Whether you are freelance or working in a company, keeping to deadlines is the best way to build your relationships with clients. Every time you meet a deadline, you show them that you are reliable and capable of fulfilling their needs on time. So how can you make sure that you never miss a deadline? Here are our top hacks.

Be Realistic

It’s always tempting to tell clients that you can definitely achieve x, y and z within a week, when really, you should take a week over each project. This kind of over-ambitiousness is entirely human. You want to impress your clients with your amazing turn-around time, but you run the risk of under-performing, or worse, missing the deadline.

When you plan deadlines, take into consideration what needs to be done to fulfill the project to a high standard, how long each component will take and how many staff will be required. You should also consult with each team member to find out how long they think their contribution will take and how this deadline will fit in with any other ongoing deadlines.

You should approach deadlines in a similar way if you are the only person required for the project. Split the project into its component parts and then think about how long each part will take you.

Sometimes, clients or colleagues will request unworkable deadlines making it difficult to say no, but you should always remember that this is the best time to renegotiate. It might be that your client or colleague simply doesn’t understand how much time a task will actually take so explain this to them and be clear that an extended deadline will be the best way to achieve the high quality they want.

Create Intermediate Deadlines

Once you have split your project into its component parts, you should then assign each part an intermediate deadline. This will help you to keep track of your progress, but it will also give your colleagues an understanding of where their contribution fits in with the overall project.

You may wish to inform your client when you achieve each of these intermediate deadlines too so that they can keep track of your progress too. This will show them that you are on track, but it also gives them an opportunity to correct you if you’re not quite providing what they had in mind.

Add a Buffer

Projects fall behind schedule for all sorts of unforeseeable reasons. Perhaps one of the team needs a day or two off for illness or a resource doesn’t arrive on time, for example. It may be frustrating but it shouldn’t be a reason to rush towards the deadline in a panic.

Instead, plan ahead and give yourself some extra time as a buffer – either a day, a few days or even a few weeks depending on the size of your project. This way, even if someone is off and misses their intermediate deadline, there is still time to catch up without needing to inform your client.

And, if you don’t need the buffer? Everyone likes it when a project is finished a little bit earlier than expected!

Assign a Project Manager

Co-ordinating any team project requires a lot of organisation and communication skills and having one person assigned to keep tabs on everyone else is a good idea. This takes the pressure off everyone else as the project manager can be relied upon to update any plans and let everyone know where the project is up to, whether it is on track or not, and what needs to be done next.

Obviously, if you are the only one working on a project, then you should assign yourself this role. Keep a list of everything you need to achieve, when the intermediate deadline is and what has been done. Tick things off as you go and make sure that you give yourself enough time to complete each task.

Follow these hacks and never miss a deadline again!