How to Run a Website Project That Will Wow Your Clients

If you’re running — or planning to run — a digital marketing agency, you can save yourself from years of frustration by knowing how to successfully run a website project from start to finish.

After 50+ "nightmare" projects we’ve been through during which we were still defining our process, we’re finally able to say we’ve developed a solid process for delivering high quality websites to clients.

And we’re giving that process away for free.

The Challenges Faced By Young and Inexperienced Marketing Agencies

As a young agency, it’s a challenge to get website projects right while you’re still "figuring out" just how to run a project.

It’s common to rush into hiring someone from Elance or other freelance websites, thinking only about the price and the final product, without realizing that the key to providing great value is in the process itself.

Without solid milestones and a process clearly defined on paper, it’s hard to maintain efficiency and effectiveness.

It’s hard to align expectations across your various team members, the client, the freelance web designer, the freelance web developer, etc. so that everyone is moving forward together in the same direction.

Each one of them has their own idea of how something should look and will move in the direction that makes the most sense to them.. Unless your process clearly defines that direction.

Setting Up Your Pre-Development Process

Before you begin, put your process on paper — however undefined it currently is. Note down what you and your team currently do on every project and what you feel should be done on every project. This will give you a reference point for all your team members and get you all on the same page.

Now, what should you put into the process document?

According to Joe Natoli, a well-known UX designer, the best frameworks always answer these 4 questions:

  1. Why are we doing this?
  2. What’s worth doing?
  3. What are we creating?
  4. What value does it provide?

Remember, this is a framework you’ll apply to all of your future projects.

Logically, you’ll also put down the exact steps you need to go through — the process of contacting the client, hiring freelancers, communication etc. Here are the steps we follow in our process and we recommend you follow as well:

1. Send a Questionnaire

Think of this as the beginning of a courtship between you and the client. You’re just sniffing out the territory to see whether you’re a good fit, or not.

Here are some important questions to address:

  1. What will the purpose of the website be?
  2. What makes you different from your competition?
  3. What do you want your first-time visitors to feel when they land on the page?
  4. What’s your budget?

But an effective questionnaire goes above and beyond just those surface-level questions.

Ask them for details about their target market, including demographics, what they’re struggling with in life, and what they’re currently feeling (e.g. frustrated, joyful, sad, etc.).

Ask them about the problem their business solves for their target market and what is the one thing they want their target market to do when they reach the website (e.g. call them, join their mailing list, etc.)

Also, ask them questions like, "Are you a member of any associations where we can user their logos on your website?" and "Do you have any other accreditations or achievements that will help you appear as the Go-To-Expert?"

If they do, you can plan to build those into the design and make it a website that instantly builds trust for them. Offering this kind of value and considering all of these things makes you look like the expert agency that you are.

Also, make sure to ask about eCommerce, e.g. "Do you need to sell things on your website (ecommerce)?" and "If you need ecommerce, how many products will be listed on the site?"

Because, that will greatly affect your quote. And you want to have all the information you need to provide the most accurate quote the first time, reducing back-and-forth.

Before you send the questionnaire, tell the client that it is necessary in order to give them a price as it’s hard to give quotes for a creative process and a lot of information is necessary.

2. Evaluate the Questionnaire

Pay attention to critical questions (budget). You want to eliminate clients who aren’t a good fit right from the get-go. This is the time to make sure this is the type of client you want to work with and the type you could provide amazing services for.

If they are a good fit, this is the time to put together a high-level strategy for them based on their needs and requirements. You’ll also want to have an idea of what you’d charge to implement that strategy. The next step is to discuss with the client and refine the strategy.

3. Discuss Your Evaluation of the Questionnaire with the Client

If, after going through all the answers the client gave you, you’re still not sure you two would be a good fit, let them know at this point.

If you do feel you’re a good fit, go over the high-level strategy you prepared for them. Refine it with them if necessary and adjust your quote. Then, provide them with the quote. If they want to move forward, the next step is to send over the contract and first invoice. Let them know you’ll be doing that.

Make sure all questions are answered at this point.

4. Send the Agreement and Wait for Signature and Payment

Send them the contract and first invoice. Be available for any questions they have in a timely manner.

5. Customer Intake Form

Gather any relevant information you need from the client: e.g. login information for server, domain, registrar, social media accounts, etc.

6. Schedule Photo Shoot (Optional)

If it was agreed upon that a professional photo shoot will be necessary as part of the design of the new website, schedule that session now to make sure you have the photos in time to add them into the design.

7. Home Page Mockup and Client Approval

The initial home page mock is created. The client can ask for 3 revisions, 20 items per each revision request during this phase of the project. If more revisions are required after the third, bill the client accordingly. Client approval of the home page design is required before moving on.

8. Home Page Build, Internal Page Mockup, and Client Approval

Your development team should begin building the home page based on the approved design. In the meantime, create the initial mock of the internal page design. The client again can ask for 3 revisions, 20 items per each revision request. They can ask for additional revisions after the third but will be charged accordingly. Client approval of the internal page design is required before moving on.

9. Internal Page Build

Your development team should begin building the internal pages based on the approved design. At this point, if the client hasn’t yet provided content, use "Lorem Ipsum" placeholder text.

10. New Content Population and Development

After receiving content from the client, populate it into the built pages. Final development takes place now.

You can also offer to provide content. For example, you can offer to provide content at the rate of $75 for every 500 words.

