Missing a work deadline as a freelancer is business suicide. It’s a sure fire way to see yourself quickly out of business.

And sometimes it might not even be your fault… life happens, your family might get sick, you’re sick, you didn’t realise the full extent of the time involved to finish the project, or you haven’t got your time management under control — or you’ve procrastinated so much that the deadline is tomorrow!

At some point, you’re going to need to renegotiate a deadline with a client, and you’re always in a better position to do this if you can give them a few days notice, in fact—the more the better.

I’ve only been caught out once or twice when I first started my side hustle as a freelance writer. It can be tricky to juggle your day job with your freelance stuff plus maintain relationships, so it’s definitely worth your while to figure out a way to balance everything.

In my first few months as a full-time freelance writer, I found myself drowning in work (a great place to be, right?), and not getting to do all the fun things in life, like catch a movie, going out to dinner or even just reading a book at the beach.

I remember thinking, “hmm, I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave my job to work even more hours, what’s going wrong?”

And then it happened… I missed a rather big client deadline. Why? Because I didn’t have a plan in place to manage my deadlines and I had too many balls in the air at once, a good and bad place to be.

Because I didn’t contact the client until AFTER the deadline had passed (the next day); they were pretty upset and I ended up doing the job for free, a massive cost to my business to the tune of $1800.

They remained a loyal client going forward, so it has balanced out in the end, but cashflow was a big deal to me in the beginning, so it stung a lot…

How to Renegotiate Your Client Deadlines

  • Be proactive. Check your schedule ahead of time to ensure that you're not loading yourself up. If you see you've got a conflict or you've over-committed, then you're in a position to reach out to your client well ahead of time. I recommend checking your projects every Monday.
  • If you see a conflict or something comes up, the quickest way to renegotiate a deadline is to simply ask! If you don't ask, then you definitely won't get anything. Communication is key when dealing with clients and remembering that they are human helps too 🙂
  • Don't send an email, pick up the phone (or Skype) and call them. This is something that should be communicated quickly and emails can get lost. You should follow up with an email to confirm the details you've spoken about and if you need to make any changes to the contract, this is when you'd also include them.
  • If the reason for extending the deadline is on your end, then offering a slight discount for the hassle/inconvenience can go a long way, like dropping the tax amount. It's the gesture that counts.

What happens if they say no?

The reality is, your client doesn’t have to accept your request. So you need to be prepared for this situation. If you value the client, you might just have to suck it up and pull an all-nighter to get it done in time.

If, on the other hand, the client is being a real douche about the whole thing, simply turn around and let them know you’re unable to fulfill their requirements and refund them any monies paid.

Sometimes, it’s better to walk away, even if that leaves you out of pocket.

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Lise Cartwright
Lise Cartwright

Chief side hustler and full time author at Hustle & Groove. If you want to get notified of new posts just like the ones you see here, then make sure you join the awesome H & G Vault — Join Now!

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