Freelancers and entrepreneurs are optimistic by nature.
If we weren’t, we’d do the bare minimum in life to get by.
We wouldn’t be running our own businesses.
We’d be working at some low-paying job, enough to put bread and milk on the table and then we’d sit and watch TV after work every day.
Usually, that instinctive optimism is phenomenal–leading us to do things we never imagined we could.
But other times, optimism can overload us.
Have you ever been swamped with freelance projects when a big client calls, offering you a lucrative and very fun new project.
Your response? “Sure, I’d love to help you with your new project.”
But what happens…
But what happens when you accept the project, get started and realize the scope of the project is just way to much?
What happens when you simply can’t meet the deadlines your client needs?
What happens when a healthy amount of optimism has now turned into a heaping helping of pessimism–eating you alive every time you think about failing to deliver to your client?
Today, I want to talk about tw0 things:
First, how to avoid getting in this predicament in the first place.
Second, what to do if you find you can’t deliver on your promises.
A quick way to kill your freelancing business is to be a flake.
Don’t return phone calls.
Don’t pay attention to your clients’ needs.
And certainly, whatever you do, don’t hit or beat deadlines.
But if you’re not so keen on killing your freelance career, let’s talk about how you can avoid getting overloaded in the first place. Here are a few options (I’d love to hear yours in the comments):
1. Understand your limitations. It’s important to know how much work you can take on in one month. Don’t overdo it. You’re only one person. If you are receiving more work than you can handle by yourself, see the next piece of advice.
2. Partner up with a backup freelancer. There’s nothing wrong with partnering up with one or more “backup” freelancers. When they’re overloaded, they can come to you for help and when you’re overloaded you can do the same. It’s always good to have the option of outsourcing work to other creative professionals you know and trust.
3. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” When a new client calls, remember: your current clients are more important than future ones. If you have to say no, then do it. That doesn’t mean you have to hang up the phone and never work with that client, just tell them you’re booked for the month and they’ll have to wait until next month if they would like to work with you. Chances are, they’ll be fine to wait 30 days.
What if it’s too late?
But what if it’s too late? What if you’ve already promised a client you would deliver by a certain date? Maybe you’ve even signed a contract.
Here are a few ways to handle the problem in the heat of the moment.
1. Call your client and explain. Take a minute to get in touch with your client and let them know that you’ve overbooked yourself. Explain to them that you want to do the best work you possibly can for them and, in order to do that, you would like to renegotiate deadlines and timing for the project. They’ll appreciate the honesty.
2. Renegotiate terms of the contract. If you wrote your contract the right way, you should have the option to renegotiate the terms at any point in your relationship with your client. Be honest and ask for a renegotiation on the project so you can work out the timing more effectively.
3. Hire temporary help. As a last resort, you may need to hire temporary help in order to meet the deadlines you have. Since this comes straight out of the cost of the project, it probably means you’re taking the hit since you didn’t factor in this expense when quoting the project. It’s a tough decision to make since your profits go way down, but it’s worth the investment since missing your deadlines can mean terrible word-of-mouth reputation killers.
What do you do when you can’t finish a project on time or under budget?
Now I turn to you. What do you do in these kinds of situations?
How do you salvage your relationship with your client?
How do you avoid it altogether?
Enlighten us all by leaving a comment. Thanks!
Written by Preston D Lee Preston is the founder of GDB, a designer, programmer, marketer, and entrepreneur.