Lasting working relationships with clients depend on several factors. At the top of the list is the quality of your work, but the ability to hit a deadline is equally as important. As a freelancer, your clients rely on you to deliver projects to a high standard, on time. Do this and you’ll build strong lasting client relationships where people are eager to work with you time and again. Don’t and they may decide not to send any more projects your way, or, if they’re really inconvenienced by late delivery of work, they may even have grounds to sue you.
Deadlines exist for a reason and while in some instances missing one may simply be an inconvenience, there are times where late delivery can cause a real issue and you could be liable for a claim. Perhaps you’re an accountant and you file a client’s tax return late, leaving them with a penalty charge. Maybe you’re a software developer and you make a coding error, leading to costly project delays.
Protect your business from professional negligence claims
The good news is that there are ways to better protect yourself and give you peace of mind. As well as taking practical steps to keep projects running on time, there are specific insurance policies for freelancers that cover you against missed deadlines and breaches of contract. Professional Indemnity (PI) insurance covers lawsuits related to your work, regardless of where the fault lies, paying out for your legal fees, court charges and any settlement costs.
When things go wrong, your insurer can step in with a team of legal experts and help you defend your business. So if you do ever find yourself facing a lawsuit, you know you’re protected (to find out more about why media and creative contractors need PI insurance, read this article here).
Of course, the best form of defence is to avoid disappointing your clients in the first place. Here are some top tips for staying on schedule and never missing a deadline again:
Build a project roadmap and put together achievable to-do lists
As the saying goes, “Make hay while the sun shines,” but don’t put yourself in a position where you’re committing to too many projects and jeopardising your quality and ability to deliver on time. Plan ahead and be realistic about when you’ll get work completed by. Break larger projects down into manageable chunks, add new projects to your calendar so you don’t miss them and tick off ones you’ve completed. It sounds simple but juggling lots of projects can be overwhelming at times and it’s easy to let things slip.
Know how much time each project takes you
This is crucial for being able to accurately quote for new jobs but knowing how long it will take you to complete certain types of work is an acquired skill. Map out how many hours are available to work on certain projects in your working week to avoid deadlines sliding and build in buffers in case certain jobs take slightly longer than planned. Make note of the ones that do so you can plan better for the next job.
Set clear delivery expectations for clients
Some projects are more likely to run over deadline than others. Take new websites, for example. Your client may know exactly what they want visually but have little understanding of the coding required in the background, leading to unrealistic expectations for when something will be ready by. Keep it clear and ensure they understand from the beginning exactly what’s involved and how long you expect the job to take.
Maintain regular communication
If you know a project is running behind schedule, don’t bury your head in the sand and hope for the best. Your client is far more likely to be understanding and accommodating if you keep them in the loop. If a design for a new marketing campaign is not coming together quickly enough, tell your client so they have time to react rather than dropping them in it last minute. Nobody wants to be kept in the dark.
Charge more for quick turnaround projects
If your client expects you to drop everything and squeeze in a last-minute job with a tight turnaround, make sure they are paying for the privilege. While these kinds of jobs can be a great way of topping up your business account, they can also knock other projects off schedule. Be as accommodating as you can but be sure to let the client know that you’re helping them out and will charge accordingly. Ideally, you want a balanced schedule and last-minute projects could jeopardise that, especially if they become a regular occurrence.
Regularly save your work and keep it backed up
You’re halfway through writing a whitepaper when suddenly your computer crashes and you’ve forgotten to save your work. Nightmare! Not only have you just wasted hours, but you could well end up jeopardising your ability to meet your client’s deadline. It sounds simple but get into a good habit of saving your work, and have another copy saved in the cloud should anything happen to your laptop, computer or mobile device.
Take advantage of scheduling and project management tools
Tools like Trello and Asana exist to make freelancers’ lives easier. These project management apps help freelancers and small businesses handle large workloads by breaking projects down into digestible formats, flagging up deadlines and checklists, and providing a collaborative platform to work with others.
Set consequences for yourself if you miss a deadline
Even if you think your client won’t mind that much if you miss a deadline, how will it affect your business? If one project runs over, will it have a knock-on effect on the rest? Set yourself clear deadlines and consider sanctions if you overrun. Make yourself work extra hours in the week or offer a client a late delivery discount to motivate you to stay on schedule.
Sometimes, even if you did everything in your capacity to hit a deadline, your client may still accuse you of professional negligence. And that’s why many freelancers take out PI insurance to cover their backs and protect their business.
To find out which policy is best for your business, please get in touch with our team of experts who will be happy to advise you. You can also check out our Knowledge Hub for the latest industry insights.