It’s not always easy to make promises, and sometimes it’s prudent not to. After all, who wants to disappoint?

In my business, the flow of work can be exceedingly chaotic, frequently with clients appearing in droves, and, as luck would have it, all needing things at the same time. To make things even more challenging, they’ll all reveal an exceptionally difficult deadline! So, what to do?

Being the type who wants to delight all my clients, I’m often tempted to perform miracles and deliver completed work within unheard-of timelines.  I realized though, that I can only perform a finite number of miracles every week and that someone’s project will just have to wait… until next week!

Honestly, I absolutely hate having to disappoint, but it’s so much better to be realistic up front and discuss the more plausible outcome of my existing work queue. It’s a question of looking at what’s already in the queue and weighing the respective clients’ target deadlines against outside factors (upcoming exhibits, magazine deadlines, upcoming grants, etc.) over which they have no immediate control. Naturally, I want them to succeed and I’ll do all in my power to prepare their work or complete their project in time for their needs. Unfortunately, more often than not, they’ve just procrastinated or simply lost track of time and now desperately me to “rescue” them.

The reality is, however, not every one is going to meet their target deadline. That’s just not possible given the immutable properties of space and time, and the limitations imposed by being human! Talking with a client about what can physically and realistically be done is vitally important, and is what I call managing expectations. Feasible timetables and a clear understanding of best and worst-case scenarios with regards to meeting deadlines should be made very evident. This may not always be what a client wants to hear, but it’s better that they are clear about this up front and can at least rest assured that the target date I offer is fairly certain.

It’s also a good idea to have a Plan B. If we can’t finish our project in its entirety, can we at least get part of it done in time for pre-press? What about other options, if they exist? I’ve always believed that there is a solution to nearly every problem; it’s just a question of applying your brain, and maybe thinking laterally as well as logically.

Ultimately, for me, it’s a question of wanting to provide the ultimate quality in all my clients’ projects, whether large or small. It then becomes a balancing act, trying to provide as much initial quality in the work and then reviewing the project for accuracy and completeness, and testing for functionality where required. No matter what the circumstances, I’ll try to maximize the level of quality for the amount of time given for any project, and that’s the very least I would want for my clients. I’d definitely want that for myself, were the shoe on the other foot!

Having said all this, more often than not, however, I can save the day by completing the project in time.  It’s just something I usually manage to do, perhaps a bit of a magical touch. At the end of the day,  it’s always so nice to offer a client a pleasant surprise!