Whenever you approach the end of a large freelance project or the last couple of weeks of a contract, what do you do? Clear your desk? Make sure to get the invoice out? Organise the wrap up drinks? There is a trick you can use to generate more work (sometimes) from the customer. The trick is to generate a report.
When I come to the end of a project or a contract, I spend half a day creating a ‘wrap up’ report for the customer – a nice light report (typically 4 to 10 pages) which covers three areas:
- A summary of the work I have done for them in the project or contract – this reconfirms to them what great value I have been, reconfirms that they made the right choice to select me, and tells them how busy I have been
- A notes section – here I detail anything I have spotted which is not as good as it should be.
- A recommendation section – considerations for future improvements
Now the trick is to make the notes and recommendations section not too scathing. You don’t want to point out to the person who has hired you how bad their processes are or why their department sucks. However, what you do want to do is bring to their attention areas which they may not be aware of, and (this is the most important part) recommendations for improvement on some (not all) of the areas noted and how you would deal with the issues.
A lot of managers live by the principle “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions”, and that is what the report is for – to say in a gentle way “oh, I noticed that your process for xxxxxxxxxxxx is causing problems, if you yyyyyyyyyyyyyy this will stop this problems occurring”. Of course, by branding the report with your personal or company details, who will be the first person they ask when they want to action on some or all of the areas documented?
The best bit is that if you cost this report into the project costs (hidden of course) or produce the report on their contract time, they are paying you to perform the analysis and advertise your follow up services.
As an example, of this, one of the gentle ways I documented and recommended a solution which I was then asked to develop is as follows (note, this intended to be fluffy, and not too critical but highlight an area of concern):
As part of the day to day standing data reference, it was noted that the operators need to adjust data into the SQL Server database using SQL Enterprise Manager. Whilst this is an effective and efficient method of amending the reference data, it may be worth considering that this also could lead to accidental deletion of data, tables or amendment to table structures. I would suggest a better method would be to develop a browser based data correction routine, which would allow the same functions to add and amend data onto the SQL database, but would provide audit and change control, whilst at the same time restricting access to the database to ensure that mistakes are minimised. This would also have the advantage of….