You wake up Monday morning, and you know you have to work on THAT project first thing when you get to the office. You work on it all day, with little success. 5 o’clock brings a little relief, but when your head hits the pillow you know that tomorrow will be a lot of the same.

When you work in an industry like web design, there will be the occasional (hopefully) project that doesn’t go well. It takes longer than you had planned, it costs more than you estimated, and everyone is frustrated. You just want to be done with it, so you can move on to better projects. But you want to finish this one well too. So what do you do?


1. Focus on the preferred outcome.

Yes, it’s hard right now. All you can see are the problems that are glaring at you. How can anything good come from this? It might seem like a lot right now, but if you plan how you’re going to tackle the problem(s), it starts to feel a little bit easier.

Don’t try to solve everything at once. Make a detailed plan for working through each issue, and get to work!

2. Use your words

You might be an independent designer/developer, or part of a large company with many moving parts. But no matter where you fall on the spectrum, you have to communicate with someone. Now that you have a plan, communicate with everyone who needs to know what’s going on. A phone call or an email to your customer letting them know you have a plan goes a long way.

If you work with other people, communicate with them, and figure out how to implement your plan. But also be ready to accept input from customers and colleagues (more on this in a little bit)

3. Get it done

You have a plan, and you’ve communicated it with everyone who needs to be in the know, now it’s time to execute your plan. As you accomplish small tasks within the project, you’ll feel great, and you’ll gain momentum. Keep your eye on the prize. You’ll be done with this project soon, and you can get on to the next one.

Unfortunately, while you’re trying to remain positive, and you’re working hard to do the right thing, not everyone is going to be congenial about the issue. You will likely have to deal with people who are frustrated, and they might not know how to express that in a constructive way. So, what shouldn’t you do when a project isn’t going great?


1. Point fingers

When someone comes yelling at you and pointing out everything that you’ve done wrong, it is only natural to reciprocate. But this will only make the situation worse. Rather than escalating the situation, accept responsibility if you did make a mistake, and then point back to the solution. You’ll save time and hopefully restore peace in the office.

2. Get defensive

Remember when I said “more on this later”? When you present your ideas to the client or your colleagues, be prepared for someone to disagree with part or all of your plan. But getting defensive could escalate the situation to where you’re pointing fingers at each other, instead of finding a solution. So what do you do? Ask them what they would do differently (your tone of voice is VERY important here). Collaborate with them. They have a different perspective than you, and collaborating can lead to an even better solution than you could have come up with on your own.

3. Be a doormat

While you’re doing your best to regain or maintain peace with your clients and colleagues, it is important that you don’t let them walk all over you. If you don’t stand your ground where you should now, everyone WILL notice, and they WILL remember next time there is an issue or they want something.

It’s ok to be confident and firm, but don’t be a jerk about it. It is likely that all parties involved agreed to some terms before the project was started, use that to your advantage. But also be accommodating where you can.

This list isn’t exhaustive by any means, but it’s meant to put you on the right track. Do you have any methods you use for getting through difficult projects? We would love to see them! Leave your comments below, or connect with me on twitter! @P_Wunder