“So, how was everything?”
This question is an easy one to answer after a meal at a restaurant or a stay at a hotel but takes on a far deeper meaning when summarizing our work on a freelance project. The time spent immersed in a project is hard to encapsulate in a “Good!” or “Fine!” response, and if there were issues or challenges along the way, such a response may not even be appropriate.
A client recap is an elegant way to share meaningful thoughts on the work, and provide value through constructive feedback that can help improve the relationship in the long term. When done well, these recaps can help employees in the organization, highlight institutional challenges, or even extend your tenure as a contract player.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few ways to tackle the task.
The Standard: Email Recap
Most of the time, a project doesn’t need a lengthy recap. If everything goes accordingly to plan and the objectives of the project are met as desired, an email recap will suffice. Inside this one or two paragraph summary, you should include:
A review of initial goals: Remind the recipient(s) what you set out to do in the first place, to ensure that everyone is on the same page about the work you’ve delivered.
A ‘bridge’ between original goals to pieces of the final product: You’ve completed the work in a way that meets all the criteria you’ve been asked to meet; make it easy for the client to see the connection.
Cite passages, point to tasks, let them know what pieces of the work contributed to the accomplishment of the project’s objectives.
Additional notable findings (AKA a springboard for more work!): In the process of completing this project, were you able to go above and beyond? Did you find something unexpected as you worked? Say so in the recap email. This could be an opportunity to show off a bit, perhaps even highlight a problem that you could help solve.
And speaking of problems…
In Case of Emergency: Upgrade to a Call
If you were challenged to complete the project as directed, a recap should be conducted over the phone, via video chat, or even in person. Such a recap can include all the items listed above, but should also feature a candid conversation about where you were challenged and how those problems can be addressed for the future.
With that said, I’ll also share a caveat: Even if you go into a project knowing you’ll share a recap at its close, don’t wait until the end to share any concerns or worries you have. A recap is a supplement to regular, open, and candid communication with a client—not a substitute!
It can be tempting to detail these sorts of issues, at any stage or at the end, in an email. Frankly, telling people bad or difficult news is hard to do in person! But written communication can be colored by tone, something the author can rarely control. By sharing these concerns in person, you can temper how the message is heard and convey a sense of urgency—or confidence in your ability to help correct the problem—where it’s needed. In either case, willingness to be direct could endear you to the client; and in the best case, it could land you additional work.
Room to Grow: Upgrade to a Deck
If you want to share your results in a flashier format, you may want to bypass the standard email in favor of a “deck,” or a collection of slides detailing your work more graphically. Designed to repackage information in an easier to digest format, decks can be useful tools when sharing results with visual or auditory learners. Further, they can make dry, data-heavy, or more complicated results more engaging.
Recap presentations can also be a compelling tool to make your case for additional services. If your prior work uncovers opportunities for growth or problem solving, and you are qualified to fill these gaps for the client, presenting them in a deck can help visually connect you to these new challenges. So if you’re working on a project that you sense could yield more work, challenge yourself to frame your deck as a narrative on why you should be the one to continue the project.
Remember, the most successful client work yields not just a completed product or project, but a strong relationship with the client who enlisted your help. To that end, the recap is not only a summary of the completed work but your chance to contribute meaningful dialogue to a relationship. When used well, it can highlight your competence and even extend your contract with an organization.
So, when faced with the question, “How’d it go?”, know that you now have a tool to make that response meaningful, actionable, and—at times—potentially lucrative for you as a worker.
This article was contributed on behalf of Amma Marfo for AND CO, a proactive app for helping you manage your freelance business from proposal to payment. For more insights, visit AND CO’s Hustle&Co blog and follow them on Twitter @andco.