Saturday, September 5, 2009

When Missing a Deadline is Unavoidable

For a freelance writer, or any freelancer for that matter, missing deadlines reflects badly. Miss too many and you get a reputation for being unreliable. However, there are times when missing a deadline is unavoidable due to circumstances beyond your control. How you handle these situations can go a long way in the client's impression of you.

Murphy's Law states that if anything can go wrong, it will. Maybe you or someone in your family gets sick or hurt. Perhaps your computer crashes. Or maybe a storm knocks out your power. You never know when something might happen so planning for the eventuality is difficult.

This week was the first time ever when I knew I was going to miss a deadline. My husband had to be hospitalized unexpectedly. Then my daughter got sick and finally I got sick. Needless to say, it's been a rough week.

There are a few ways you can handle a situation like this. Not all of them are right. Some freelancers make the mistake of not contacting the client and just submitting the work when it is ready. Others may just blow off the client entirely, not even bothering to complete the job. Both of these are wrong ways to handle the situation. They leave the client in the dark. Even with the first option when the work is completed, the lack of communication will probably leave the client with a poor impression of you.

Better ways to handle the situation would be to contact the client to advise them of the problem and either request more time or suggest another writer. While suggesting another writer may seem like you're working against yourself, it actually benefits you in two ways. One, it lets the client know you care about the satisfaction of your clients. Two, by sending business to a fellow writer, you increase the chance that they'll refer business your way.

When handled correctly, a missed deadline can work to your benefit. However, keep in mind that a habit of missing deadlines, no matter how well you handle it, will not do your freelance writing reputation any good.

*Photo by Paavo Leinonen.


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