This post is part 5 of a series. Read the rest of the series here:
Common mistakes designers make with clients – Part 1: Not signing a contract
Common mistakes designers make with clients – Part 2: Allowing a discount
Common mistakes designers make with clients – Part 3: Burning bridges
Common mistakes designers make with clients – Part 4: Working for family
There are a small number of things you can do that will completely ruin your relationship with a client.
After all, most clients are human too (notice I say most) and they understand if you get sick, get stuck in traffic, or have a strong opinion about something and want to voice your opinion. (Please note that most clients are tolerant to a point, but don’t push it, or you’re likely to be replaced.)
But if there’s one thing most clients won’t put up with, it’s missing deadlines.
That’s why today, ‘missing deadlines’ merits a post in our series Common mistakes designers make with clients.
Why missing deadlines is so terrible
As creatives and artists, we designers often think to ourselves, “What’s the big deal if I get this project to my client today or first thing tomorrow? I’ll polish it up tonight and it will be worth the wait!”
But many times our clients have strict deadlines (whether they have created their own schedule or are managed by someone else) that they have to meet and when designers disregard those deadlines, it can throw the scheduling of the entire project offline.
How to hit your deadlines every time
So how can you make sure you hit your deadlines every time? Let me offer a few suggestions. Here’s how I do it:
- Set a deadline together. Just because you have been hired by the client doesn’t mean that you have no say in when the deadlines are. Any client who can’t be flexible with your schedule, preexisting projects, and other scheduling elements might not be worth working with in the first place. (Yes, I’m talking about the client who calls you wanting a web site designed by the end of the week and only wants to pay a minimal fee. Just say ‘no’.)Decide on a deadline together as partners working together. Help your client understand how long it will take to produce a quality design. Both of you should be flexible when finding a deadline that works for everyone.
- Set mini-deadlines (or design milestones). After you and your client agree on a final deadline upon which the final project will be completed, create a list of mini-deadlines or design milestones.These sorts of mini-deadlines should be reasonable and clear and will help both you and your client stay on task.Set mini-deadlines for both parties. For example, set a deadline for when you, as a designer, will have a preliminary design finished. But then set a deadline for when your client will have collected all the feedback and emailed it to you. (Or whatever deadlines you need to set in order for it to all work smoothly.)
The day I started setting mini-deadlines was the day I started hitting my final deadlines every time. Give it a try, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you find.
- Under promise, over deliver. Offer deadlines that make your clients comfortable, but always give yourself a little extra time for those little issues that come up. Because things always come up. Whether you have a family issue, problems with another client, computer mishaps, or any number of surprises along the way – you should always be prepared for them.If you set a date that’s further out than when you truly expect to have the project completed, when these issues arise, you can still hit your deadline. If no issues arise you can deliver early. It’s a win-win.
How do you hit your deadlines?
I’m sure there are many of you deadline-hitting pros out there reading the blog post. What secrets and tips do you have for the rest of us on hitting our deadlines? Share with us by leaving a comment on this post. I always try to respond to the comments and really appreciate your added insight on the topic at hand!