With every project I do, I aim to overdeliver. I built my career on this attitude. I try to take every step of the project, down to the smallest details, above and beyond what’s expected. In an industry defined by billable hours and budgets, some might say it's a dangerous approach. For me, it’s the only way to work.
No matter the size of the project or the open-mindedness of the client, it’s possible to exceed expectations. The question is: How do you take a project as far as it can go while still protecting yourself? How do you go above and beyond with limited budget? How do you overdeliver on a tight timeline?
By creating smart estimates.
The client needs to understand what goes into your work to understand what’s going above and beyond. This does not mean you should "underpromise and overdeliver." Just be straightforward and honest with your client from the start. Detail your process in your estimate. Be realistic about the time you need when scoping hours. Include time for explorations. Make it crystal clear how many reviews and revisions are built into each phase.
By setting clear expectations for yourself and your client, it’s easier to exceed them.
By learning to be efficient.
If you use your time wisely, overdelivering does not need to translate to over budget. Learn to prioritize. Know when to take a break. It may be easier to do an excellent job after you step away and come back with fresh eyes. It might be better to spend those three hours building that feature rather than organizing assets from your client. Learn to be efficient with the time you have so you can spend it well.
By not over-committing.
Many of us can’t afford to turn down work. But we can still be wise about our time and our mental energy. Can you schedule a project differently so it starts after this one wraps up? Can you sit that meeting out or move it to a different day? Can you aim to score one big project that takes the place of two? Can you delegate that part of the project to someone else? Protect your time and your energy. Give yourself the space and the clarity to give the project your best.
By weighing the risk vs. reward.
What could you do if you had an hour more on this part of the project? Would you try out another idea you’ve had on your mind? Would you perfect the one you already created? If that hour would make a significant difference on the project, use the damn hour. Depending on your situation, you can even ask the client to pay for it. Whether you do or not, tell them you spent it.
When I can afford it, I put in that extra hour or two because I know that time will take this project from good to brilliant. Brilliant projects bring more brilliant projects, and that extra hour pays for itself a hundred times over. Consider those extra couple hours, if you’re in a position to take them, as an investment.