You know how to design a fantastic website.
You’ve got hosting covered, you have full confidence in your abilities to get a result, and you just know the project is going to go off without a hitch.
And then… crickets. Nothing happens.
You wait. And wait. And wait. Despite being able to build a gorgeous website, what on earth are you going to put on it?
After all, you didn’t sign up for this! You’re not a writer, you’re a web designer!
This is an all-too-common problem. I’d like to help you demystify it with a few simple suggestions that have worked in our agency.
1. Create a Content Collection Form
A content collection form helps streamline the process of gathering content from clients.
Develop a form that covers all the necessary information and content needed for the website using a tool like Fluent Forms (affiliate link).
This can include text, images, videos, and other relevant media.
If possible, make sure to provide clear instructions and deadlines for submission.
A well-structured form not only makes it easier for clients to share their content but also saves you time and effort in chasing down materials.
The more you can automate this process, the better. This brings me to my next suggestion…
2. Use a Tool like ContentSnare
ContentSnare is a powerful tool that simplifies the content collection process.
It allows you to create custom templates and request content from clients, set deadlines, and send automatic reminders.
By using a dedicated tool, you can manage the entire process in one place and ensure that you receive the required content on time.
There is also a mental trick going on here. I have a saying in my business, “Let the robots take the blame.”
What I mean by that is, sometimes people are annoyed by constant check-ins, and I assume you don’t like doling them out either.
However, people are used to software programmatically reminding them to get stuff done, and it’s often just as effective.
You can effectively “outsource” your content collection to an automated process while working on the design!
It’s like magic, and in our experience, it works.
3. Implement Consequences
Establishing consequences for not providing content in a timely manner can be an effective way to motivate clients.
Consider implementing penalties, such as delayed project timelines or additional fees, for missed content deadlines.
Communicate these consequences clearly from the beginning to ensure that clients understand the importance of providing content on time.
Getting practical, you could craft a policy that a delay of longer than two weeks in receiving content from your client will result in pushing the project to the bottom of your list.
(Necessary) bonus tip: If you’re going to do this, you owe it to the client to make this process as easy as humanly possible. There should be clear instructions on what you want, how you want it, and when and where to provide it.
It’s not cheap, but this is where a tool like ContentSnare becomes invaluable. They provide templates based on common website structures that help clients visually see where content will go, without doing ANY design work.
I’m not an affiliate, but I am a fan and a user. It’s worth your money.
4. Become a Writer (or Hire One!)
While you may not have “signed up to be a writer,” having some basic copywriting skills can be beneficial in times of need.
If your client is struggling to provide content, offer to help them with the writing process.
You can either write the content yourself or collaborate with the client to create something that meets their needs.
This can be a valuable skill to offer clients and may lead to additional revenue opportunities.
I’m also a big fan of using Upwork to grow your business.
Admittedly, they are harder to find, but good writers are absolutely available on platforms like Upwork and would do a great job.
Not interested in onboarding someone? Use a fulfillment partner.
Fulfillment partners (FFPs) are one of the best-kept secrets of web design.
This deserves some attention of its own (which it will receive soon!), but here’s the basic sketch of working with an FFP:
These are small teams
No hiring individuals
Great rates (usually)
Quality, guaranteed workmanship
Focus on helping other agencies
These are basically agencies that work on a white-label basis because they had rather work underneath other agencies rather than go after their own clients (though some of them do both).
A couple of examples are Pennington Creative (whom I actively use for certain projects) and Third Marble.
Here’s how to order website content from Pennington.
5. Use ChatGPT
AI tools are rapidly changing the world.
ChatGPT is an AI-powered language model that can help you generate content quickly and efficiently—and it’s absolutely free.
It can be an excellent tool for creating placeholder text or even drafting entire sections of content when your clients are struggling to provide materials.
By using ChatGPT, you can keep your project moving forward while still waiting for your client’s input.
If you’re going to go this route, I definitely recommend considering a premium subscription. It’s affordable, faster, and you get access to new tools before others.
There’s a legitimate question as to how much AI content it makes sense to use within client projects.
While I’ll have much to say on this in the future, my current view involves using it for what I call “starter content.”
For example, you could give the AI a bullet list outline of the client’s information and it would write a pretty great “starter about page” that the client could then mold and tweak to sound like them.
This keeps the robots and the humans in their proper place.
QUESTION: Are you interested in learning more about how to use AI in your business? I’m considering more content/products around this. Please let me know in the comments!
6. Establish Boundaries
This might be the most important piece of advice I ever give you.
Setting boundaries and clear expectations from the beginning of the project is essential.
Clients are fantastic. We need them. But they don’t own you, and they don’t dictate the rules of your business.
You must communicate with your clients about the importance of providing content and the impact it has on the project’s success.
Establish a clear timeline for content submission and make sure that clients understand their role in the process. This helps create a more efficient workflow and prevent unnecessary delays.
The thing about boundaries though… they have to be enforced.
If you set them, enforce them. If you do that, clients will respect you—trust me.
Obtaining content from web design clients can be challenging, but by implementing the strategies discussed, you can streamline the content collection process and ensure your projects stay on track.
Creating a content collection form, using tools like ContentSnare and ChatGPT, implementing consequences, developing writing skills, and establishing clear boundaries are all crucial steps in successfully collaborating with clients.
Remember, communication is key, and setting expectations from the beginning will help create a more efficient workflow and prevent unnecessary delays.
If you implement these ideas, you’ll not only be able to produce outstanding websites that satisfy both your clients and your creative vision, but you’ll have mastered one of the hardest jobs of being a web designer.