We’ve all been there. Clients need something by the next day. Your boss wants something by the end of the day…and it’s 4:30PM. A friend calls up with an emergency and it was due an hour ago. I actually got called 10 minutes before a deadline for something that, on a normal day, would take about an hour to complete. Luckily, I honed in on that supersonic plane that we all have worked on and got it done in 40 minutes (I EXPECTED a 30 minute extension because I was uninformed that a-I was UNDER a deadline and b-that I NEVER promised ANYONE I’d be done at that particular time.)
What do you do? There’s ALWAYS options. Seriously? You need it by the end of the day? Why? So you can look at it for 30 minutes and turn my files into your vendor the next morning?? Here’s a couple questions you should ask yourself when faced with unrealistic or unknown deadlines that have been imposed upon you:
1. Will anyone DIE if this doesn’t make the deadline? Usually, the answer is no. But by all means, if that answer is YES, move your ass.
2. How important is the client? Have they not paid their bill? Screw it. I’ll get to it when I see the check you owe me. Have they paid their bill but are just big pains in your carpal tunnels? Ask for an extension. What’re they gonna say, No? Fine. Drop some rush fees on them. When THAT happens, they’re usually more than happy to accommodate your hectic schedule. Are they friends and family? How good of friends and family? This scale, however you see it, should relate directly to whether or not you do the work.
3. How important is the project? Does this project reflect directly on you? Or is this one of those anonymous, Alan Smithee projects that you reluctantly accepted a fee for listening to your client dictate why their logo should overshadow the message…you know…for branding? If it’s an important project. Get it done. No? Ask for an extension.
4. Is this simply for review? What a fun term. Anyone that wants a project by the end of the day is simply going to take it home and look at it on their own time. Leisurely…several hours later. Ask for an extension. Does the client need to review it with several team members? Ask for everyone’s email address. You can copy the entire team. Do they need to meet and talk in person? Get it done.
5. For fulltime employees, unfortunately, you have more than just yourself facing clients. So often times, REGARDLESS of whose fault it is, the project still needs to get done. And in the end, the more miracles you can pull off, the better you are. Think of it as job security.
For future reference, can this type of experience be mitigated? What kind of processes is your team putting in place to avoid last minute issues. Is your team communicating? Are you laying down CLEAR guidelines for your client as to what their impact is on the schedule and how you are NOT responsible if they take their sweet ass time.
More importantly, remember this: EXTREME DEADLINES HEIGHTEN STRESS. Try to take a step back and dissect the project. What is the client TRULY needing to see. Where can you ask for extensions of time? Can you work directly with the vendor? Is the client willing to stay up a little later to do reviews via email? Hell, they’re asking YOU to stay up late. (I know, I know…every situation is different.)
In the end, it really comes down to a simple needs analysis. Do you need to get this done? If the answer is Yes, stop thinking about how pissed you are and who’s to blame and take the higher road. If not, don’t fret, put out the dreaded email and work on it in the morning.