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Mikhail Karan
Mikhail Karan

Posted on • Originally published at htmlallthethings.com

Don’t Share Too Much With Your Clients

What is HTML All The Things?

HTML All The Things is a web development podcast and discord community which was started by Matt and Mike, developers based in Ontario, Canada.

The podcast speaks to web development topics as well as running a small business, self-employment and time management. You can join them for both their successes and their struggles as they try to manage expanding their Web Development business without stretching themselves too thin.


What's This One About?

This week, Matt and Mike discussed sharing information with clients diving into how much you should share and how much you should keep secret to keep the project on track. It's easy to overshare with a client, overwhelming them with too many details and technical intricacies, but on the other hand, it's also easy to give them too little information, risking them misunderstanding what it is they ordered from you.

Show Notes

Why Sharing Info Is Crucial

  • Sharing information with your client gives them as a full a picture as possible of what to expect from their commissioned website
  • By not going in blind on a project, you can get insights on a two-way basis
    • Your client will let you know that they don’t like your suggestion for a CMS, for example, or that they prefer and already learned WordPress
    • You can present your case for a set of tools, or a tech stack that you prefer and possibly win over a client - by doing so you may make them a better product and quicker, which allows you to have a bigger profit margin or pass on some savings to them
  • Scope creep can be more effectively managed, although it will more than likely still happen
    • When you have a set of parameters, for example, that you’re making everything custom and that any additional feature will cause big delays and more money needed for the project - then you can always refer to that initial information giving stage when more features are requested
  • By having a detailed conversation with a client, you’re more likely to shake loose something that they might just expect by default, but could catch you by surprise
    • Many clients are not tech-savvy and therefore do not know what’s considered standard, or just something that is thrown in
    • Some of these clients may just expect things like a photo gallery with compatible CMS, or an ecommerce shop without thinking it’s anything difficult to pull off. They may not even mention it until you ship the product for final review and then they ask “Hey where is X feature”
    • By having a conversation with them, you may notice them talk about the ecommerce side, or the fact that they take a lot of photos - this shakes these topics loose, if you will, and opens the door for conversation at the planning stage
  • Niche Client Questions
    • You client will more than likely have some questions about very niche features, or things that they’d like that they haven’t seen anywhere before
    • For example, they may ask you for a full on scheduling software that is deeply tailored for their industry - a feature that will take a long time to make, or something that you may not be super familiar with and will need to research to see how much it will cost them, or if you’re able to fulfill the feature request
      • It is best to get these questions and answers out of the way first so you know what you need to research and what features may need to be in there. This will guide your timeline and eventually your quote

Why Sharing Info is Harmful

  • Getting everyone on the same page sounds like a great idea, but it can cause harm or even lose you a prospective lead…why? Salesmanship
  • Many clients have an idea, and they want you to execute it, sometimes without even giving you the full idea
  • They want you to make their website hit the web by storm, ranking #1 on Google, showing up all their competition, getting tons of traffic, and making sure that they get leads for their business
  • These types of clients do not want to get involved at all in the process. They want to tell you what to do, you do it, they love what you built, and you both move along. If you bring up harsh realities for clients like this like scope creep, features that make no sense (ie background music on a site), subscription fees for software you use like a plugin, a timeline that isn’t exactly what they expected - they’ll see this as a red flag and just disappear
  • In addition to all this, even clients that want to work with you and not just have you do everything with minimal feedback can still lose confidence in you if you bring up too many realities and issues
    • They can see this as a potential lack of skill on your part and may think that another company should have their bid

When to Share

  • This depends on the type of project that you’re doing and it’s overall scope
    • Many people will try to have “sales meetings” where the salesperson (or even yourself) assures the client about the project and your capability to fulfill their wants with no roadblocks at all. I refer to this as a salesperson meeting because everything is being sold to them on the back of minimal knowledge of the project and without any realities being taken into consideration
    • I am not against these types of meetings, but I do often like to have another more in-depth meeting after where you can bring up real concerns to each other (from the client side and your side) you don’t want to be too down on the project of course, it’s easy to get carried away with roadblocks and concerns, which may turn the client away because they’re concerned you may not be able to execute
      • In these types of meetings I bring up things like:
        • More than broad stroke project-budget
        • Project phases (if applicable)
        • Questionable features
        • Questionable functionalities
    • The difficult thing here is that you’re trying to balance both salesmanship and harsh realities
  • If the project is long and there are several check-ins…
    • I will share the project’s goings at each of these with a balance of both confidence building pieces and roadblocks that happened along the way
    • I will try and avoid things like “Man we’re completely stuck here, we don’t know what to do”
    • Instead I will try and say finish their blog portion that they seemed interested in, and if I got stuck on the photo gallery I will share the photo gallery information and say here’s where we are at, there are some challenges here that…
      • A: need client input before proceeding
      • B: need client compromise in order for the deadline to be reached
      • C: Just need more time by us
  • If the project is very brief, say something like a standard WordPress site that is using a theme that the client liked, you may only have one meeting with them - or one initial meeting before work begins and then a check in at some point towards the end of the project. I handle this by:
    • Ensuring I have a communication channel with the client setup so that I can reach out when I need to (ie email, SMS)
    • Sprinkling in the harsh realities of their project with a heavy dose of optimism to ensure their confidence in me (this is very hard and I almost always mess up the ratio)
    • If a major roadblock happens, I try and use the communications channel with the client for status updates on the matter, asking questions, etc. instead of waiting for the follow-up meeting where they are probably expecting a lot of the work to be already done (essentially I don’t want to negatively surprise them during the follow-up)

Not a one-size-fits-all This Does Not Work For Everyone

  • We have had many clients love our bluntness and overall informativeness when it comes to projects. Many clients find that our overall honesty is something that is normally hidden behind “BS” or the need to please to get a paycheque
  • However, many people get turned off by us bringing up roadblocks, and find that we should be dealing with the roadblocks behind closed doors and not bringing the issues to them
  • We try and tailor these conversations for each client, balancing how much we share with them on the salesmanship and reality side of things, however, people that just want salesmanship have often not gone with us for a project
  • Ultimately, we just see this as a difference in companies. Some companies will win bids over us due to competition and the client liking their pitch better. Our bluntness is something some people find unique so they like that above salesmanship…it’s a difficult balancing act and something that you’ll have to decide how you handle when pitching projects to prospective leads
  • We’ve had people that didn’t even want to hear that “WordPress themes aren’t usually very changeable so if a lot of modifications are requested, we maybe should use another solution like a custom theme, site builder, or entirely custom site”

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Discussion (4)

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andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

Agreed they only need to know what they need to know not everything.

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mikhailkaran profile image
Mikhail Karan Author

Yeah, it's a key realization. Better for both parties.

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andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

Yep learned this through experience. Sometimes you can be a little too keen and over enthusiastic when its better to be calm and measured.

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gamerseo profile image
Gamerseo

100% right. Do not charge the client with all project related issues.