Missed deadline doesn't have to be fatal for freelancers

Freelancers: missed deadlines need not be fatal

Anyone who engages in the freelance game long enough will experience the disappointment and stress of a missed deadline. While consistent misses are bad for business, the rare late assignment isn’t a death sentence for your business if you know how to recover well.

Try to avoid scope issues

A common freelancer mistake is to take on a project without completely understanding its scope. This happens because you have a chance to earn a new client and set a price based on your best expectation of the project requirements.

In some cases, you realize after getting into the process that your estimate of time and resource requirements was very low. You lose enthusiasm for the project and delay moving forward. Your best options at this point are to either fulfill the requirements and address the issue on the next opportunity or take the time to communicate your concerns with the client and explore a compromise.

A more proactive strategy when taking on a new client and an uncertain project scope is to start with a small sample trial. This approach lets you gauge the anticipated workload and lets the client see what you produce for a modest investment. If everyone is satisfied, continue with more work.

If you see a problem coming, communicate it ASAP

Technical errors are an unfortunate occurrence that can happen. Freelancers often rely on computers and other technology to plan, coordinate and execute projects. If the technology falters, such as with a computer crash, it is hard to redo completed work in time to meet a deadline.

Let the client know as soon as possible what has happened, and explain the steps you will take to finish as soon as possible. Offer a revised due date and see if the client accepts. As you experience new technical mishaps, take precautions such as file back-ups to guard against re-occurrences. Clients won’t have patience for repeat issues.

Don’t overbook

You may have heard about the recent uproar over airline passengers in the United States refusing offers and fighting back against forced removal from planes that were intentionally overbooked. While fights won’t likely break out, it isn’t good service for a freelancer to take on more work that he can effectively complete in a given period of time.

Get comfortable with a workload that balances with your other personal and family roles. Stay disciplined in only taking on clients and projects that offer a good return on your time investment.

Take responsibility when it comes to price

When good retailers make a mistake, they normally offer the customer a free item, voucher or discount to make up for the inconvenience and bad experience. Applying the same logic, if you mess up, the client is likely going to expect it to be reflected in your fee.

If you miss a deadline, especially when time is of the essence, offer some sort of peace offering with your apology. A discount on the late project or a future project is one option. This gesture shows that you are committed to on-time work and don’t take the miss lightly.

Don’t stress too much

All freelancers miss a deadline at some point in their career; it’s inevitable. The keys are to communicate effectively, make amends with the client, and avoid making the same errors in the future. Successful navigation through missteps reinforces your commitment to quality work and strengthens your long-term bond with clients.

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