Is it okay to miss a deadline?

At any given time, consultants face a ton of deadlines. These range from the minor to the major:

  • Answering a ringing telephone
  • Responding to incoming emails
  • Sending out replies to requests for information
  • Putting together quotes and RFPs
  • Meeting project milestones
  • and so on

When you’re dealing with a client, though, is it ever okay to miss a real deadline, such as a date set for delivery of a project?

As with all things, it depends. If you’re going to miss a deadline because you’ve planned poorly, you’re going to suffer. If this happens to you on even an occasional basis, you really need to look at your management style. But, if you’re going to miss a deadline because of actions on the part of your client, you may need to loosen up a little. Don’t beat yourself up. If you’ve been following up with the client — by phone and email — and you lack information you need to miss a deadline, it isn’t really your fault. Do take the time to warn the client about deadlines ahead of time.

I actually have a clause in my contracts that says that, to complete deliverables on time, I need to have access to the client’s employees, information resources and key decision makers. You might want to look into adding something like this.