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Let’s Talk Timelines & Real Expectations for Projects

Let's Talk Real Expectations for ProjectsI had the privilege of working in a plans & implementation work center during my military career and when you see things from behind the scenes of any project it can bring clarity and anxiety. That was the military though, and it’s important to add that I had handled hundreds of projects with loose timelines and tight ones over the last 2 decades. There were times I would expect something to be done by a certain date but had no idea what level of knowledge and expertise went into it. I would start demanding answers from those I had hired trying to figure out where my promised delivery was. I learned many times over that there is always a trade off.

My initial lack of knowledge in coding languages, API’s, and other very important skills hurt me. Not physically, but there were developers that were less likely to work with me in the future because of my shortsightedness. I miss the small things and demanded more than I should have.

It’s important to cover the positives as well. I kept digging for knowledge and learning the processes and coding to a degree. This gave me the much needed information to understand the realities of time. Some projects are small and quick while others are complicated and need reasonable milestones. These timelines, or deadlines if you will, need to be addressed on both sides to ensure a good understanding is had on the job and research on the skills one should have to do the job.

Let’s Bring Mike Into This

My close friend Mike had triggered me to write this article and I appreciate it. We have worked together on projects before and we have a history together. Though it’s something we discussed, it’s not really about him other than a shout out for making me discuss it for a wider audience. Mike is working on a scuba diving website and is very excited to get certified, record his journey and showcase his life for others to see as he views life from under the ocean. I also know Mike and his aggressive deadlines. I respect that he has passion, pursuit, and an “I Can Do It” attitude. That is what makes us friends.

We talked for a bit and he hired a developer to create a unique template for the site a few days ago. The issue had developed where the developer set a timeline and promised to deliver the first website mock-up after 2 days. Excuses and delays ensued because of unreasonable timelines set. I wasn’t surprised at all, but Mike let me know about his dissatisfaction about it and I don’t blame him after being told how long to see something. The mock-up was approved and again the developer had promised to go from mock-up to implementation in 2 days time. I have built a lot of websites in 15 years and I can tell anyone that in order to create a responsive template for WordPress with the features anyone should expect is not possible for that timeline unless you already have a multi-use template to use. With it being Monday in the U.S. and Mike saying that he understood the reality of this said Sunday was his official timeline to get the template.

In this situation we are working with a custom template for WordPress which is an easy framework to build on. The developer says 2 days, and Mike has a hard and fast deadline of Sunday, which is 6 days from the promised start. It is highly possible that this developer either…

  • Has something pre-built that needs slight changes.
  • He bought a multi-purpose theme from ThemeForest.
  • He is just that amazing.
  • He doesn’t comprehend time very well.

Mike’s 6-day deadline is still bold, but a lot more achievable. Even though it is more reasonable, I still err on the side of caution knowing what it takes to grind out CSS, Js, and other code to make this beautiful and responsive. Remember, this is 1-person developing a design and template. The developer will have to take the .psd file, create the basic theme and build it completely out with responsiveness for mobile and be production ready in only 6 days! My gut says no way, but I hope he can deliver. My fear is that corners will be cut to achieve the deadline and those may not be obvious to Mike for a while.

The other side of this coin is Mike could possibly not asked for certain crucial things in his agreement. Keep in mind that I am using this as an example. When I would post a job on eLance I would miss certain things like using a certain technology, responsiveness, or another requirement and I would have to go back to the table to renegotiate. This would consistently cost me more money and time. You have to know your requirements and study otherwise you will lose. This is not a position that you can claim ignorance. The developer doesn’t care as long as they met your posted and agreed upon job. So be smart and learn what it takes to fulfill your project.

Let’s Change Pace & Talk Real Expectations

When you are not experienced in something that you are asking for another person or team to do for you, it can be hard to get the end result you want. Think of this as you purchasing your first home that you envisioned. You go to the architect’s office to look at the blueprints and you probably have no idea what most of it means. That doesn’t mean you aren’t getting exactly what you want, but it does mean you don’t know the level of effort that goes into the project to give you the home of your dreams. Good projects can be rushed, but great ones are given the correct timeline in order to achieve a result that you can be proud of.

The internet lends us to unlimited resources to learn and educate ourselves and it’s something we should all take advantage of. It’s there for the taking! I want people to feel comfortable when hiring a freelancer. I also want that freelancer to be treated well and given the proper timelines and information. When you start taking your emotions out on developers it tends to either discourage them from working with you and potentially less chance for them to work with people that are unreasonable. I had used Mike as the catalyst for this post but understand that he gets this. We have been building sites together  since 2011 so this isn’t a pick on Mike post. This is an opportunity to discuss this issue.

What Can You Do To Get Smart?

The first thing anyone wanting to build a website or anything else online should take a few simple classes on Code Academy or Khan Academy. Both are a couple of great sites that you can go through the process of learning the languages our websites and databases speak. Getting through several of these could dramatically increase your knowledge. Okay that takes time so what can you do if you just need to get going?

Hire someone to manage your project. There isn’t a lot of these people that are easily found, but someone like myself can easily help manage everything down to the last image. Look for project managers. We have connections to the right developers, designers, and more. Of course this comes at a premium but you are trading the cost of knowledge and it’s not cheap. I can tell you that I am billing a minimum of $20-$50 per hour of my time to manage. The good thing is that it doesn’t take long just to manage things. It just takes the knowledge of who to send emails to and make sure you are happy. Some managers could come cheaper or more expensive. It’s what their time is worth.

You may not want to go through the resources I have provided. There are still more options, however, I am going to cover YouTube channels that you can lay in bed and watch on your Chromecast all night like I do. Yes, I am aware that it sounds depressing, but I manage. So what channels do I subscribe to? Here is my list that I think can help you:

  • Dev Tips – Travis Neilson is a badass (level 39) and works at Google now.
  • Learncode Academy – This is by Will and he moves fast and focuses on server and back-end.
  • Level Up Tuts – Scott is a wizard of making courses that go step by step.
  • I will add more later on.

There you go, a list of thoughts and ways to change your perception. My only goal here was to start a conversation about what it takes to do a project, and to do it well. The internet is not easy like it was in the beginning. Everyone is throwing their hat into the ring and languages are developing quickly. Get on the train if you want to be a part of it and do the jobs correctly. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments on this and add more resources for everyone if you can.

Watch me narrate this post if you would like to by clicking play below.

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