It's been more than a year since I first discovered Airtable, and nearly a year since I took on the role of Airtable's Developer Evangelist. In that time, I've had the pleasure of helping a number of other developers make use of Airtable, and the amazing Airtable API in particular.
I've also been doing quite a bit of consulting for Airtable users. I've developed Airtable-based solutions for a variety of other types of businesses, including photographers, musicians, promotional marketing companies, and more. Based on my experience, I thought I'd share a few tips on how to make an Airtable consulting project a success.
An Initial Consultation
Education is very often a big part of the Airtable projects that I'm involved in, and it starts with a free initial consultation that I have with a prospective client. During that first meeting, I have the prospect show me what they've created with Airtable and how they are using it. This is a great way to learn more about the client's goals and what it will take to help them achieve those goals.
The initial consultation is also an opportunity to see how familiar the prospective client is with Airtable, and identify any features that they are unaware of. As they are showing me their Airtable base, I point out features that they could be using, as well as minor changes that they might want to make to their databases that will help them to be more efficient. As a result, the prospect gets a lot of value from the consultation. This also helps to build credibility with the prospect, and convince them that you are the right person to help them with their Airtable needs.
A Compelling Proposal
The things that I discover during the initial consultation (such as the prospective client's goals, features that could be implemented, and so on) are a big help when it comes time to prepare a proposal.
I could write an entire blog post about the proposal process (and I might do so in the future), but here are a few tips and suggestions for you to consider as you prepare your proposals:
• Restate the prospective client's goals. You want to make it very clear that you understand what the client is trying to achieve.
• Clearly describe the work that you are going to do to help the client achieve their goals. You don't have to provide a lot of details, but you want to be sure that the prospect does understand the work that you are proposing to do on at least a basic level.
• Include a "Why me?" section. The prospect might be considering other consultants. What makes you different? Why should they choose to work with you instead of those other consultants?
• Clearly provide your pricing, terms, and scheduling information. I use the value pricing approach (which you can learn more about here), typically require payment in full before working on a project, don't charge for bug fixes, and so on. Stating all of this up front will help the client to understand how you work and set their expectations early.
• Guarantee your work. I started to do this last year, and it has made a big difference with regard to how prospects evaluate my proposals.
Implementing Airtable Features
The work that I do for my clients often involves implementing Airtable features that they are either completely unaware of or are not using to their full advantage. Two specific Airtable features that I've found that clients are are views and filters.
I've been finding that instead of using views and filters, clients choose to setup multiple tables instead. As a result, they end up with more tables than they need. In those cases, I work with the client to combine data from multiple, similar tables, and then I setup views to make it easier for the client to work with subsets of records. I also show the client how views work, as well as Airtable's filtering and "hide columns" features.
It's also common to find that a client has configured a table's columns with generic (single line text) columns types. In those cases, I familiarize client with the various column types that Airtable supports, and help them to choose column types that will help make them more efficient. For example, I often find that clients use "single line text" columns to store email addresses, instead of the "Email" column type which is designed specifically for that purpose.
I've also worked with several clients who have come to Airtable after using spreadsheets for many years. When working with those clients, I review Airtable's "Formula" column type and the many functions that Airtable now supports.
Reviewing the Database Design
Reviewing the database design is also an important and common part of an Airtable consulting project. As I mentioned earlier, this often involves identifying tables that can be combined, implementing views, and so on. I also look for opportunities to setup linked tables, and show the client the benefits that come with a more normalized database.
A Collaborative Approach
I've found that the best, most successful projects - regardless of whether they involve Airtable or not - are the result of a good relationship with the client. To achieve that, I try to use a collaborative approach, where I'm not simply doing things for the clients, but instead showing them how - and maybe more importantly why - I do those things. The end result is a client who is more empowered and more aware of what Airtable is capable of.