The right number of phases really depends on the size of your project and the nature of the relationship with your client.

For project-based work, we suggest breaking the project down into 3-6 chunks with tangible deliverables and timelines for each. An ideal phase contains work that can be accomplished in a short, 2-3 week period.

As an example, often brand development work will begin with a "Discovery" phase, proceed to a "Research" phase, then enter a "Strategy" phase. This may or may not be followed by "Naming" and "Brand Identity" phases. (Obviously, these phases change according to the kind of work you do.)

In the absence of easily defined phases of work, a good way of approaching phase breakdowns might be to think about how often you want to be paid.

If your project is more like a retainer (i.e. you’re contracting for a certain number of hours), then we recommend setting up phases at regular intervals – usually every two weeks or once a month, like a paycheck. Simply assign a lump sum value to the hours you are contracted to work, and charge the client that amount up front, to be held in escrow. It’s often helpful to provide clients with somewhat frequent updates as you go — for example “here’s what I’ve done this week: (list of activities goes here); you’ve used 50% of your phase hours.” — so there won’t be any surprises.

Remember that you can always add phases as you go, so if you find that you need to make adjustments, you can!

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