There’s nothing quite like the feeling of booking a new project. You immediately start thinking of it’s potential to boost your portfolio and your bank account (you may have even received a nice down payment).

And there’s often a great level of excitement from your client as well. They just can’t wait to get started and want to have things up and running as soon as possible. This is just fine with you, as you love crossing items off of your to-do list.

So, everybody’s just raring to go, right? Perhaps they are, for a little while. But over time, all of that initial elation fades away – along with any signs of progress. All of the sudden, you find yourself in the middle of a stalled project.

Why did this happen? And what can you do about it? We have some ideas! Let’s explore the common ways a project can slow to a crawl (or worse) and some ways to jumpstart it back to life.

A Wakeup Call

There is always a high level of optimism at the very beginning of a project. And clients usually have a lot of big ideas, too.

But when it’s time to actually do the work, reality sets in. What sounded like a piece of cake in meetings turns out to be more difficult than initially thought. This is a common theme when working with clients.

However, it’s not just the degree of difficulty that gets in the way. Time, or lack of it, can also play a major role. Clients who are already swamped with work may just not have an opportunity to get together content and other promised assets.

The result is that the website you were supposed to build in six weeks is past due, and it’s because you don’t have what you need to finish the job.

A wall clock.

The Domino Effect

For web designers, this situation is frustrating on several levels. First, it can have a negative impact on your schedule. If you blocked off a certain amount of time to finish a project, you might be left waiting around with nothing to do. And once it finally does start to move forward again, it could clash with other work you have to get done.

Along with a reshuffled schedule, a stalled project can also hurt you financially. When you’re counting being paid for your work at a specific time and it doesn’t happen – that can really hinder your ability to pay the bills.

Plus, this can also put a heavy strain on the relationship you have with your client. There’s a certain level of mutual trust and cooperation that is needed to ensure a positive end result. In some instances, you may feel like your client isn’t holding up their end of the bargain, thus throwing your life into disarray. This, as much as anything, can make it difficult to move forward (even after you finally receive those product photos).

In short, a whole lot of trouble can come out of a stalled project. And the worst part is that, from a designer’s perspective, it can sometimes seem completely unnecessary.

Toy blocks scattered on a floor.

How to Keep the Ball Rolling

While you can’t necessarily avoid every instance of a stalled project, there are some things you can do to help try and keep things moving forward. Among them:

Establish Benchmarks

Having a mutually agreed-upon schedule of project benchmarks can be just the incentive a client needs to get things done. This is something you can discuss before things start and include in your contract. If the project is rather large, you might even consider adding some level of financial penalties for missed deadlines.

However, this may be easier said than done. It’s advisable to speak with a legal professional when adding this type of language to a contract as it could backfire on you. Not only that, but some clients may balk at the terms.

Offer to Help

Not all delays are due to negligence or being too busy. Sometimes, a client may be a bit overwhelmed by the process of putting together materials for their website. They may not know where to begin or are just unsure about asking for help.

So, if things don’t appear to be moving along as you expected, reach out and offer your assistance. Check in and see if they have any questions or need some advice. You might find that, by being proactive, you can restart progress.

Break Down the Process

Another reason a client might feel overwhelmed is that they think everything needs to be taken care of at once. But for most projects this just isn’t the case.

One solution may be found in more clearly communicating the design process. Inform your clients about the steps involved and what you need to complete each one. A more iterative process might just lead to fewer fits and starts.

Person walking up a flight of stairs.

Keeping a Watchful Eye

One of the less talked-about parts of a web designer’s job is that of project management. It is so often up to us to keep things running smoothly. Although, instead of making sure employees stay on task, we’re usually focusing on clients.

This is difficult, as we can’t really control what our clients do (or don’t do). Therefore, our best weapon is communication. If we don’t lead by spelling out our processes and their requirements, the project will most likely stall at some point.

Using some or all of the tips above can help you keep clients in the loop. While they don’t guarantee success, they do put all of the expectations out in the open. This way, if your client still doesn’t deliver, it’s on them. At the very least, you can say that you made the effort to keep the project moving forward.

Written by Eric Karkovack

Eric Karkovack is a web designer with well over a decade of experience. You can visit his business site here. In July 2013, Eric released his first eBook: Your Guide to Becoming a Freelance Web Designer. He also has an opinion on just about every subject. You can follow his rants on Twitter @karks88.