Do you have a deadline problem? No matter how much time you have to do a project, do you always feel rushed? Do you frequently deal with deadlines that seem too drastic?
Don’t worry. You’re not alone in your deadline struggles. Most freelancers have trouble with deadlines at some point in their freelancing career. Web designers and developers are no different. In fact, most of them deal with tight deadlines all the time.
Dealing with deadlines can create a lot of stress. Nobody likes to miss a deadline.
Fortunately, there are some tactics you can use to effectively deal with most deadlines–even drastic ones. In this post, I take a look at 19 of those tactics–focusing on what you can do before, during, and after your project.
If you like this post, you may also like 7 Tips for Prioritizing Tasks Effectively.
Before You Start the Project
Some of the most effective tactics for effectively managing deadlines start before you begin the work. Here are some steps to take before you begin your projects to ensure that you meet your deadlines:
- Get a detailed scope. Getting the scope right is an important part of meeting a deadline. You don’t want to be surprised with unexpected work during the project. Unexpected work is a major cause of missed deadlines.
- Estimate the project as accurately as you can. The best way to do this is usually to break the project down into smaller tasks and estimate how long each task will take. You can also use your records from previous projects.
- Allow extra time in your work agreement. You will likely encounter some unexpected complications during your project. Also, you don’t know what other problems might arise while you are working on the project. You could get sick, for example.
- Consider existing projects before you commit. Unless your existing projects have very flexible due dates, you need to allow yourself enough to time to meet your current project commitments and still do the new work.
- Negotiate too tight deadlines. If a client-requested deadline seems too tight to you, ask if you can have some extra time to turn it in. Some web developers are afraid to ask for a deadline change, but many clients are more flexible about deadlines than they might seem.
- Carefully consider rush jobs before you accept them. Rush jobs often cause freelancers to fall behind on their project work. Make sure you really have enough to do it before you accept a rush job. Also, rush jobs are a convenience for the client. It’s perfectly acceptable to charge extra for them.
- Set aside dedicated time for the project work. Putting yourself on a schedule helps you to stay on track. Plan what tasks you need to accomplish each day. This is much better than trying to squeeze the work in “whenever” you have some time.
Once you’ve properly prepared for meeting your deadline, you are ready to start work.
During the Project
You need to be diligent about your work during the course of the project if you want to meet your deadline. Here are some techniques to help you work more efficiently:
- Start as soon as you can. When it comes to project work, procrastination can lead to desperation. Don’t wait until the last minute before you start a new project. Instead, get a head start.
- Prioritize tasks. Schedule yourself to complete the most important tasks first. Large or difficult tasks should be tackled next. Finally, schedule optional tasks last.
- Use an effective time management method. This post about managing your time can help. Good time management will also keep you from getting burnt out.
- Stay focused. Don’t let your mind wander when you really should be working. A good way to stay sharp is to eat right and get enough rest. Also, make sure your work area is distraction-free and turn down or turn off the ringer on your phone.
- Track your progress. Compare how much you accomplish each day to how much you expected to accomplish. If you start to fall behind, you may need to temporarily work extra hours or get some help.
- If necessary, temporarily suspend non-project-related tasks. For example, social media participation is one task that you can temporarily put off. If you already have a good social media presence, missing a day won’t hurt. Just don’t make non-participation a habit.
- Bring in extra helpers if you can. If the project turns out to be significantly more work than you realized, you may need to subcontract some parts of it to other freelancers. It’s a good idea to know in advance which freelance web designers and developers you can count on.
- Check work carefully before you turn it. No matter how much of a hurry you are in, you can’t afford to damage your reputation by turning in sloppy or error-ridden work.
Now your project should be complete and on time.
When the Project is Complete
Even though the project is done, you’re still not done dealing with the deadline. Here are some final steps you should take:
- Submit your project to the client early if you can. Beating the client’s deadline, even if only by a day, can make a good impression as long as you didn’t cut corners to do it.
- Confirm receipt of the project. Make sure that the client actually received the project. Once, I emailed finished work in to a client, only to find out later that the email system had failed. The client never received the email with the project attached and it looked like I had missed the deadline.
- Bill promptly. It’s a fact that the longer you wait to bill a client, the more likely it is that you’ll have trouble collecting payment.
- Ask your client for feedback. Finally, you want to find out what you could have done better. Pay close attention to any suggestions the client makes. Good feedback can help you with future projects.
How do you handle drastic deadlines? Share your best tips and techniques in the comments below.