So you or your agency builds WordPress websites. That’s awesome. Thanks for being part of the economic ecosystem that has built over 31% of the web! But you have issues with your client. There is no content. Build it and they will come doesn’t really work when Shoeless Joe has no copy. This isn’t a design problem or a WordPress problem. This is a project management problem.
So how do you get the content? There are a few ways to go about this.
- Get the content first.
- Include copywriting as part of your site build.
- Put the project on backlog until you get copy.
A Word about Scope Creep
Before we talk about the three content strategies, let’s chat about scope creep. Scope creep happens when you do not protect your boundaries. It takes ten yards to gain a down. Don’t hand over the ball to the defense.
You’re working hard to gain traction on your goalposts and staying on time with your deliverable timeline. Asks in the middle of the process can be considered a turnover. Okay, enough of the football analogies. You get the picture.
“One of the more diplomatic ways to handle a dispute is simply to send the client a complete project summary detailing the timelines and benchmarks that were established at the beginning. Be sure to highlight in the summary just how you met or exceeded these expectations, and provide any reasons why certain deadlines may not have been met.” – Rob Bowen
We could write a term paper on managing expectations but writing clear and concise scope in your contract will help you say no in an effective way. If you choose to say yes, you can do so with either a zero-dollar invoice or a change order.
Many WordPress agencies choose to design with content in mind. This requires content to be provided form the client before wireframes or site structure can begin. To help with this process be clear in your client meeting. Include content scraping in your discovery phase.
Encourage content delivery with a client checklist. You may want to do this regardless. If the site is being redesigned, the checklist will help your client prepare server and DNS access. They may not even know what those are. It’s okay. You do. That’s why they hired you.
“The intricacies of a content-first workflow can vary, some people argue that rather than simply altering the order in which we would traditionally design interfaces and canvases, and then create the content, the idea is that we should merge the two processes absolutely.” – James Deer
Either hire a copywriter or partner with one. Offer to write the page content as part of the website build. This way, you have the content, it will be written well, and you will eliminate waiting on the client.
Note that writing for websites is completely different than essays in school or journalistic articles. Look for a copywriter who has experience. Building that relationship will help you both build your freelance and agency businesses.
“Failing to respect a significant project work stream and assuming the content can be easily migrated from the old site to the new is a big risk. Set expectations now and discuss the advantages of hiring a dedicated copywriter.” – Gather Content
Backlog the Project
In your scope of work, give milestone deadlines to your client. If they are past due and don’t respond in five days, for example, simply email them and let them know their project will be backlogged. You’ll want this language or clause in your scope/contract so they know what to expect.
Many agencies, who also bill upon milestones or setup progress payments, also have a fee in order to put the project back in production. Simply remind your client what you are missing and that they can send it to you with a payment of $250 to put the project back on the schedule. Once those items are complete, readjust the deliverable schedule.
“The easiest way to ward off scope creep is to have a clause for it in your contract, reading: ‘should the scope of the project expand, so will the deadline and the rates.’ This way, when the client comes to you with new suggestions, you get to say, ‘Sure, I’d be happy to do it. The new deadline will be ‘such and such’ and it’ll cost you an extra X bucks.’” – Samar Owais
Educate the Client. Empower Yourself.
Whichever method you choose, effectively setting the client expectations and proper project management skills are great ways to empower yourself as a developer and designer. When you are empowered, you have clarity and a more productive workflow, not to mention a healthier attitude.
Bridget Willard is a marketing consultant who brings her teaching and accounting background together to help small businesses. She began her marketing career in construction, then worked in franchise development, nonprofits, and tech. She is especially known for her brand building for Riggins Construction, GiveWP, and the Make WordPress Marketing Team.
Bridget co-hosts WPblab with Jason Tucker — a podcast and live YouTube show on the WPwatercooler network.
Besides speaking at WordCamps near and far, Bridget was a organizer for Los Angeles for a few years and Orange County since 2017.
When she’s not writing about marketing or social media, she is spending time with her friends, learning languages on Duolingo, or walking by the ocean.