Are you a ‘train wreck’ when faced with tight deadlines? If you are employed in marketing, design, web development or any other deadline-driven field, no doubt you have experienced snappy demands, postponements, obstacles, delays, distractions and all manner of commotions that can interfere with that very important project you have finally landed.
To succeed as a web/graphic designer, it is important to learn how to manage your time properly, since this is essential to success. So how can you make sure you hit your deadlines every time? Let me offer a few suggestions.
Care about deadlines
This is the first step, as many people are very lax about deadlines. It is important to be serious about meeting them, and making them a priority. Make breaking a deadline a cardinal sin in your freelance world. Once you have completed this step, the rest is just logistics.
Understand the design process
Before embarking on any project, ensure you understand precisely what the client needs to complete the assignment.
If you require any additional data or information, consult the client early so as to avoid unnecessary corrections and revisions later. The more organised you are, the more time you save. But try not to accept a project if you are uncertain of what needs to be done.
Decide on a deadline together
As partners working together, explain to your client how long the process will take. Both of you should be flexible when finding a deadline that works for everyone. If the client does not give you a deadline, ask for one.
This is vital. If you lack self-discipline, you are unlikely to complete any projects before deadline. Self-discipline will cause you to work according to a schedule, and finish your tasks on time. You must remain focused at all times.
Since there will be many tasks, prioritise accordingly. For maximum efficiency, be sure to complete one task first before tackling another.
Take note of all the projects and their deadlines
Self-discipline is vital, especially if you are managing numerous projects simultaneously. It is good to schedule and plan every task you aim to undertake. Hence mark all the deadlines on a calendar to guarantee that you remember the due dates.
Break down the project
Aim to have a separate list outlining all specific tasks that have to be to undertaken for each project. This will enable you to complete the work before deadline, which results in a smoother flow.
Think about the number of hours or minutes required to complete each task. This offers an idea of project completion time. Once you have outlined your schedule, have the discipline to follow it.
This is standard advice, but it really works. Tackle issues one step at a time, as each step should be small enough that it takes an hour or less, making it less intimidating.
Once you have completed a step, send the completed work to your client if possible. Sure, it will not look like a completed project, but you are making progress and receiving feedback. It is better to know early on, rather than at the end of a project, that you are headed in the wrong direction.
One of the biggest causes of missed deadlines is a freelancer who commits to more than he/she can handle. Learn to say ‘no’ if you cannot complete a project on time.
Under promise, over deliver
Do not over-commit, but instead offer deadlines that make your clients comfortable. Never, ever, give your clients promises knowing you cannot deliver, as this only result in the loss of valuable clients.
Be honest and realistic about how much time is needed, and always give yourself a little extra time for pesky productions that constantly seem to pop up. Whether it is a family issue, problems with another client, computer disasters or any number of surprises along the way, always be prepared. For example, set a date that is further out, which enables you to meet the deadline when these issues arise.
If the project is extremely urgent, you might need extra time. Decide the hours when you can work most effectively. If you work well at night, stay up late and get the job done. However, if you work better in the morning, plan to sleep earlier than usual and wake up early.
These steps not only lessen stress but promote a more tranquil ‘client-designer’ atmosphere. It is a win-win. Sure, you can do great work, but if you do not turn your projects in on time, you will not contract many repeat customers.
Learn from first mistakes, and if you missed a deadline, take a few minutes to analyse what went wrong and how you can avoid it happening in the future.
Remember, your reputation is generally based on two things: The quality of your work, and how well you meet deadlines. Until we meet again, fill your life with memories as opposed to regrets. Enjoy life and stay on top of your game.
• NB: The columnist welcomes feedback at email@example.com
ABOUT THE COLUMNIST: Deidre Marie Bastian is a professionally trained graphic designer/marketing coordinator with qualifications of M.Sc., B.Sc., A.Sc. She has trained at institutions such as: Miami Lakes Technical Centre, Success Training College, College of the Bahamas, Nova South Eastern University, Learning Tree International, Langevine International and Synergy Bahamas.