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I am beginning to work with a remote client. It is the first time that I've encountered work with their type of business (home remodeling/renovation), so I've allotted some time to do some research on their business and an analysis of their competitors.

Now, one of the issues that I'll be facing is not being able to meet face-to-face with the client. We live in different areas, with different types of concerns (I'd imagine). As an example, the client is based in a rural area in the Mid-Atlantic United States, while I live outside a Southern city.

With limited time on both of our ends, I want any questions that I have regarding my clients' business to be as specific as possible, so that I don't waste either of our time. I'm not a home remodeling expert, so I'm trying to understand the business, so I know what concerns to prioritize, and which concerns will likely have minimal effect.

What sort of concerns do I need to take into account for doing this sort of research? Does the client business type make all the difference between researching a specific area vs researching a broader area?

  • Researching for what purpose? – Scott Mar 31 '14 at 5:32
  • @Scott - In this particular case, there are a few purposes. With limited time on both of our ends, I want any questions that I have regarding my clients' business to be as specific as possible, so that I don't waste either of our time. I'm not a home remodeling expert, so I'm trying to understand the business, so I know what concerns to prioritize, and which concerns will likely have minimal effect. – Chris Forrence Mar 31 '14 at 10:28
  • How about asking him to send you his business brochures?! I guess you have his business URL, but his blog may help as well. Also portfolio of his project can be very helpful. Lastly, DO have a couple of Skype talk sessions where he would talk about his job, their visions and intentions, and so on. This is how I got introduced with one open-source global project - the owner gave me 99% of information in 2hrs talk session. – Peter MV Apr 25 '14 at 6:42
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Assuming this is for a website, first they would need to provide what kind of content will be displayed.

Does their site sell products like a store front? Will you need prices of services to be listed? Will they be providing stock photos?

How much interaction do they expect from visitors? Will the site need a customer relations function such as bill payments or newsletters? Do they only need a contact us page for call back quotes?

Being home remodeling / renovation do they have a portfolio or pictures of past jobs, customer testimonials, other business credentials such as the Better Business Bureau®.

What types of payments do they accept? Visa, Mastercard, Bitcoin? Company history / about us, service areas / business locations, office hours, phone numbers.

As you mentioned look at other sites, competitor or otherwise, and see what industry specific content they provide and ask your client to personalize similar information. See if they have a brochure already prepared.

I usually ask my clients if there are any other sites that they would like to emulate (not duplicate). This assists in figuring out what the client likes in existing sites in order to get a basis of what matters most to them.

Ask what makes their company stand out above the crowd, find out what they consider an attribute of their services that others in the trade lack. Better customer service, better quality products, better deals and value, money back guarantee. Try to find information that other sites lack that may be an incentive to pick them instead of the other dozen that do not give free ice-cream with every order.

If you send them a list be sure to bullet point each question that needs answered. This should prevent any being missed and needing reiterated wasting said time. If you are interested I may suggest you talk with a sales person to see what the customer experience will be like as well as glean some knowledge on how to portray the company.

Other important questions are the terms of your employment. Your expectations regarding compensation and their expectations regarding the final product. I know that is a general statement but it is important that each party knows what the other is needing. Ideally a lawyer reviewed contract is the way to go but in lieu of that get as many specifications in writing as possible. "Sorry sir but it says here you wanted MapQuest not Google Maps"

I hope this helps you move forward in your quest.

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Actually, it sounds like your project is not planned very well. I'm not a freelancer but I'm working as a PM in an offshoring development scenario (me in Germany (client) and my developers are in India (service provider - you).

Since you're not the person who has initialized the project the planning part should be on your clients side. But you can suggest him the following, so that the client is seeing that you really want to do your job.

  1. You should have a direct project responsible you can talk to. Let me guess you're talking to the boss directly, right? (Short on time and difficuilt to get.) So try to get one who can also answer calls spontanuously, so that the waiting time is as small as possible.
  2. Fix appointments to discuss issues. The best is that you send your queries one or a half day before the appointment, so that your counterpart can prepare.
  3. Milestones to have certain goals, so that you know what the topic is and do your researches. They're simply helping you to focus on the right things and are giving the client a good indication of the project progress.

If you think about the whole situation you will identify some more points. So here is my more generic advice.

What do you need from your client's side to get the job done? If it's not clear, when the job is done, then you should probably clarify this first. ;)

Sounds all like the usual project management issues. :)

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