the project goes inactive. Then it takes e.g. $300 to get the project restarted. Also, if a project goes inactive, then they get put at the end of the line, so they can’t just show up and demand you do something right away.
Ultimately, this might not be a step you wish to take, but it is one to consider, especially if you are solo or working with a very small team.
This also helps the client understand how valuable your time is and how important their part of the process is.
Content Planning Workshop
Do you have a kick-off meeting with the client? Turn it into a content planning workshop. When you send them their welcome pack, include information for the kick-off meeting including info for content planning.
Send them the info they need to have with them and provide them with checklists and templates. When you meet, everyone can easily transition into a little planning.
How does one do a Planning Workshop? James Deer provides a fantastic post over at Smashing Magazine.
You may not get as detailed, but the point is it skyrockets the value of that content.
Over to you
There are so many different ways to help clients get the content you need. There has to a strategy, because, as you know, getting content from the client is one of the hardest things to do.
Like anything, if something isn’t intentional, it doesn’t get completed.
What techniques do you deploy to help get content from your clients for a new website project?