When Time is Short and Projects are Long

What’s on the iPod: Nothing — no time to listen!

Today is the Trade Magazine webinar! If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to make your mark in a lucrative industry, sign up here and join us at noon ET/ 9 am PT. You get two sessions plus a free month in the Five Buck Forum.

It was a day of phone calls. Where I thought I’d have one call, I had four. I hate phone calls because they usually interrupt the schedule. I don’t mind scheduling them, and can plan for that. It’s those unplanned ones that get to me. Then there were the proposals for two clients — one was finished. The other had to wait until today. I simply ran out of time.

Today I have the first of the webinar sessions, then I must get my article started. I have a beginning and summary in mind. Just need the middle part. 😉 I have one interview to conduct, then I hope to have time to get back to that other proposal.

I was explaining to one client why the proposal had such a long completion date. I’m about to head out of town on a short vacation, (four days), and I didn’t want them looking at the deadlines and wondering why it was taking me weeks to do the first drafts. In fact, this month and next will be wild with projects and time off. I have the Aussies here for three days near the end of August (so excited to see them again!) and I simply will not work when I have company who have come so far to see us.

But it may not work for the clients. So what can a writer do when actual living gets in the way of making a living?

Suggest alternatives. I proposed a three-week timeline for this project. It may not take that long depending on my other work. If that timeline doesn’t work for them, either, I intend to ask if September is better. I have a few days off then, but I intend to work through that small trip (family wedding).

Recommend other writers. While it may be dangerous to do with new clients (who may see you as someone who’s expendable), it’s okay with established clients to offer interim help while you’re gone. Right now I’m covering for a writer who’s in Paris for an MFA course (lucky woman!). If her clients need help, I’m the back-up help until she returns. Do yourself a favor — locate the right fit and clear it with the other writer before you tell your client.

Say no.
 Not to the company or the vacation, but to the project. If they’re rigid in their deadlines (and all clients  have their reasons for needing things done on a certain timeline), it’s okay to thank them, explain you haven’t the time to devote to the gig right now, and walk away.

What do you do when the work or projects exceed your own ability to take it all?

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  • Cathy Miller July 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    I had a similar thing happen when a client was negotiating for an ongoing assignment. I told them I couldn't deliver the quantity they wanted in November as I am gone a good part of the month on vacation and the 3-Day Walk.

    They pushed for me to "double up" the month before, but I already have booked assignments. I compromised with delivering half the quantity for November.

  • Lori July 24, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Great compromise, Cathy. Showed good faith and willingness to be flexible (like Peter Bowerman's post this month suggests). I'm about to face a similar pressure to get work done sooner rather than later. In my experience, that's always been a disaster, and clients rarely see that they were expecting too much too quickly.

  • Paula July 24, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    I'm precariously close to the edge right now. I've turned in a slew of assignments, but have two articles currently in the interview stage. One has a 1-week turn around, but I need to do interviews while all of my sources (and the publicists who can wrangle them) are at the TCAs all week.

    Yesterday a GREAT publicist was pulling out all the stops to get some people on the phone at very short notice. I'd told her I was 2 hours ahead, but would be here if she could get someone to call me when they were on their dinner break. I had the computer unplugged due to incoming storms, so I didn't see her e-mail until this morning asking me to call someone…I feel awful. I'm begging for help all day, but quit "early" (around 6:45) – literally a minute or so before she sent that e-mail.

    I know I shouldn't feel guilty because it's not as if I'm being paid to be on call 24/7.

    At the same time, my sister has some light editing she'll need me to do for one of her clients – shouldn't be more than 2-3 hours.

    This is why I blew off the column this week and refused a few smaller projects.

    As long as I can get the interviews down, I'm good. And my editor – being at TCAs himself – is well aware of the difficulties involved in scheduling any interviews this week.

  • Kimberly Ben July 24, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    I think I lost business unnecessarily when I first began freelancing because it didn't occur to me clients would be open to alternatives and compromise. I don't know why; negotiation is at the heart of business. Great tips, Lori.