When Clients Need Something ASAP
I saw a forum thread the other day and I don’t think I’ve addressed this specific point yet, so let’s get to it.
A freelancer had a client who kept asking for projects to be completed “ASAP.”
How should a freelancer approach this scenario?
Let’s find out.
Always Start With Clear Terms
Most freelance problems can be solved simply by setting out clear intentions by both parties at the beginning.
Now… most problems with clients can be solved by not getting bad clients in the first place. That’s a sort of different topic, but any client that balks at setting things up clearly in the first place is probably a bad client.
By “setting things up clearly” I don’t mean some NDA weird-lawyer’s involved 90-page contract. Not unless you’re doing something really expensive.
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Now Back To The Regular Programming Schedule…)
Generally though, you need two things:
- Client provides a list of the things they want doing, when the deadlines are and their payment terms and conditions
- Freelancer provides a list of what they’re going to do, when they’ll do it by and what they expect in return
Those things are mutually exclusive and most people should want them.
If I hired someone, I’d want to know what they’re doing and when. If I get hired, I want to know what I’m doing and when.
Doing this sets the boundaries and the rules of engagement, such as they are.
When Clients Want Something Extra
You are bound ethically and contractually by the agreement you make above. If you agree to do a 5,000 word sales letter within twenty-four hours for $50, then you’re dumb but you’re also on the hook.
Many freelancers operate from the creative-self-employed-fairy-land motif where they can’t understand why a business actually wants stuff finished and on-time. Don’t be like them.
However… if you’re a freelancer and you’re sticking to the rules, then great.
If your client wants more, then there are two approaches:
- You give them more because it’s no problem
- You say, “hang on… that’ll be extra”
My general approach is that if it’s something I should have included, something which’ll take me a few minutes at most or something that’ll make the service/product work, then I’ll do it with no questions asked.
Say someone has a consultation with me about a sales letter critique and they email afterwards saying, “Hey… you said change that is this better?”
That email is essentially me taking five minutes and saying yes or no. I’ll do that with no questions asked because it’ll help them, they’ll be happy and I’ll feel like I’ve done the right thing.
On the other hand… if someone asks me to write a sales letter and twenty hours into the project they say, “Actually, we’re not selling this product anymore we’ve changed to a different product” then that’s definitely a “Well… that’s an extra” problem. I’ve taken time out and if their strategy changes then I’m not going to be the one paying for it.
When Clients Want Something ASAP
So on to the original question… treat it like an extra.
Let’s say you have a web design client. They say, “Build us a website.”
You say, “Ok… I’ll do it in a month.”
If they agree to that… then that’s great. You have a month.
Understand they are not your boss. If someone says “How soon can you do it?” then that’s on you. Don’t tell them you can do it in twenty-four hours and then moan that you missed your daughter’s birthday party.
You simply say, “My schedule’s fine for one month’s time. If that’s ok with you, then we’ll plot out a timeline for deliverables.”
This is clearly defining the terms, which we mentioned above. They can say “yes” or “no.”
Now, whether they agree or not, you should have an overtime budget in mind.
Then you can retort and say, “Well, I can prioritise this and work in what’s usually admin time, but the rates are higher.”
The same is true if they agree and then they ask for a reduced deadline as an extra.
Put simply… if someone comes to me and says, “We need this” I’ll put it in my schedule and give them a realistic deadline (that I can beat.)
If they say afterwards, “Actually, we need it a week earlier,” then I’ll tell them it will cost more because I’ll have to reorganise my schedule.
This is true… but it’s also because working late into the night isn’t something I do without an incentive. It makes me grouchy and less effective.
The Key To All Of This
Most freelancers understand these things. They know once you tell them it’s ok that they can do these things.
What most freelancers fail at is sticking to the script. I failed at this when I was younger and more naïve.
If you have a plan, then stick to it. If you’ve got a contract or a written agreement, then you keep your end of the bargain. Make your client keep to their end too.
Most freelancers run into trouble and feel taken advantage of because they let themselves be taken advantage of.
If someone is constantly pushing for more than you’ve agreed to, then you can say no. You can tell them “I need more money because that’s not in the contract” and you can simply stick to the script.
If you are a freelancer or otherwise run your own business, then you are the boss. You set the terms for yourself and you have the freedom and responsibility to do what you say and say what you mean.