We've got this new feature coming in the next few weeks: Task codes. Buyers break jobs down by small tasks, and a provider logging in selects a code indicating the kind of task she's working on. That way, the buyer can plan and budget better. We haven't come up with a version just for the provider's personal recordkeeping (yet!), but it occurs to us that this is a great way for a provider to approach a job even if the buyer hasn't embraced the feature.
A buyer might hire you to "build an online store," but approaching the job in that giant-sized chunk is a recipe for failure. You know you have to approach it one step at a time, and making this process visible to the buyer is a way to ensure solid communication and a smooth workflow. Go back to your buyer with a list of the specific tasks — "build database," "populate database with product info," "implement Yahoo shopping cart" — and time estimates for each. If your buyer creates applicable task codes, use them when you sign in. If not, just specify the task at hand on your work memo.
Why go through all this nitty-gritty detail work? Here are four reasons:
- Manage expectations. Showing each step can make sure the buyer understands why the job will take the time and money you estimate it will take. It prevents misunderstandings or disappointment down the line.
- Involve other team members. If your breakdown includes functions other team members will perform, this helps the buyer organize the team, and raises your stature as a key member. For example, your time may be best spent on building the database but not keying-in the information. Have a data-entry specialist do that while you are focusing on your core work.
- Establish transparency. You're creating an easy way for the buyer to follow your progress. For some jobs, you may want to ask the buyer to sign off on each step — a simple email will do. Other times, you might be satisfied knowing you're providing the right information, and tackling the job one task at a time.
- Increase your long-term value. Task codes, or just an understanding of the breakdown, creates a way of looking at the job, a language your buyer knows you speak. In the long term, she'll want providers who are already on the same page — so start writing that page now.
Task codes roll out in the next few weeks — keep an eye on our What's New page. But in the meantime, if you're not already geared toward thinking about the small pieces that create the big picture, there's no better time to start.