Tip for Freelancers: Admitting You’re Behind

You probably think this post is going to be about a negative experience I had with a freelancer? Not quite. It is about me as a freelancer and how I admitted I was behind.

For a majority of my consulting work, I am an independent contractor. I occasionally hire contractors to do some of the more specialized work, but most of the time I work by myself and for myself. I’m not part of a large consulting organization, am hired directly by the company I’m working for, and so on. So, it’s just me. The companies I work with like dealing with me or they probably wouldn’t hire me. However, I am still only one person.

And since I am only one person and I am still human, I inevitably get sick. And unfortunately when I get sick, I get behind. As a result of getting behind, I have to admit the fact to my clients.

The first step is of course realizing that you’re behind. I usually know when I’m behind pretty quickly. I have a lot to do during a given a week and when I’m  not getting a majority of it done, I realize it pretty quickly. A lot of people seem to get in denial about being behind. I’m not a productivity guru, so my suggestions in that area would not be that useful.

Once you realize that you’re behind, you have to admit it. This is a communication and subsequently, very much a customer service thing. This is an area where I think my advice could be useful.

Here is how you communicate with the customers/clients/etc. that are waiting on you:

Remember: no excuses.
There is a fine line between giving an explanation and an excuse. Customers are rarely interested in excuses.

Admit it.
It is okay to admit you took on too much work, you’ve been sick, or something happened. Just be truthful and promptly explain the cause of you being behind.

Explain what you’re doing to fix it.
Like most apologies, explanations, etc. your message or conversation should include an explanation about what you’re doing to fix the problem, get caught up, get that second draft ready, etc. You need to explain what you’re going to do to rectify the problem.

To finish it off, apologize. Make it a sincere apology or you’re just wasting your time.

If you can pro-actively admit you’re behind and explain why, most customers should appreciate it. It is certainly a lot better than just letting them guess what you’ve been up to or having to follow up with you themselves.

Photo courtesy of jivaca.

One Response to “Tip for Freelancers: Admitting You’re Behind”

  1. Three Steps to Take if You Make a Mistake said:

    Sep 20, 07 at 10:01 am

    […] Doug recently wrote about a Tip for Freelancers: Admitting You’re Behind. Here are the four steps he’s listed in brief: […]