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ASK US WEDNESDAY: “Is it rude to ask a client to move their deadline?”

by Leo Wiles
28 November 2018

I’m reaching my limit on taking on work before Christmas but GREAT jobs just keep coming. It drives me crazy turning down work, especially when and I know I’m head for a slow-down in January. What do other freelancers do? Is it rude to ask a client to move their deadline to suit my purposes!? I feel like it is and find it hard to ask. O

Not rude at all. If anything, you NEED to be asking that whenever someone tries to hire you and you can’t do it! And you should definitely do it if the client sought you out; that’s when you have a modicum of power, so to speak.

That said, I understand how hard this can be. While journos are generally speaking witty, sexy sophisticates, we can also be self-deprecating and slow to ask the right questions sometimes. Not in interviews, thankfully, but of ourselves, and our clients.

So when faced with a client that you cannot squeeze into your busy schedule, most of us apologise for not being able to fit them in on the proposed timeframe and swiftly move on with our lives.

But what if you were to take a moment and simply ask if their deadline was movable – preferably to your predicted period of famine? This tack is of course better done with a healthy dose of flattery about loving their idea, product, service, title, company, etc. If you’re not sure how to tackle it we have scripts in our ebook that have you covered.

Other questions we don’t ask, but should

It’s also a great idea to get into the habit of drumming up more work when we’ve just handed work in. The devil on your shoulder might think, ‘That’s greedy, just be happy the client liked the work you did on XYZ’, but what’s the harm in asking if they’re keen to outsource their social media, or want some regular blog posts, or need another ghost-written thought leadership piece for LinkedIn?  Same goes for editors. If they liked the story you wrote, you should be shooting over an email with five more ideas you think would work for their readership.

Here are two questions to become super comfy with:

  1. I’m so sorry I can’t do that for you. Would you be willing to extend your deadline to X?
  2. I’m so glad my copy hit the spot. Would you like me to take on anything else for you?

Just making these two questions part of your normal repertoire, instead of a ground gaze shuffle or kneejerk, ‘Sorry I can’t right now’ may have far-reaching bank balance changing consequences.

Listers – do you think it’s rude asking clients to move their deadlines for you? Or is this something you do as a matter of course?

Leo Wiles

Leo Wiles has worked as an editor, journalist and PR for over 20 years before recently retraining as a photographer. These days, she spends her time behind a lens, juggling her own clients with her work at Rachel's List, and her three gorgeous but lively kids.

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