Most freelancers suck at meeting deadlines. I’ve heard horror stories from disgruntled complaining about people they’ve worked with in the past, and I’ve dealt with my own fair share of flaky freelancers.
Blown deadlines, forgotten deadlines, missed deadlines, stretched deadlines and the mysterious so-called “flexible” deadlines… no, freelancers aren’t really known for being reliable people you depend on to deliver.
That’s too bad. Because there’s one easy way to create ecstatic clients who come back for more:
Set a reasonable timeframe to complete your work.
The key word is “reasonable”.
Don’t say you can turn the work around in a day, especially when you know it may actually take you three days. Or four, because you have to be away from the computer most of Friday and, well, after that it’s the weekend…
The client won’t mind that much if you write in at the last hour and tell him you’ll deliver Monday instead. It’s only an extra day or two… right?
If you agree to a deadline, you have to hit it.
A client may listen and nod when you tell them that your kid was sick and you had to run her to the doctor, and then the tire on your Subaru Outback went flat when you were in the middle of the back roads and you had to walk twenty miles back to civilization. While carrying your kid. Without water.
Your client may be sympathetic, sure. But inside his head, he’s running down the list of anyone else he knows who might be able to get the job on time.
That’s why you need to remember this important truth of life:
There’s no nicer way to put it.
You’ll be working on your client’s project, and it’s coming along nicely, then BAM! Something unexpected falls in your lap that you have to take care of immediately.
That deadline you had every intention of hitting goes right out the window.
It’s not your fault, of course. Shit happens. But blow a deadline even by a few hours, and that client will remember it forever.
Even worse, you’ll make your apologies to your client knowing that while he listens and nods, sympathizing with your situation, he’s also mentally running down the list of people he’ll hire instead of you next time around.
Your reputation is worth more than gold. Meeting your deadlines is one of the most important obligations you have as a freelancer. But of course, shit happens. So how do you circumvent the problem?
Pad your time.
That doesn’t mean lying about how much time it’ll actually take you to do the work or falsifying the hours in any way. It means overestimating how much time you think it’ll take you to finish the project, leaving yourself some wiggle room in case the unexpected happens.
If the project will take 3 days, tell your client a week.
If the project will take you a week, tell your client a week and a half.
Give yourself the extra time – just in case something unexpected happens. You’ll save your reputation and still come out looking like a responsible, reliable freelancer.
That’s what clients like to see.
And if you don’t need that extra time? Fantastic. No one’s going to fire you for handing your work in early, so go ahead and deliver the work sooner than expected.
Your client will be ecstatically happy, which is exactly what you want.