If you work from a home office as a freelancer, deadlines can be challenging to keep unless you prepare well. Having failed many times due to various reasons I decided to make a recipe on how to be able to keep deadlines. For me deadlines can sometimes be the most important things on my mind so it’s easy to remember to do everything that can be done to make your routines as good as possible to meet deadlines like a pro.
Deadlines can be a true headache if you have a lot to do. Reading these tips will hopefully enable you to make friends with your deadlines instead of feeling bad about them.
1. Be realistic!
First of all it’s crucial to make deadlines that you can actually keep. Setting the deadlines too short is the first and most common mistake to make. You may want to work with the speed of light every day but sometimes that just isn’t possible. Your client doesn’t have the insight to your workflows the way you do. My rule is to always set a day or two extra compared to what you first think. That way you always have room if something unexpected comes up.
If you are finishing earlier it will be a positive bonus for both you and the client.
2. Good communication
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Make 100% sure that both you and the client have the same expectations regarding the actual deadline. This is to be able to get everything that should be in the project included and avoid last-minute crisis. You should also have ongoing communication with the client and send him your work or at least parts of it along the way if it’s a longer term project.
This way you will end up with what the customer wants instead of getting longer and longer away from his goal.
3. Write it down
Write down the deadline you’ve decided with your client on. Put it on a sticky note, make a reminder on your computer, put it in business plans and time management applications. The fact that you actually care about the deadlines is a very important one, so make sure you get them written down multiple places.
4. Plan ahead
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I plan each week in the beginning of the week to make sure I get the needed hours to work on all the projects I have to get done. If you have a deadline to reach, it’s important to get time to work on that project on a regular basis. The end result will be better if you have good time, compared to sitting up all night that very last night to get something finished.
You should make an overview of all the current projects you work on and divide them into weeks and days. This way you keep track of both the bigger view and the details.
5. Be your own boss
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Be as strict to yourself as you would be to any other employee. Have expectations to yourself and don’t accept any slack along the way. Being a bit hard on yourself both considering quality and being able to keep the deadlines is not a bad thing. Just remember to pat yourself on the back when you do well.
Set up checkpoints along the way. Make a list of goals for each project, so that you can see how far you’ve come and what you have left. Once you get a handful of different projects going on at the same time you, will find this very useful. Set specific dates for where to start and stop on the smaller parts of the projects. Once you use terms as “that part should be finished within a certain week or month” it will be easier to fall behind with your progress. Have specific dates set to evaluate and finish each part.
7. Manage your time
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A list of goals within a project is a great way to follow the progress along the way as in mentioned in #4. To be able to do this well you should consider getting some sort of time management application. For those that have flawless discipline, routine and experience – maybe it isn’t necessary. But I would say that I believe at least 75% of us would be more efficient using an application or detailed schedule of some kind. Have a look around at which ones are available for your operating system. The apps come for all platforms, including some phones aswell.
8. Focus on one thing at a time
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If you have divided the projects into smaller pieces of work, it’s important that you are able to focus on one thing at a time. Don’t spend too much time thinking of the next steps or challenges unless you have to. Focusing on one thing will make it easier, have you work more efficient and keep the timeline.
9. It doesn’t hurt to be a bit ahead
If you have available hours at slow or dry times, you can use this in the advance of this project. Beating a deadline can impress clients a lot and even leave you feeling better and more confident.
10. Well-defined goals
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To avoid having to do a lot of extra work in the last-minute, you should aim to have a very clear definition with the client on what the project involves. Make sure to have a written agreement where you get as specific as possible on what exactly should be done by you to make the client satisfied. If you right before a deadline realize that the project includes things that you thought weren’t supposed to be in there, you are in for much stressful work in short time. This can eventually be what breaks your deadline.
11. If it’s broken, Fix it ASAP
If you come to a point where you realize that you will not be able to keep the deadline you’ve set already, you need to let the client know As Soon As Possible. This way you can avoid many problems and save your reputation. We can all do mistakes and things can occur along the way, so most likely your client will understand it if you are being honest. It’s important to keep track of your progress to be able to see these things in advance. That way you can try to work with the client on making optional solutions. Also make sure that when you first set a deadline and land a deal with the client, you specifically mention that unplanned things can occur which may cause delays.
12. Extra Effort when needed
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If you have ended up a bit behind schedule, you need to be prepared to do some extra work to make up for it. Even though you don’t want to work 24/7 for the last days of a project, you have to make room for extra work in periods if needed. This means that sometimes you may be having to work extra hours late or during weekends and holidays. This is what life as a freelancer is like. If this happens often you have to look through your routines and workflow to adjust them better.
Another tip on this point is that instead of working an hour or two later it can of course be a better plan for some of us to instead start earlier in the morning. Some of us work more efficient in the mornings.
13. Need help?
Sometimes on huge projects there is a chance that you won’t be able to do everything completely on your own. Maybe in some cases the client and you have a contract where you get less paid once you’ve passed the deadline with a number of days. To prevent this it can sometimes be necessary to hire other people to help you out on some parts of the project. Remember to always be realistic in the planning. Sometimes you may just have to do what is needed and paying someone else to help on certain tasks can be necessary.
14. Evaluate at the end
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Learning from your mistakes is the most important lesson to take with you from each project you’ve done. You get better from experience, so remember the importance of evaluating after each project. Make a list of the things you did that were great to be able to do them the next time too, and list the things that didn’t go too well in order to improve on your next project.
I hope you found these tips useful!
Please feel free to leave your own tips in the comments section along with whichever feedback you may have.
Thank you for reading :)