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Nightmare clients. We’ve all had them. If you were lucky, you turned lemons into lemonade and salvaged the relationship. If you weren’t, those clients now feature heavily in your literal nightmares – possibly accompanied by your terrifying fourth-grade math teacher. Either way, you probably didn’t have to deal with the nightmare clients for too long in the grand scheme of things. Unless, of course, you’re like us and found your nightmare client coming back for more – in our case looking for a complete website redesign.

If you’re starting to think, “Gee, Erika, it sure seems wildly unprofessional to talk about a nightmare client in a public forum”, allow me to reassure you, we are describing ourselves. In the spring of 2016, I sent an email out detailing our work with “The.Worst.Client.Ever”. The email described the difficulty of doing work for your own organization. Well, we continue to be our own worst clients. And despite all the lessons we learned the last time we worked for ourselves, I would be lying if I said we were better clients this time around. Although I’m proud of the final product and am excited to share more about the changes we made and why we made them, let’s focus on how to make doing work for yourself a smooth process.


I think we can all agree that all projects have a certain ebb and flow to them. Clients will have other, more pressing needs that require their full attention, and your specific project will get shifted on the back burner until they can regroup. It’s a natural part of any long-term partnership, and most clients will refocus their attention as quickly as possible. After all, they want to see the project completed just as much as you do!

But, when you are your own client, focus is a lot harder to come by. You know that there are items on the to-do list and that the project can’t proceed until they’re checked off, but there’s always something else demanding your attention. Sometimes that’s unavoidable, but not always. If you wouldn’t ignore an outside party nudging you for information for weeks (or months) on end, why are you ignoring yourself? Schedule the time to give your project the attention it deserves so you don’t end up in a situation that sees a project dragging on for twice as long as originally estimated. Not that we know anything about that. ahem


Staying on the theme of “treat yourself like an outside client”, be realistic about your timeline from day one. And, if I could make a suggestion, include some buffer time at every stage to allow for the times you need to put your personal project on pause in order to direct your full attention towards your paying clients. Then once you have a timeline, treat it as though it were etched in stone. This means hitting deadlines – large and small – at every stage. Once again, you wouldn’t promise to get an outside consultant resources, feedback, or edits by a certain day, only to ignore them for weeks on end, so stop blowing yourself off.

If you do need to rework your timeline, be purposeful about it. Sit down, identify the milestones you’ve missed, and come up with new target dates that reflect your current reality. Don’t just hit the project “snooze button” ten minutes at a time, until the project is seriously behind schedule.


Once you’ve established a timeline, and you’re giving your project the focus it deserves, you need to make sure the project doesn’t get completely mired down in endless edits, experiments, or tweaks. I understand that it’s tempting to hold your own project to a higher standard or to use it as a kind of case study to test new ideas as you come across them. But, even the smallest changes add up over time and can result in big delays. And, if you do decide to move forward with bigger edits, make the time to spell out exactly what those edits will do to your timeline.

The bottom line: treat your personal project with the same respect and urgency that you would use for a project spearheaded by a total stranger. I promise it will make the entire process more efficient, less unwieldy, and more pleasant.