When Good Jobs Go Bad
Running a home based business is not always easy. It’s been two weeks since my last post on time management. I’ve implemented my plan with mixed success. I’ve scheduled more times to work and have been quite productive, but unexpected problems always seem to pop up. It’s as if everything that could go wrong has gone wrong creating a domino effect. One late job affects the next job. One missed deadline leads to another, and I hate missing deadlines.
Luckily all my clients are very understanding. I’ve worked with most of them for years and have built a good working relationship with them. That makes me want to meet my deadlines even more.
My current situation of being “behind” in my work is due to a mixture of illness, unexpected rush jobs, and severely underestimating how long one particular job was going to take. That last one is totally my fault. Which leads me to how I try to smooth things over with my clients when my job planning goes terribly, terribly wrong.
- I own up to the mistake. If I mismanaged my time, I admit it. I’ve found that my clients appreciate honesty. I don’t go into too much detail. They’re not interested in how I messed up. They just want to know how I’m gong to fix the problem.
- I apologize for the inconvenience. Acknowledging the needs of the client lets them know that I appreciate their position. Their time and resources are valuable. My mistakes can cost them. That deserves an apology.
- I offer a plan to rectify the situation. Often this involves providing a new timetable for the project or offering a new deadline. My clients need to know when to expect the finished product so they can adjust their calendar accordingly.
- I work overtime to finish the job as quickly as possible. This may require finding extra childcare or adjusting my usual schedule to make more time to finish the job. I do whatever it takes to make sure I don’t miss the new deadline I gave the client.
- In some situations, I offer the client a discount. This may be in the form of removing charges for “extra” services or reducing the number of billable hours on the invoice. I send a simple note explaining the price reduction and offer my apologies once again. I don’t always do this, but in cases when my lateness causes serious inconvenience I feel it is appropriate. Having garnished wages for one job is better than losing a client and all future jobs they might provide.
Keeping my clients happy is my main goal as a freelancer and small business owner. My clients are the reason I’m here. I’d rather spend my energy preventing late jobs than working damage control after the fact, but there are times when all the time management in the world can’t prevent a missed deadline. Having a damage control plan in place is a necessary evil.
I’m interested in hearing from all you small business owners out there. How do you handle missing deadlines or smoothing over mistakes with clients?