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Now I’m no expert in this field, but I do consider myself a fast learner. And since being with Peppermint Source for over a year, I’ve picked up a few handy tips for project management – mostly from our Mint Imperial tossing life buoys at me in the deep end.

Article by Louis Nel

These are the four steps that I keep in mind when faced with managing a project:

  1. Get the full story

Get the brief. Get the brief. Get the brief. And get the FULL brief. You don’t want anything to slip through the cracks or have one of those ‘but I told you’ moments halfway through the project.

Ask ALL the questions related to the project. Even if you think they’re stupid. Get all the answers in writing to make sure you have a paper trail of everything that’s been agreed on and signed off. Rather receive too much information from your client and suppliers than too little. You don’t want any nasty surprises along the way – like receiving a cost from a supplier that’s a lot higher than initially quoted.

  1. Plan your project

Right. You’ve got all the necessary info; now you need to put a project plan together. If you have a tool like MS Project, great – but if not, Excel works fine as well.

Here’s how you put a basic plan together:

Identify ALL the tasks and subtasks required and break it down completely. For example – copywriting could be a task, and its subtasks might be:

  • Meeting with copywriter to discuss structure.
  • Collating all source material.
  • Preparing copy.
  • Presenting first draft to client.
  • Receiving feedback from client.
  • Making tweaks to copy if necessary.
  • Getting final copy signed off by client.
  • Send copy to designer for layout.

Add time frames to each subtask. It’s extremely important to check lead times with your suppliers and everyone involved in the project when putting your plan together. Important tip: build in contingency. If your supplier says it will take two days to produce something, then add another 1-2 days into your plan. You never know what might happen. Things can and do go wrong. Also, if you’re working with freelancers, make sure you have a Plan B. Your freelance designer taking a sudden impulsive trip to Jamaica can put a big spanner in the works.

Be aware of interdependencies. For example – the final copy cannot go to the designer for layout before it has been signed off by the client.

Make it easy for everyone to understand. Everyone involved in the project must get a copy of the plan, so colour-code each person’s tasks and deadlines.

Give your clients advance notice of when you’ll need them to be available for reviews and how long you’ll need them for. You’ll update this plan as everything moves along and tasks are completed. And send everyone a copy each time it changes.

  1. Constant communication

Make sure everyone knows the project’s status every step of the way. And don’t be afraid to chase people on their deadlines. Your client will thank you for being thorough.

If for some reason (and it better be a good one) you’re unable to meet a deadline, let your client know immediately. But don’t go to them with problems. Offer solutions!

  1. If all else fails: get involved

Don’t shy away from getting your hands dirty on a project. Sometimes little unforeseen things might force you to take action. If your supplier notifies you that something can only be couriered the day after you were expecting it, get in the car and pick it up yourself (obviously if they’re local). The benefits: you get it to your client on time, and you spend some valuable face-to-face time with your supplier.

Always try your best to keep to and meet your deadlines. If you succeed, you’ll be managing another project in no time. And remember, the role of a project manager is to think on your feet, stay calm when things go wrong… and fix it!

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