I spent the morning working on a bid for a government project that sounds interesting and potentially lucrative. The challenge is that my potential partner in the project sometimes flakes when she gets stressed out ( I hesitate to judge her for it because people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones) and well, I've usually found working with government officials to sometimes be very time-consuming and frustrating. So the cautious part of me is whispering that we run to the hills, but my practical side says I know what the potential problems could be and could build systems in place to deal with them by.
Here are some of the things I hope will help smooth over the process:
1. Sign a contract outlining the duties and privileges of all parties
I will not start work on the project until a contract has been signed and an order voucher provided.
2. Plan for when interview subjects don't keep to schedules, potentially messing up the content creation schedule
My plan is to build in reasonable timelines for myself to nail down the interviews. If they can't meet due to their busy schedules, we can do telephone or Skype interviews at whatever time works for them, even if it's lunch or dinner. I also plan to record the interviews so that if I have queries, I can refer back to the audios instead of having to chase down the subjects for answers.
3. Plan for a protracted approval process
Usually you walk into a project thinking that the people hiring you have the final word on content, but working with government, you can never count on that. Pretty soon, they tell you that they have sent the manuscript to the executive for approval; with said executive having a very different idea from the initial brief agreed upon. And I don't expect them to muster the balls to tell the executive that they are not using an appropriate yardstick to judge the content.
4. Create content plan and schedule officially approved and signed so that everyone knows what is expected
I will make sure that the content plan is officially approved in writing. Also, all editorial changes should be communicated in writing, as part of the tracked changes in the manuscript, not by telephone call. Taking editorial critiques by telephone would just open me to a world of hurt, because the potential for misunderstanding or for something to fall into the cracks is huge. I dislike the he said/she said client discussion so much! It never ends well for either party.
5. Make sure I get paid
I don't really want to spend the rest of the year chasing payment for the project. I've done too much of that in the past, having given the client initial leeway and them seeing that as permission to take their time paying me. So my standard provision to require a deposit before the project starts will stand, to ensure that all my initial project costs are covered if they fail to pay me on time.
So yes, I'm approaching this project with a very cautious attitude, but I'm also looking forward to it because it's a project that adds value to our society. Wish me luck.