Case Study: Staging environment
+ ANALYSIS + HOW TO SOLVE
Does this ever happened with you?
Have you ever updated a plugin on your WordPress site and had the “White Screen Of Death”? You didn’t alter any code, however, the website goes pear-shaped right in front of you, all from one little plugin. Worried, you attempt a couple of things and manage to get it back online, only to see a distorted layout. Not long after that, site visitors start sharing witty commentary about their experience and depending upon the nature of your site, you take a hit in the revenue department.
You need to repair something on your site, and when you do, 3 more things break. Downtime annoys clients. Processes do not go through, and you don’t get paid. You have an unusual bug in your customer’s production that you can’t replicate on your local server for some reason. You pushed a “harmless” set of modifications to your production and caused it to break quietly. On Friday night. Auch! You have actually been developing a client’s website for months while hosting it on your server. It was working fine, till the hand-off site migration. After that, some parts are not quite right, some are dead-broken, the pages render differently for some reason, and the whole website looks type of … odd, due to integration/migration issues.
It doesn’t matter in what business niche you’re freelancing. Whether you mastered content writing, SEO, marketing, development or other valuable skills, knowing everything is impossible. Unexpected glitches affect your client relationship. Disappointments dissolve future business from your customer. Anger can even create unforeseen backlashes. You’re simply dissatisfied. And nothing is great. You’re experiencing the exact opposite of the wow effect. Read the ANALYSIS and find out HOW TO SOLVE this specific case.
ANALYSIS: Staging environment – freelancing nightmares
Face it: your business is YOU. If somehow you screw up, then EVERYTHING is screwed. It is as simple as that. So, you must invest in safety protocols. These protocols are composed of valuable pieces, that provide the necessary safety net for future “oopsie”. The sooner you start with this healthy mentality, the better for you, and for your customers. Eliminating stress from ongoing projects is the biggest reward for a job well done since you can enjoy the wonderful feeling, that you solved a big challenge without a hickup. Do not rob yourself financially – by losing paying customers. Do not rob yourself metaphorically – by losing your self-esteem by constantly failing your projects and your customers.
HOW TO SOLVE: Staging environment – freelancing nightmares
Define your protocols: the plan, the tools, the strategy.
THE PLAN: – DO NOT create plan A, plan B, plan C. Devote your focus to THE PLAN. You start doing this plan, so, get it right from the beginning. No reason to start something, that is doomed from the beginning, since there is a plan B, a plan C… The plan starts with your skills and experience, where you can bring value to your customers. That’s how you solve problems from the real world and get paid by doing it. Don’t be greedy – you’ll lose business if a person can hire a company with your asking price. It’s a rare thing to be better, than an entire team from a niche business. Don’t sell yourself short either. You have bills to pay and a future to invest in yourself. A good approach is an hourly rate. But consider this: customers ONLY care that the work is done and it is done perfectly. So, a project based rate is more suited in your favour. Eliminates deadline stress for everybody. Also, prevents you being an ass: charging your customer for unforeseen things. Its one thing to come across a glitch, it’s another that you’re so inexperienced, that estimated time/cost triples in the first quarter of the project.
THE TOOLS: – Invest in a dedicated area for each project, for each customer. Pinching a penny can create an avalanche of costs. Get a staging environment for your customer right from the beginning. Make sure is as close to the real environment of your customer as possible. Then, present your work only on the staging. This will force both parties to make sure, right from the start, that all goes according to the initial agreement. It’s way easier to debug, identify and solve early on any issue.
THE STRATEGY: – Make sure it works – from the first fifteen minutes right until AFTER the official launch. Make sure your customer understands each major modification it requests, as this eliminates a bit of confusion and finger-pointing. Make sure you’re communicating with your customer ON YOUR CUSTOMERS PREFERRED method. This is a bit tricky. First: find out early on how much information can your customer handle. There are persons who like to keep it short, others to give a plethora of details. Do not do both ever, without being asked directly. Second: find out early on what method of communication your customer prefers. There are persons who prefer face-to-face, online meetings, chat, video discussions, others are more tools-oriented: email, project management, commits, even SMS. Do not force your customer to accept your method. You should force yourself to accept your customer’s method. Even if this means, that you need to do extra work. Trust me, when communications break down, the project is doomed, it’s just a matter of time till everybody realises it.