You have ideas, maybe for a book, blog, website, or new business angle; but, you don’t know where to start. You don’t know what the first step should be, or how much time and money it’s going to take to make things happen. Sound familiar? If the answer is yes, then you need to get organized.
Organization comes in a many different shapes and sizes; but, it should always include a little research, a little brainstorming, a little soul searching, and maybe even an outside eye to take a look at what you are trying to accomplish. It might even go by the name of: project assessment.
My project assessment is a bit of a throw-back to my corporate managerial days; spawned from years of dissecting how to get a project done on time, within budget, and meet all its goals. It has become a great tool for me when I need to estimate the effort required to take a client’s project from concept to completion; but, also a great tool for showing my clients how to kick start their idea.
The project assessment is not a business plan, or a Pocket Plan (see my 01.30.09 post), it is a big picture snapshot of the situation at hand, and I feel an essential first step for any project. So how do you go about doing one? Well…you came to the right place.
Step 1: The Concept.
Write one descriptive sentence about your project, a.k.a your pitch, your log line, the thing that’s going to keep you excited. And it has to be more than this: I want to write a book. Dig deeper. Pick colorful words that describe your project and answer the question, why? Your concept should sound more like this: A coming-of-age book about a troubled kid that overcomes adversity and becomes an olympic athlete, written to inspire the kid in every classroom.
Step 2: Project Goals.
Start writing a list of everything, big and small, that you hope to achieve with your project. Maybe you want to market a new product as a way to branch out into a higher-end clientele. Maybe this idea is going to get you on Oprah? Or maybe you just want to increase your revenue by 20% in 2010. You’ll find the longer your list of goals, the more ideas you’ll start to have about how to bring your project to life.
Step 3: Challenges.
This is another list–that hopefully isn’t longer than the one above. Be honest with yourself about what you don’t have. I don’t know a kick butt PR person, I don’t know how to effectively market to my customers, I have no extra money…you get the drift. Being honest with yourself about what your challenges may be will help you plan out a realistic budget, schedule, and tasks for getting your project done. Everything is possible, but nothing comes without some struggle.
Step 4: Current Status.
Where are you at right now? Have you started writing that manuscript? Have you researched the competition?
Describe where you are at and what you have right now that can help you take that baby step past the start line. If it’s just a twinkle in your eye–write that down. But don’t forget to look around. Maybe you a have a solid few hundred friends on Facebook that you know would love that in-call mani/pedi service you want to start offering. Maybe you know someone who is hosting a personal development event that needs speakers, life yourself, with all that life coaching experience. Taking inventory of what you have within reach and who you know can start opening doors for your project very quickly.
Step 5: Approach.
This is your plan for getting from A to Z. It can be as broad-brush or as detailed as you need it to be (or have energy for); but, it has to give you some idea of how to get your project off the ground. If you’ve done your due diligence with steps 1 through 4, you’ll find you have a lot of it there already. Take your time and think about the action you need to take.
Here is an example of an approach I wrote for a client of mine that wanted me to come up with a design and content for his medical billing website:
- Examine the competition; what are other medical billing websites doing right and wrong.
Website Layout and Design
- Create a strategic design; a brand. Colors, graphics, layout, and logo that represent the company and its message.
- Must be able to capture visitor’s name and e-mail on the home page.
- Can we offer a free trial? Can we offer a newsletter?
- Must be visually easy to navigate.
- Consider links and advertising on website.
- The process of medical billing is similar and is governed by insurance companies. How do we differentiate ourselves? What is our strategy? What are doctor’s complaints about other medical billing companies? The content should answer all these questions.
- Emphasizes the benefits of out-sourcing, the benefits of using Dr. America Billing, how we help doctors save time and money, and get money for their services efficiently.
- Content must be simple, easy to understand, and powerful.
- Consider linking to, or writing industry articles.
- Use Google keyword tool to improve SEO.
- Edit all copy for structure, voice, grammar.
- Is our brand’s message coming across in all copy?
- Final copyedit on website.
Step 6: Schedule.
The best laid plan will fall apart without deadlines because we as humans have a tendency to fall into the rut of procrastination. In fact, I just emailed my editor a schedule to make sure I stop procrastinating and finish the second draft of my next book.
Look at everything you have written down so far and open up your calendar, daytimer or blackberry. Plot how long it’s going to take to get to where you want to be. Be realistic, don’t think you’re going to finish a 500-page manuscript in a week; but, crack the whip a little on yourself too, because thinking about offering that new $100/hour coaching session is not going to get the bills paid.
Step 7: Budget.
Once you have a realistic schedule, it’s time to start thinking about the financial investment your project will require–because ALL projects will cost you something. Even if you’re starting a blog on WordPress.com, you still may want to consider advertising, or hiring a social networking expert to get your blog the attention you want it to get.
Got a huge dream? Don’t get discouraged. Remember, the whole purpose of this project assessment is to take the baby step past the start line. Move forward, think crafty, and you’ll get there–via a small or large budget.
Now here’s the best part, I offer all of my potential client’s a FREE project assessment. Just like it says on my website, that is a $400 value, at absolutely no cost to you. So if you want that outside eye to analyze what you’ve got, and crack the whip a little, contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy the cooling weather…