Who needs deadlines?

[Re-post from March 13, 2009]

Your clients do. (And you probably do too, but that’s another blog post.)

I’m sure we’ve all had clients who procrastinate on providing necessary deliverables, making decisions, and paying their invoices. Oftentimes, we excuse their tardiness and think to ourselves, “Well, if the client doesn’t care that this gets done soon, then why should I bother them about it. They’ll do it when they’re ready.” There are several problems with this. First, it throws off your schedule with that client as well as with your other clients. Second, it causes your client to de-value the work you are doing for them. If you act like it’s no big deal, then they will look at your work for their company as “no big deal”. (Of course, there are exceptions to this. If the client has a genuine personal or business emergency, then by all means give them the time and space to resolve that. Just be sure to take that into account for your scheduling.)

What can you do to keep your clients on schedule? Here are a few tips:

  1. PlannerInclude a project schedule in the contract paperwork the client signs. The schedule should clearly indicate what deliverables are due when and by whom, as well as which other deliverables are dependent upon those.
  2. Review the project schedule at the kick-off meeting. Ask the client, “Is there anything that would prevent us from achieving these goals on these dates?” If any adjustments need to be made, then have the client sign off on them.
  3. Update the schedule every day or two (or at least once a week) and send the updates to the client. Clearly indicate which items are on track, which are in danger of being delayed, and which are off track. For the items that are in danger of being delayed, and they depend upon the client, find out right away what is causing the hold up and when the expected delivery is.

If you end up with a client who is continually late in providing deliverables and making decisions, you will have to decide if you want to continue to do work for that client once the current project is complete. Or, you could include consequences in the next contract for late deliverables, such as an additional charge.

Remember that the work you do for a client is extremely valuable and should be given appropriate appreciation and attention from the client. Having a clear and detailed project schedule is a great way to achieve this.

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