The Perfectionist’s Fool-proof Guide to Writing Excellent Client Reports

Client reports are both a straight-forward endeavor and a dreaded one: tight deadlines, overlooking important details, and leaving in typos equal a dissatisfied client who won’t ever want to work with you again.

Many of the times, the reason why a lot of our clients don’t deliver on their client’s expectations when it comes to writing reports is their inability to separate the important elements from the unimportant one when attempting to write a great report.

Giving everything the same level of importance will lead to a poor time schedule, a report riddled with embarrassing and unprofessional mistakes, and overwhelming stress. If all of this applies to you somehow, you might have the simple—yet common—case of “perfectionism.”

Perfectionism can lead you to categorize every little, unimportant thing as important

One of the common answer you hear to the question “What’re your flaws?” in a job interview is “I’m a perfectionist”—an answer interviewees believe will give them a strong advantage over other candidates. It may sound like a “polished flaw,” but perfectionism can really kill your productivity.

The reason you can’t deliver reports is that you’re overdoing it; perfectionists have a constant need to overdeliver and exceed the client’s expectations, so much so that they end up doing the exact opposite—handing over a barely finished report with embarrassing errors and typos. All because they spent way too much time mulling and fussing over every little decision or detail.

If you constantly find yourself “in your own way,” your first step is to recognize that about yourself, and the next step would be to find a way around it using these simple techniques we’re going to share with you in this week’s article.

How to beat the perfectionist in you and get that client report done on time

Here’s how we propose you approach writing a report and beat the perfectionist in you that has helped many of the clients we worked with. It combines agile, critical chain, and customer-centric thinking to get the job done.

This is what you should do…

#1 Write the report as if you have to turn it in tomorrow.

Think about what you would write in the report as though you’re working against a twenty-four-hour deadline.

What would you add in there? What’re the most important things your client needs to know? What are the only metrics you need to add in there that will give your client everything they need? What are the main, general headlines that you need to fill in your clients on that will give them a general idea of the report?

#2 Read it from your client’s perspective

 After you’re done with your first draft, now it’s time to critique what you wrote from your client’s perspective, and identify the things that need to be improved.

Did it meet your (the client’s) requirements? Does it tell you everything you need to know, or is there something missing? Is everything written well enough that you understand the point of the report? What would you have liked to see—as a client—in the report that would’ve helped you better understand the report?

Make notes of these, and remember, you’re seeing this through the client’s lens, not yours. Getting a trusted colleague to take a look at the report for you might even help you more.

#3 Bring forth the “add-ons”

Now that you have an adequate and sufficient first draft ready, now think of other aspects you can add to the report that would be of value to your client and will make them amazed and pleasantly surprised without having to put too much effort into it.

Maybe you could turn a paragraph riddled with numbers and percentages into a pie chart or bar graph? Maybe turn one section of the report into a more comprehensible table? What about that long paragraph that you can divide into smaller, more readable paragraphs?

#4 Always have a buffer

As a general rule of thumb: try to finish the report in third of the amount of days until the deadline.

For example, if you had ten days to hand in a report to a client, make sure you finish the report in first three days, then spend the next three days editing the report, doing quick clean-ups of the document, and adding more “meat” to the report. This leaves you with about four days—about the third of the time until the deadline—to read the report, review it, and put in your final “wow” touches.


Perfectionism is a double-edged sword

Perfectionism isn’t all bad just as much as it isn’t all good. You’re able to provide high-quality experiences to your clients and go above and beyond when it comes to client expectations and requirements. It’s a matter of finding the right balance and staying aware.

This method helps tame that perfectionist in you, and provides a lot of value for your client while also reducing the stress involved in writing a report and ensuring you have ample amount of time to polish up the report no matter how tight the deadline is.

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