The deadline is one of the most important aspects of a freelance gig. Completing the most wonderful piece of work, but delivering it late, is the magic wand that can make clients disappear in a flash and word gets around.
A deadline for a job to be completed in a couple of hours presents fewer hazards than one where you have weeks or months to the finish line. In a couple of hours it is less likely that you will break a leg, be bitten by a rabid dog or become inexplicably drawn to beating your last Solitaire score. For a much longer job, you should be able to manage the unexpected distractions, events and people turning up on your doorstep ‘for a chat’.
Deadlines – start at the beginning
A deadline MUST BE MET unless not humanly possible. Consider the following:
- Is the deadline reasonable for the work? Have you properly assessed the degree of difficulty and realistic amount of time needed? If not, discuss it with the client NOW as the clock is already ticking.
- Go through the job quickly and raise any queries with the client immediately. I received a document recently where the text ended mid-sentence so I queried it immediately – it turned out I had been sent the wrong file.
- For jobs of a few hours, if your client is in a different time zone check whether the hour on the PO matches your time zone or adjust accordingly.
You begin the job. Then, part way through you feel unwell, say, or the screen goes black and lifeless. This, of course, always happens when time is becoming critical.
Time for some quick thinking
You have three immediate choices:
- Struggle on the best you can.
- Consider how quickly you can fix the problem and action it.
- Run from the room screaming and return later to make a tearful call to the client.
Option one isn’t great; the risk of failing to reach the required standard AND missing the deadline shoots up into the red sector. The third option is almost as bad as missing the deadline, in terms of demonstrating poor quality of your service and professionalism. So we are left with the second option.
Assessing the problem
Just how serious is the situation? If you really cannot possibly finish the job, you need to do some fast thinking. Are you part of a ‘buddy’ system so you can pass the job on to someone else to finish it on time? Even having a network of other freelancers on social media can help.
Second, is there an alternative that will allow you to keep working? Will a couple of paracetamol and a break ease the headache? Do you have a backup such as a laptop you can use instead of the PC? Will the deadline allow you to dash over to your PC repair man to at least run the files on to a memory stick for you, if not very recently backed up to external media?
Third, to meet the deadline you may need to work all evening, or maybe several evenings. Not ideal if you have family or other commitments, not ideal for staying refreshed so continue to take regular breaks – but there are times when this will be the only way to solve the problem. Make as many rash promises to your family as you need to, lock yourself away and go to it.
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