The High Cost of Casual

Tuxedo T-shirtLet’s face it, none of us like to be formal when we don’t have to.  We prefer shorts and t-shirts to suits, and hand shakes to contracts.  The problem is where being casual can lead you.  Get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking business here.

I was reading a blog post about how to blog every day, when I realized I haven’t written a post on my own blog in a month.  While I have no intention of blogging everyday, I never intended to wait so long either.  The bottom line is that I have just been too causal about it. Being too casual about anything you intend to take seriously is a big mistake.  In business it can cost you big dollars.

Ask anyone who has written up a formal job description before hiring a new employee, if they would ever make a hire without one again.  I sure never will.  It’s not just the protection the finished document gives you either.  The very act of writing things down forces you to think things through.  That’s where the gold is.

Write makes might

Have you ever taken on a project without writing up a scope of work document?  I have. Can you say, scope creep?  It doesn’t have to be a complicated document either.  Write out the client’s goals, and how you are going to help them achieve those goals.  The key is defining the deliverable- the actual work you are going to perform.  This is where you want to be as specific as possible.  When you leave the details vague, you invite trouble.

Do you want to do more work than you originally agreed to?  I do.  I do it all the time.  It’s a lot more fun when your client knows you’re doing more than you agreed to do.  It’s also good business.  How can you under promise and over deliver if your client  doesn’t know what you’re supposed to be delivering?

This is even more important when you are hiring people to do work for you.  I’ve hired a lot of freelance designers and programmers over the years.  Whether I am supplementing a team or outsourcing an entire project, spelling out the details can be the only thing that separates a win from a loss.  Casual, design-on-the-fly projects tend to miss deadlines, go over budget and take twice as much work.


I don’t shy away from setting formal goals.  This goes for myself and my client projects. Some people are afraid to set specific goals in their proposals.  I never understood this. Sometimes your client doesn’t know what goals they should be setting and it’s your job to help them define their goals.

If I am being asked to develop an SEO strategy, I define the specific terms we are targeting, where things stand before we start, and where we want to be by a specific date.  Website redesign? My first question is “why?”  Are we building an email list? Selling a product?  There is nothing wrong with re-designing a site just because it’s stale and needs a more current look.  If you dive a little deeper though, you can usually find a more measurable goal.

Some people are afraid to state a specific goal because if they kick ass but fall short of the goal, the project will look like a failure.  Well, guess what?  It will BE a a failure.  It’s scary to say, “You need x.  We get you x by doing y.”  You risk being wrong. Heaven forbid.  You can’t be great without risking being wrong.   I believe you can’t be great with actually being wrong.  A lot.

So while no one want to be too formal, being too casual will cost you money.  I have been reminded about this recently so I’m making some changes.  What about you?  Has being too casual about something ever blown up in your face?

photo by Mr. Wright.





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *