How Unrealistic Deadlines Kill Content

Tight deadlines are a way of life for freelancers. They aren’t always in the best interests of the client.

When I first started freelancing I made the common newbie mistake of taking on every job that came my way. I was trying to build a list of clients, who I hoped would have long-term work for me. During that time I accepted several projects with ridiculous deadlines. The kind of jobs where you have to write several thousand words of original content within twenty-four hours. To borrow a phrase from old media, it was hack work.

I did this while working a full-time job and being a dad to four young kids. I gave up every free minute to writing. The pay was meager. The stress was horrific.

It was all my fault.

I was always under the gun because I wouldn’t say no. Something had to give and it wasn’t going to be my day job or my family. I had to give up my dreams of ever being a full-time writer or figure out a better way. Fortunately, the problem was pretty obvious.

I wasn’t educating my clients.

Overextending myself was foolish. I could have done better work with more time. Ultimately, I was too focused on the money grab to ask for what I needed. As a result, I delivered mediocre work. I was no more valuable to the client than any other penny a word freelancer. I always made my deadlines but the quality definitely suffered. The best I could do was not commit plagiarism and make sure there were no spelling or grammatical errors. Otherwise, my content was pretty generic.

Most of my projects were one and done. I wasn’t going to build a list of long-term clients with that kind of work.

Things changed once I started asking for a reasonable amount of time to complete my jobs. It turned out most of my clients were more flexible about deadlines than I expected. All it took was explaining that an extra day could mean the difference between average work and the higher quality content they were looking for.

Some people wouldn’t budge on turn around time.

I declined to work with them.

They didn’t negotiate. They didn’t have to. There were plenty of content mills out that could deliver what I wasn’t willing to do.

Humane deadlines are in the best interest of both sides of the freelance writing equation. When writers aren’t stressing out over turn around time, clients get effective, creative content.

You have to establish realistic expectations at the onset. The writer has to be willing to lose a few jobs here and there and the client may have to delay gratification for a day or so.

In the long run, honest communication, about deadlines and expectations, is more valuable than one-day delivery.


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