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A Complete Guide to Project Agreements and Workflow

Sarah Bartley
Front-end web developer | Moderator for Elphas Can Code | Creator of Disney Codes Challenge
・10 min read

Originally published July 22, 2019 on BritishPandaChick Codes. I made tweaks to the original post so it would work on Code Newbie.

Disclaimer

All information about project agreements is not legal advice. I'm just sharing general advice and information from Skillcrush 300. Do not act on any of the advice on project agreements and contracts until you consult a professional attorney in your area.

Now back to your regularly scheduled post!

It is time for the final lesson of Skillcrush 300. Once your client agreed to your proposal, there are only a few items left to do before you can start working on the project. The last items you need to do are creating a project workflow and making a project agreement.

The last lesson of Skillcrush 300 teaches students how to create both for their first freelance projects. Today's post is going to review everything Skillcrush shares with its students. You'll learn how to set up your project workflow and what need in your project agreements so you can start working on the project.

Today's Objectives

The proposal is written. The proposal presentation is done. Your client loves the proposal. What could be possibly left to do?

You are almost ready to start working on your project. I promise. However, the last couple of items you need to be done will pay off later down the road. That means fewer headaches and extra work.

So here's what I'll be covering in this post in order for you to get ready to start your client's project. First, you need to create a project agreement. This step is a must for every type of freelancer since it acknowledges all the terms for the project. It is one of the tips the most experienced freelancers encourage newbies to do.

Do NOT start any work on the project until a project agreement is in place and signed by both parties!

Once both parties have signed the project agreement, it is time to prepare your workflow. You will be planning for all the deliverables in the project and just getting organized. This means having a schedule in place, all your materials ready to go, task lists, and anything that will help you stay on track. As soon as your workflow is ready, you can officially start work on the project.

Project Agreements

Now that you and your client are on the same page with the proposal and have an agreement between you two, it is time for both parties to have a serious talk about the project agreement. Before you can even start planning your workflow, you need to do this first. Skillcrush instructors and experience freelancers all swear by having some sort of contract in place when working with any client.

Chances are when you hear the word contract, the iconic scene from the Disney movie The Little Mermaid comes to mind. While contracts might be scary when it comes to working with sea witches, they are very helpful for freelancers since they protect both parties involved from less than ideal situations such as late payments, missed deadlines, or what happens if a client ghosts on you. There are a lot of ways to write project agreements so every freelancer is going to have a different opinion.

Experienced freelancers use formal contracts when working with clients. When it comes to starting out as a freelancer, Skillcrush encourages students to use project agreements. Project agreements are great for smaller projects as well as any projects that have low stakes. As you get more experience and work on bigger projects, you'll want to transition into using formal contracts.

How should I write a project agreement?

There is no right or wrong way to write a project agreement, but the best agreements are straightforward as they possibly can be. The terms are laid out in plain language so everyone is clear on all the terms so both parties can agree. In order to help their students help write their project agreements, they put together a list of the common elements found in many project agreements. You can use this list as a checklist to see if you covered everything you need in your own agreement.

  • Project deliverables
  • Fees
  • Payment terms
  • Project timeline
  • Place for both parties to sign

Templates are a freelancer's best friend since they serve as a starting point for freelancers to customize for each project. Skillcrush provides students with a template to help them write a project agreement, but you can google project agreement templates yourself and find 250 million results. Many of these templates are free and available for freelancers to customize for their clients. Websites such as Freelancers Union have resources available for freelancers to help them write contracts, project agreements, and more.

==> Click here to learn more about Freelancers Union!

If you are hesitant about using an online template, I recommend consulting a lawyer if you need one and having a template made for you by your lawyer. Different states and countries are going to have different laws about freelancing so lawyers are a great asset in knowing what laws you need to be aware of. There are some lawyers online that do provide resources to help freelancers write client contracts and project agreements.

Two great resources I've used to learn about writing contracts are Lisa Fraley and Genavieve Shingle Jaffe. Both women have released lots of templates and resources to help freelancers write contracts or important pages that legally protect your website.

==> Click here to learn more about Lisa Fraley!
==> Click here to learn about Genavieve Shingle Jaffe!

How can I use the last page of the proposal as a project agreement?

Before we begin, make sure you have your project proposal close by. We'll be using the proposal to help create our project agreement. If you are making revisions on your proposal or just want a quick review, revisit this post below to get all Skillcrush's advice for writing project proposals.

Revisions are very common for project proposals. These revisions can happen up until everything is ready to be signed. If you are starting out, Skillcrush advises students to use the last page of the project proposal as the project agreement. Below are the steps Skillcrush gives their students to using a proposal for a project agreement.

1. Edit the proposal to have any changes you and your client agreed on during your proposal presentation. You can meet again with your client to go over these changes if you like and see if there are any more revisions that need to be made.

2. Once you and your client are in agreement, take the finished proposal and copy the file. Save this file as the project agreement. I recommend saving the file as the client name-project-agreement so you know what the file is.

