What to do as a freelancer when everything’s urgent

By June 29, 2016Blog, Freelancing


If I had $1 for every time a client – prospective, new or regular – called or emailed me and said, “Ha ha [insert sheepish laugh], this little job is quite urgent, ha ha, but it won’t take you long, ha ha…” I’d retire. So the question is, What to do as a freelancer when everything’s urgent…?

Luckily for you, I believe in sharing my latent rage via tongue-in-cheek tips. So here are 6 ways to handle it when everyone wants everything yesterday:

  1. Urgency surcharge

    You can build in an urgency surcharge. I do this when I want to tackle the project or score the new client but I’ll undoubtedly have to pull a weekender, a late-nighter or a re-shuffle of other work.

  2. Upfront warning

    You can prepare new clients for the fact that, because you’re good and your work is in demand, you’re seldom available at short notice. I do this too, and 90% of my regulars now understand it and work around it. However, I do have to make it quite clear in that first meet-and-greet.

  3. Special circumstances

    You can make a special plan for regulars or big clients. There are about 6 people/companies who could call me at midnight and I’ll hop to whatever it is for the next day. Out of loyalty.

  4. Delegation

    You can out-source (which, in fact, I almost never do). I have a full-time support person, but even she can’t do work at short notice because a) we’re both pretty busy and b) short notice doesn’t give me time to get a signature and a 50% deposit. [Ed: One day, perhaps I’ll write a scathing piece on ‘What to do as a freelancer when a brand-new client baulks at paying a 50% deposit’…]

  5. Secrecy

    Don’t be known as s/he who answers calls after hours, works on weekends or pulls rabbits out of hats every time. You’ll be abused. Indeed, if you make a plan for a special client, KEEP. IT. QUIET.

  6. Just say No.

    You can say No. Just…No. I did this recently, because the client’s side of the conversation went like this: “Thanks for your quote. But – two weeks for website copy? What can be done to fast-track this? I’ll need it within four working days, starting tomorrow. Seriously. I’m happy to pay more, but besides money, what can I do, specifically, to make you work faster?” I actually didn’t know what he meant. Was he offering even more money? (If only.) A massage? (Yech.) Sexual favours? (No.) Who knows? I said No.

Now that I think about it, I also need to rant about the ubiquitous “It won’t take you longer than an hour…” and “I would do it myself…” But I urgently need to stop writing. Goodbye. See you next time.

* This post originally appeared on freelancentral.co.za.