Daily Status Reports

Question: Many new clients want to have a constant check-in from me (sometimes multiple times a day) when I am working offsite, as an assurance that I am “working” on their project. I have “bitten the bullet” and devised a technique for providing “short and sweet” status reports to them every day, but it is maddening at times. I was wondering how people on this list handle this.

Here are some responses to this question:

I have never had clients ask me to check in daily. One or two have wanted weekly status reports, but I even resist those, diplomatically. Checking in daily, or heaven forbid, multiple times a day, is just crazy. My clients know when I’m working on their project, because I’m sending them questions at least once a day. I’ve even said that on occasion.

I have used a different rate for onsite and offsite (just $5 an hour difference), and it has worked to discourage lots of requests for me to be onsite. Admittedly, with the softer market the last couple of years, I’ve not been consistent with that structure. Few clients have balked though, when I’ve explained that rate structure.
For status reporting, we talk about that up front as well. We do it weekly, and the status reports are tied to time sheets which are tied to invoicing. We also do a lot of account management with the client to try to shield the communicators from being continually bugged. If we funnel work into them on an orderly basis, they get a lot more work done.

We have one client who thinks up great ideas in the middle of the night. Thank goodness we have a great account manager who funnels that stuff in an orderly manner to make sure we get productivity without driving our folks mad.
Thanks for the sanity check about the daily check-ins. I’m in the Silicon Valley Area and I know my experiences are not unique to me in this area. There are just a lot of people here who seem to have a need for strong control over the contractors. Unfortunately, I think a lot of it has arisen from the more “affluent” times when some companies had bad experiences with some contract writers. I have learned, though, that humoring them in the beginning of the contract pays off, as I can usually “wind down” the pace of check-ins and status reports as I show them progress. It is also far less stressful doing this than fighting their insecurities.

An even better way to manage this is to ensure that I do interact with them every single day. I tend to tackle a piece of a project and bury myself in it for a few days, composing multiple questions that I present at one time. However, it may serve me better to fire off the questions as I encounter them.

I also think these companies are really looking for a full-time employee. I know that many of my clients just don’t have the budget to hire a full-time employee (or don’t want to have to provide the benefits or personnel management).
I ALWAYS provided a weekly status report whether the client wanted one or not. I also stayed in touch daily. I would save my questions up until the end of the day and then send them out. Usually the SMEs had already left for the day but answered my questions first thing the next morning. Gradually, the SMEs came to find out that ignoring my questions was the worst thing they could do. I am nothing if not relentless.
When I work from my home office, I don’t do them (it’s not a good use of the client’s fees and I’m certainly going to charge for the time), but, as they are ready, I do send along drafts of the materials for their review and comment so they can see I’m working on their behalf.