As part of my mission to focus on business foundations in the first quarter, I’ve created a deliverables and deadlines list.

This will provide timelines for my team to use when completing tasks. And, it will help clients know how much time projects are going to take.

This document will become part of the welcome packet my new clients receive and it will play an integral role in our day-to-day operations.

But, when I mentioned it to a current client, her reaction made me pause. She seemed shocked as to how to create something similar for her own business. So I figured if she was perplexed, some of you might be too.

So let’s dig into the process of creating this resource…

Step One: The List

Start by creating a list of all the different things you provide for clients. Depending on your business, this could be only a few items or it could be dozens. Consider all the things you provide whether they’re project-based, retainer-based or add ons. If you are feeling stuck, look through your recent messages with clients or your team for inspiration.

When I was brainstorming my list, I looked at:

  • Basecamp (our project management software)
  • Asana (a few clients are based in this project management software)
  • Slack
  • Client emails
  • Team emails

Once I had a really solid list, I asked my primary assistant to take a look. She helps with the majority of the client execution so she was a great resource. I also took some time to peruse my services page and some recent contracts.

Step Two: The Timelines

After creating the list of all the things, I then focused on identifying how long each item takes to complete. There’s a few layers to this that are important to consider.

First, think about how long the task takes to complete in a vacuum. If you had no other demands and sat down to complete it, would it take 10 min, 30 min or 12 hours? While it’s highly unlikely you’ll never have other demands, this estimate is helpful to know for workflow purposes. If you know a task usually takes 2 hours, you can work it into your day or week appropriately.

Second, you want to consider how long it will take to complete with your current workloads and business realities. It is so often easy to tell a client you can get it done tomorrow when it’s a ten minute request. But, that doesn’t account for all the other pending items you’re working on.

So here, you’re considering how long it will realistically take to complete during a normal week, rather than simply how long the task takes to do.

Step Three: Don’t Forget the Back & Forth

When deciding a turnaround time, be sure to consider any necessary back and forth that’s likely to be required to get the task done.

For instance, a typical newsletter only takes about 30 min to prep. But, we require the copy from clients 48 hours before it’s due to go out because of the necessary testing and editing. Once we have the copy, we can get the test ready within a day but adding a buffer day allows plenty of time for the client to review and send any edits before it gets scheduled.

A typical schedule for this would be:

  • Copy submitted on Monday
  • Template prepped on Tuesday
  • Test sent and reviewed on Tuesday
  • Final edits made on Tuesday
  • Email scheduled to send Tuesday
  • Email goes out Wednesday

This allows for the testing and edits to be completed without any major stress on either our part or the client’s.

Once you’ve established the time you need to complete the task and allow for feedback, you can adequately set the deadline for the required pieces from your clients.

Pro-tip: this is also a great time to consider all the pieces you need to complete the task. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone to schedule a newsletter only to realize we’re missing a subject line. Create worksheets or checklists you can send to your clients when they request the task that will ensure you have everything you need to dive in the first time.

Step Four: Communicate

It isn’t enough to have the deadlines and deliverables, you have to communicate them to your clients. This will make a great addition to your onboarding process but also needs to be easily accessible to your clients so you can both refer to it.

You also have to be willing to enforce the boundaries and deadlines as you work together. This doesn’t mean you can never make an exception when the situation warrants it, but they’ll only be useful if your client knows they’re important.

And keep in mind, these serve you both well! They allow you to provide your clients with excellent service and deliverables and they allow your client to know what you need from them as well!

That’s a win-win in my book.