11. Internal QA, Cross Browser Testing, and Final Client Review

Run test cases to verify that each part of the website is working properly in all browsers and on all mobile devices. After QA is complete, have the client perform a final review of the website and provide approval.

12. Final Launch

Launch the website.

Payment Schedule

Here’s how we accept payment from clients. We recommend you follow a similar payment process with your clients as we’ve found it to be the most effective:

1st Payment (40%) due up-front in order to start project

2nd Payment (40%) due upon completion of Phase IV (or after 30 days from start date, whichever comes first)

3rd Payment (20%) due after final launch (or after 60 days from start date, whichever comes first)

Setting Up a Collaboration and Project Management System

First of all, if you’re still using email, ditch it as soon as possible. It’s too slow, and it hinders your productivity.

Don’t use free tools like Trello, either. They’re very limited. Although it might be a good idea to use them at first, you’ll soon start realizing you’re missing out on key collaboration functionality.

Redbooth is an excellent choice for digital marketing agencies. In fact, we’ve created task templates that you can duplicate within Redbooth. We’ve perfected them over years of running projects and, combined with Redbooth, they’ll allow you to start running website projects powerfully right now. They represent all the parts of the process outlined in this post – and more – in task form and you can access them in our Learning Center by subscribing here:

They will give you a huge head start when creating new projects.

Deciding on the Number of Iterations

We’ve discovered that, on average, clients need up to 3 revisions before they’re happy with their homepage. So, when you’re discussing your strategy with them and forming the contract, let them know that the project will include a "homepage mock" and up to 3 rounds of written revisions.

And each round may include up to 20 specific items.

This is the most important part of the whole process. If you don’t properly communicate what a revision request is and confirm with the client that, in order to give them a competitive quote, the revision requests are capped at 3, you open the project up to a serious misalignment of expectations.

A percentage of your clients will require more than 3 rounds of revision requests and they should understand and expect to pay an additional hourly charge for each request after the third.

If they don’t, they’ll get upset and argue that you should do more revisions at no cost, which will quickly run your margin into the ground.

This will also help you determine pricing of the project. (Link to Pricing article.)

Quoting Correctly

The quoting process is quite simple: you have to determine how much manpower goes into the project. Then you multiply it by the rate you’re going to pay your contractors. Finally, you add your own profit margin.

While hard at first, it’s something you figure out over time and as you build a stable trusted team of contractors and employees. In the meantime, make sure to quote based on an initial mockup of the site and 3 revisions.

Also, keep this in mind: sell them the value they’re going to get, not the product. This is the key: you have to sell them a solution to their perceived problem.

They have to realize it’s not just about web design and development. It’s about solving a perceived problem they’re having. And their perceived problem in this case is the lack of web presence, customers and brand awareness.

Hiring Contractors

Most agencies aren’t willing to put in the time to find good people. And after they run out of time, they just hire someone because they’re forced to.

Don’t just do basic interviews. You can only find out so much about the person you’re interviewing. Anyone can claim they’re good at what they do. You need to actually see they’re good at what they do.

Take your time. Here’s how to hire contractors without pulling your hair out in the process.

The Proper Method of Hiring Contractors

First, have them build a website you’re already building. And pay them to do so. (It will be worth the investment to discover if they will be an effective member of your team and will save – rather than cost – you money in the long run.) If it’s your first project, hire two separate developers and compare their processes, their communication skills, and their end products.

Ask them how much time they think it’ll take and how much they’ll charge.

Once it’s complete, compare their finished product with the website you’ve built. You’ll easily be able to see if the quality they provide is in line with the quality you’re committed to providing.

This process takes a few weeks but it’s worth it. You’ll avoid headaches, missed deadlines, faulty designs, and upset customers.

Let’s take a look at one more key in the puzzle: designers.

The Key is in Hiring Designers

Clients don’t care what the back-end code of a website looks like. A beautiful design is what allows you to charge $5000 vs. $1000, regardless of the code beneath the design.

So be careful when searching for a freelancer on websites like Elance. Many developers claim they’re good at design as well. And that may be true. But it’s better to hire a specialist in both fields rather than someone who claims they can do both – always.

In fact, never consider hiring someone who says they can do both. Only hire developer specialists and design specialists. And, when hiring designers, know that if you use a site like Elance, that whomever you hire, they’ll be working on several projects at once. It’s not realistic to expect them to work with you as if they were a fulltime employee. That being said, if you find someone you like, take steps as quickly as possible to send them more and more work until they can become your full-time employee.

Then, as you grow and have more money to reinvest in your business. make this the first process you change and just hire a top-notch designer. If you happen to find a top-notch designer on a site like Elance in the meantime, that’s a bonus.

Either way, start looking for a good graphic designer you can build a long-term relationship with.

Where to Start Looking?

If you have no clue where to start looking, start with Lightboard. They do great design work for a flat rate of $75 per hour.

Pricing per hour can be a problem, because you don’t know how long it will take. But, on the positive side, you’re almost guaranteed to get a great looking design.

For web developers, there’s Toptal. It’s very easy to find talented professionals over there, since they only accept the best of the best. It’s quite expensive, but they’ll listen to your needs carefully, and you’ll get exactly what you want.


There you have it: our entire process of running a website project from scratch. Take your time when developing your process and thinking out your timelines. It will save you from frustration and failed projects.

And don’t forget to subscribe to our Learning Center where you can download free task templates for Redbooth that will allow you to automatically load this entire process into Redbooth for every project you start with a client:

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