Inside the copy file you just created, change the words from proposal to project agreement. Skillcrush tells students that they should aim for less than 5 in their proposal so they can match the number of times you use project agreement with what was originally written in your proposal. If you are using Google Docs, you can use ctrl + F to find all the proposal words and change them quickly.

3. Add a brand new page at the end. This page will be your additional terms both parties need to agree on. Use the common elements as a starting place of what you can put here. Don't forget to add a place for the signatures.

Before you send the agreement, proofread and make sure everything sounds clear. Then send the complete project agreement to your client to review and sign. Skillcrush gives students an e-mail template to help them communicate these steps with clients but you can do this without using a template by providing clients with clear instructions on what they need to do and what they need to return to you.

The most important item that needs to be returned back to you is the signature page with the client's signature. Many freelancers have clients sign and return the signature page. Don't start any work until you get the client's signature! Once the client signs, you can begin the project and move onto setting up your project workflow.

Don't forget to sign the signature page too! As soon as the client returns the signature page, sign the signature page. Skillcrush suggests sending a copy of the signed page with both of your signatures to your client so they have a copy too. I recommend having a digital version and hard copy of the project agreement on hand in case you need it during the project process.

Project Workflow

Once the project agreement is signed by both parties, you can start working on the project and preparing the project workflow. Workflow is a freelancer's way of referring to everything that keeps a project going smoothly for the entire project. This means the workflow often needs to be flexible and repeatable for each project so it saves a freelancer's time and energy while making sure nothing important is missed along the way.

Setting up a project workflow takes a lot of work, but it is always a better idea to get one in place at the beginning of a project rather than later when you are in the midst of meeting deadlines. So it is completely normal to feel like your workflow doesn't seem repeatable and flexible at the beginning, but it will pay off later. Remember freelancers prepare in a similar way to a professional chef. A big similarity between the two jobs is that they do all their prep work at the beginning before they start anything.

How to set up a project workflow?

Setting up a project workflow is a lot like tidying up a room in your home. The goal is to gathering everything you need for your project then arranging it so you can access it later. This is important since it keeps things from getting out of control while you are working on the project and staying on target with the timeline in your proposal. It also allows you to see what items you can start asking your client for.

1. Set a schedule for your deliverables.

Now that the project agreement is done, you will need this on hand as you put things together. The agreement will serve as a guide on how you need to get organized. You will also need something to create your schedule. This can be the calendar on your phone, your favorite productivity apps, a bullet journal, or a regular wall-hanging calendar.

First, start looking through the agreement to see what deliverables the clients need and when the client is going to get these items. Schedule these dates. If you are using an app on a mobile device, set any alerts to remind you about these deadlines. You can set as many alerts as you like but I recommend at the minimum setting three alerts then spacing them out so you keep these dates top of mind.

2. Plan your work time.

Once you schedule your deadlines, it is time to plan how much time you'll spend working on these projects. This might take a little bit of guessing when you are starting out, but you want to think about how much time it will take to meet each deadline. Don't forget to add in the extra padding you estimated earlier as you do this step. Once you have an estimate you are happy with, schedule these times on your calendar.

3. Ask the client for any project assets.

Project assets are everything you will need to make the project. This is where lists come in handy. Skillcrush suggests all their students walk through the deliverables the client will be receiving and writing down everything you will need to make them.

This can be brand guises, copy, or anything to help you launch the project. For example, freelance web developers need items such as the client's log, color codes, style guides, and login passwords. Another way to figure out everything you need for the project workflow is by reviewing the client intake form.

This allows you to double-check what assets your client does have. Skillcrush also encourages students to think about any project dependencies they might have so they can plan accordingly. Once your lists are done, e-mail your client to ask for the items on your list.

Don't ask your client for everything you need for the project. Instead, ask for the essential items you need for the first phase of the project. As you continue working on the project, you can ask for the other items on your list as you approach each phase of the timeline. Double-check your e-mail for clarity, spelling, and grammar then send it to your client.

4. Keep expectations clear as possible.

Clear expectations are the key to a successful project workflow. This means keeping your client aware of everything happening in a project. It also might mean reminding clients of what was agreed on in the project agreement and you'll be unable to accomplish those goals if you don't have everything you need.

Skillcrush encourages students to do recaps of everything that was agreed upon during the project proposal and presentation so clients are reminded of what they agreed to. They also encourage students to remind clients what the next step of the project timeline every time you communicate with your client. This way there are no surprises and everyone is reminded of where they are in the project.

Conclusion

We've reached the end of Skillcrush 300! You are now ready to create a project agreement with your client using your project proposal. I also covered how to organize your project workflow with some of the tips experience freelancers use to set up workflows in freelance projects.

Now that Skillcrush 300 is finally finished, I'm taking a break from Skillcrush lessons in order to focus on some new topics I've been meaning to cover. Some of the posts that will be coming include the return of familiar series such as a webinar recap for the Land Your Dream Job Summit series, 100 Days of Code recaps, and some book reviews.

New topics are also in the works including a series based on a Code Newbie challenge. I'm also planning on doing a post on how to use Visme, an infographic design tool I just learned about recently. What topics are you excited to see? Share your favorite in the comments below.

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