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What to do when everything’s always urgent

If I had $1 for every time a client – new or regular – called or emailed and said, “Ha ha [sheepish laugh], unfortunately this little job is quite urgent, ha ha, but it won’t take you long, ha ha … ” I’d retire.

But, as a freelancer, no-one gives me money for jam. Which is a pity. And so I must feed my ranting urge with a blog post, rather than with multiple $1 notes.


Luckily for you, I believe in sharing the rage via tongue-in-cheek tips. So, here are six ways (you can try) to handle it when everyone wants everything from you, like, yesterday:

1. You can build in an urgency surcharge. I do this occasionally, when I want to tackle the project or score the new client but I’ll have to pull a weekender, a late-nighter or a re-shuffle of other “work in progress”.
2. 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. But I do have to make it quite clear in that first meet-and-greet.
3. You can make a special plan for regulars or big clients. There are about six people/companies who could call me at midnight (okay, at 6pm) and I’ll hop to whatever it is for the next day. Out of loyalty.
4. You can out-source, which I almost never do. I have a full-time support person (you know who you are and you’re indispensable) 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.
5. Don’t be known as the freelancer who answers calls after hours, works on weekends or pulls rabbits out of hats every time. You’ll be abused. If you do make a special plan for a special client/job, KEEP. IT. QUIET.
6. 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 beyond money, what can I do to make you work faster?” I actually didn’t know what he meant with this. Was he offering even more money? A massage? Sexual favours? 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 and so I’m going to say No. To myself.

Goodbye. Thanks for your attention. See you next time.