Freelancer’s Lament: Be Clear With Deadlines

I put a fair number of proposals out there. Knowing that many come back for negotiation, others come back for long-term discussion, and some just don't come back, it does take a fair bit of planning ahead and organization.

I woke up this morning (August 30) to a query email that said the full text to be proofread was 10,000 words (that's about 40 double-spaced pages, so a large-ish document but not huge), that the site was due to be online September 1, and the entire project had to be completed September 10.

There are two different dates in that email. They are nine days apart, but more importantly, they are between two and 11 days from now. If the deadline is in two days, that's fine – but it makes me think you're very close to hiring me and I want that copy now. It's one thing to want a quick turnaround; it's another to want a rushed job that will read like a rushed job because you didn't give me enough time to do it.

If, on the other hand, you want that job done on September 10, I can wait a couple of days for the copy, and I don't have to worry about pushing a couple of things off – or whether I'm going to take the time out to run to my local coffee shop before it closes at 9 p.m. or whether I'm going to make coffee at the house.

But now I'm stuck emailing back and forth, and if I find out that the deadline is two days, we've had to spend time on basic communication when I could have been actually doing the work.

The moral of this story: If you're hiring a freelancer, know when you need the job done, and communicate that to the person who's going to do the job. It's one of those things that's fundamental to you being happy with the job, and it's one of the things that's fundamental to the freelancer being able to do the job to your satisfaction. Yours isn't the only project that person has in the pipeline – think about what you're paying her and how much you would need to pay your bills – so if your project is to get done on your time line, it's important that you clearly communicate it.

Photo by Martin Kingsley.

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