Four Things Not to Do if You Miss a Deadline

We know you couldn’t really help it and this has never happened before and it will never happen again. But you missed your deadline, and you’re not exactly sure how long it’s going to be until you’re done.

Even though deadlines can be great for creativity, they’re not always great from a professional standpoint. And you may have made some outstanding points to initially win over the client, which makes it even harder that you’re now getting emails from them and aren’t sure what to do next. Well, why you figure that out here are five things not to do:



In psychology this is called “rationalization” and it’s a defense mechanism, not a sound business strategy. We know that this is often the first thing you want to, and sometimes it seems almost impossible to keep your mouth shut, but you’ll do yourself no favors. Clients don’t want to hear that your internet accidentally got shut off or you had to take your dog to the hospital or your poor, sweet grandma made you come over and mow the lawn. They just want to know when it will be done. Building up a litany of reasons why the project wasn’t finished on time will almost never make you look like a helpless victim. Instead you’ll look like someone who refuses to take responsibility for messing up and. Just apologize like a professional and get back to it.


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The client may not want to hear excuses, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear from you at all. When you’re only late but offer them nothing but radio silence, it only makes the client worried and angrier. No one wants to get yelled at, but this is the price you have to pay for not nailing it down when you said you would. Doing a good job also means taking your lumps if you fall below expectations. Deal with their exasperation, keep them in the loop and when it is finally done they will be much happier. If you did a great job that extra wait time will soon be forgotten.


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This is “don’t” #1, and it covers far more than just deadlines. Yes, clients can ask you to jump through a lot of unnecessary hoops, and maybe they threw some curveballs at you a little late in the game. But they are the ones paying you and they unless they are being completely unreasonable you need to strive to make them content. Trying to place the delay back on them will only increase their frustration and threatens to spoil the final product when they finally see it. Networking and word-of-mouth are key in this business, and being late is still preferable to being late and also a jerk.


If you have run into some serious issues or time constraints, then you may want to sugarcoat the situation. But this is actually the best time to be honest. When you say you can have it to them tomorrow, are you confident in that statement or are you hoping against hope that it can happen? Being optimistic is great in a lot of regards, but when it is detached from reality you are only going to give the client a false sense of hope which will soon require you to start this whole process over again. If it takes another week, it takes another week, but don’t set yourself up to miss more and more deadlines. Delivering that one big blow will always be better than delivering little cuts along the way.



Shane Mehling FOLLOW >

Shane Mehling is a freelance writer and editor who plays in noiserock bands.