Day 10 – Case Study 5: The Schedule-Jumper (or, Client Deadlines)


Welcome to Part 10 of the Conquering Client Conflict course!

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One of the key details that you need to impress upon your client is the schedule of the project.

serena-schedule-jumper_emailThe schedule pertains to the actual period of time into which you would pour the estimated labor-hours, in order to complete the project according to the client deadline (as opposed to the estimate, which is the number of labor-hours that you calculate would be sufficient to do the project).

Once the schedule is set, you can take a deep breath and look at the project from a clear perspective. It’s a great feeling — you know what the project entails, you have an idea of how long you have to finish the work, and you can focus on a specific date for crossing the finish line. It’s a tidy little package that you can get right down to starting, since you already have a clear outline of how all the work will be divvied up throughout the schedule.

Hold it right there. Remember, you work freelance. And the sad reality about this is that some clients can really end up pushing your buttons by tossing a wrench right into your carefully laid-out plans.

Imagine this: You’re in the middle of a project that, as you have worked out, will take six months to complete. One bright and sunny day, when you’re waist-deep in the complexities of your work, the client calls — and wants the project deadline moved up by 2 months. You’ve effectively been asked to do (for example) three months of work in 1 month.

What do you do with abrupt demands to change client deadlines?

1. Count on your client’s goodwill.
While the announcement may cause your heart to jump up your throat, it’s best to calm yourself down and go over the facts. Your client probably isn’t plotting to sabotage your business by expecting that the project can be finished earlier.

Your best move would be to go over the contract with your client once more — this can be a crucial step, since your client may have failed to understand the specifications of the contract, or may be afraid to face legal ramifications and will need help to clarify key points. Give them an opportunity to explain why a change in deadline is necessary or preferred, and explore how it could possibly be beneficial to the project.

2. Remind the client that both of you have responsibilities to take care of in order for the project to be a success.
Your job is to provide the service and the final product that will meet your client’s needs. In order for this to happen, the client must also shoulder a certain obligation: to honor the original deadline. It’s the only way to ensure that the appropriate resources and labor can be channeled into the project as planned.

What happens if the client fails to observe the set schedule? The most realistic outcome would be that your client will have to accept your delivery of a reduced scope of work, owing to the reduced client deadlines on the project.

3. Hold the line.
You need to re-state the original boundaries you have set for the project. In this case, that would be the window of time that both parties have agreed upon for the completion of the work.

Your client’s request for the project deadline to be moved isn’t ideal on your part, but you can always create a compromise that can work for everyone. Be clear about expressing to the client that while all the original inclusions of the project may not be completed by the proposed earlier deadline, perhaps they would be willing to accept a smaller scope of work which would fit nicely with the revised schedule. If the client deadlines are the most important element of the project, the other elements can be adjusted to compensate. But it’s not possible to have it all, and trying to do so is how projects die.

Arriving at a proper resolution entails open communication between yourself and the client, so be sure to state your piece clearly to avoid confusion, and to be consistent with your efforts so that you and the client can come to a harmonious agreement. And always look for a way to say “yes” that includes saying “no” to the less-reasonable aspects of what’s being requested.

Homework Assignment – Post Your Work To The Comments Below!

1) How often do your clients try to suddenly advance a schedule after work has already begun?

2) What do you usually say to your clients when this request is made?

3) Write an e-mail here as if you were responding to changed client deadlines, based on what you’ve learn in this lesson.