What can I do if I’ve missed a deadline? Why you should never miss a deadline and what to do if it happens to you.

Here in the UK, we have just had a run of Bank Holidays and we are about to have another one at the end of May.

Bank Holidays are great, but the downside for freelancers and small businesses is they result in a shorter working week, which led me to think about deadlines.

Deadline Scenario – Tuesday means Tuesday

Missed a dealine - Stop, don't panic

Missed a dealine – Stop, don’t panic

Let’s imagine you agreed to send a blog article to your customer every Tuesday by 5 pm, ready for them publish on Wednesdays. In the last 30 days, there have been two public holidays; two fell on a Monday and one on a Friday.

Can you assume your customer is happy to get his copy a day later just because both of you did not work on Monday? No, because in my book, Tuesday means Tuesday.

I specialise in writing bespoke contracts, one piece of advice I always give is to get agreement and confirmation from your customer about when your work is due.

If you fail to meet that you have not only missed the deadline, but you risk losing money and the trust you have built up.

People work with people they trust and who do what they say they are going to do.

Reasons for a missed deadline and what you can do about it.

1 – You did not get the information you needed.

Does this sound familiar? The one where your customer promises to send you the information you need to complete the work, but it does not arrive on time? Not having the information you need is a different matter, so does the customer need to accept some responsibility?

  • Who agreed to do what and by when?
  • What information did you need to have to complete the work?
  • Refer the customer back to your original contract or agreement

Sometimes you need to be firm and say because you did not get this to me on time, I cannot complete this work by such a date. Taking this approach will help your customer realise their commitment to you. Who has control of your relationship?


2 – You’ve taken on too much work?

Perhaps you felt the prospect of a long-term, high-revenue project was too good to turn down and now your smaller customers are slipping.

When you can visualise your workload, it is much easier to break it down into smaller tasks.

3 – The instructions from customer were not clear

When you take on work, make sure you are both clear about the job, who’s doing what and when it has needed. If you do not get this information at the start, you are potentially lining up for a fall when it comes to deadlines.

Having a contract in place at the beginning brings clarity for everyone.

  • It is all about clear communication – what information do you need to complete the work.
  • When did you need it?
  • How was this described in your agreement or contact?

A purchase order will confirm the work, to be carried out and having a comprehensive agreement in place sets you above the rest for your customer service and commitment to your client.

However don’t forget that just a purchase order number isn’t enough. You need to see the actual purchase order, otherwise how do you know everything you charge out on your invoice will be paid? If it isn’t included on the purchase order, it won’t be paid for, simple as that!

4 – You forgot

We are all human, and we can make mistakes now and again, but it is a bad one to make but not unsalvageable.

  • Honesty is the best policy.
  • Pick up the phone
  • Offer a discount or refund

5 – Family emergency

Without a doubt, family comes first, but you have missed the deadline.

  • Don’t panic – be honest and let customers know you are dealing with a personal emergency.
  • Before you renegotiate timelines, see if there are people in your network who can step in to help.
  • Offer a refund. Under the circumstances, if the job is not complete, for whatever reason, it is the right thing to do.

You will find most human beings are very understanding and want to help. Your customers, when they have a good working relationship with you will extend the deadline or agree on a different timeline.

Has it happened to you?

Have you ever missed a deadline? How did it happen and what did you do about it?

If the reason is you think you needed a contract in place, then talk to me because it will help you sleep.




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