Freelancers: Juggling Deadlines and Priorities 101
Deadlines can be a nasty thorn for many freelancers. I personally feel that deadlines make me more concerned with the outcome, rather than the job itself. Also, many freelancers have to face quality issues, just because they had to stick to deadlines.
Unfortunately, everything in life comes with an expiry date, and whether you like it or not, deadlines will continue to haunt you if you don’t keep them in check.
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What many miss out is the fact that deadlines have shaped freelancing as one of the most thriving industries of the 21st century. Also, the fact that since deadlines make freelancers accountable, it has also made the profession as well as the industry more organised.
If freelancers can act smart and show more purpose, they can deal with this issue of deadlines more effectively.
Recommended Reading: Guide to Freelancing (series)
Have a say while agreeing on deadlines
Clients are very dominant, while choosing freelancers for their projects. If you, as a freelancer, are not comfortable with the given deadline, then the client might choose someone else. Ironically, that’s where freelancers usually commit their most common mistake.
Since they need work, they usually agree to any given project deadline, even when they cannot commit.
Freelancers should never accept any work, if they know they will struggle to have to deliver on time. They should always give more emphasis to quality, and see, when they can deliver quality work, before agreeing to deadlines.
Ask the right questions & Follow Up
We usually get carried away by the excitement when we strike a job deal. And in the process, we tend to forget going into the nitty-gritty side of a project. That’s where everything goes wrong. How many of us really ask the right questions before we strike a deal?
For those who agree to a project before they get into the details, they may be in for a shock when the submission takes place. The client may be expecting something totally different and thus reacts with much negativity, criticism and may even fully reject your work, demanding a major overhaul.
This happens because there was a complete lack of communication. You might put the onus back on the client saying he has not mentioned exactly what he wanted. But in reality, the onus lies with the freelancer to ask all sorts of questions required to understand the project before finalising the deal and the deadline. If you don’t, some other freelancers will.
Freelancers should also keep note of the fact that keeping in touch with the client during the course of the project, especially, when the project is a large one, helps in streamlining; if something goes wrong during the earlier discourse, it still helps you to stay ahead of the deadline.
Recommended Reading: 5 Effective Communication Tactics/Tips For Designers
Shift your priorities according to the given deadline
Freelancers usually have more than one project in their schedules. The best way, perhaps, is to finish the task with the earliest deadline, and then proceed to the next one. This will allow you to not let deadlines weigh down your mind. The more it weighs, the more the quality suffers. It is important to infuse quality in your work, without letting this issue interfere in any way.
Deadlines should assist
Freelancers usually consider deadline as a ‘dead end’ upon which to submit their projects. This is a clear sign of mismanagement. What a freelancer should look to do is to consider deadlines as tools to assist them in completing projects, and not as a date set up to hang you at the gallows.
This attitude will eventually help you to prepare well enough and stay ahead of the deadline.
Can’t Make The Deadline
You may have given your best shot, but still fell short of your commitment to deliver on time. You may have been held back by a home emergency, a community event you couldn’t get out of, falling sick or gotten into an accident.
Regardless of the reason, basically, you need to ask for an extension. Do not under any circumstances offer cheap excuses.
Ask For An Extension
Genuine excuses will definitely be considered and actually much appreciated, and most clients will be willing to extend the deadline or make adjustments on their side to allocate for the delay on your end. Be very straight forward with them, give the an exact extension period you need and be ready to let go if your clients can’t agree to them.
Don’t worry, they will come back and work with you since you have proven yourself accountable. Just don’t delay them one time too often.
Use Productivity Tools
Gone are the days when the walls of cubicles are filled with post-it notes and colored scribblings of what is due to whom and when. The idea behind the practice is now transferred into apps, tools, calendar reminders and the likes, all in your device. Some come with options to create reminders that you can set months in advance, others let you keep track of your progress so you know how much time you have left to work with.
Any.do, Evernote, Wunderlist and TeuxDeux are just a few apps that can help you with scheduling your daily activities. The best use of these apps is that it helps freelancers to stay creative, focus on their work, and work fearlessly, without worrying about missing their deadlines.
The bottom line, though, is one should push hard to stay ahead of deadline(s), and part of the experience of being a seasoned freelancer is being able to juggle his or her priority as the jobs come in.
Of all the many experience you have to show for being a well-traded freelancer is the ability to keep all of your clients satisfied with the quality of your work, delivered on time.