Deadlines - they're a real thing. Discuss.
By Sarah-Jayne Shine
The latest time or date by which something should be completed.
Dealing with deadlines can fraught. Nobody likes to miss a deadline.
Deadlines are part and parcel in the life of a graphic designer. The materials we produce are often used to launch a brand, support a brand, enhance a brand. And these are usually (nearly always) date specific.
Despite the gloomy intro, this is actually an upbeat blog (so don’t run away screaming just yet). Because we can share some tactics you can use to effectively deal with deadlines. Even the scary, unrealistic, are you having a f&**#%g laugh deadlines!
Clients – you can play your part too. It’s a two-way thing. Involve us designers early! Bring us to the table at the start of your projects. Give us EVERYTHING! Let us be there at the very first conversation and we’ll repay the compliment at the project's end. Surprises can and often will rear their ugly head in the cycle of any project, but they can be pre-empted and hopefully prevented with clever planning. Make it easy for us and we’ll make it easy for you.
Good, come on a journey with us then. We’re going to look at what we can (and shouId) do before, during, and after our project.
Some of the most effective tactics for effectively managing deadlines start before you begin the work. Here are some steps to take before you begin your projects to ensure that you meet your deadlines:
Get a detailed scope
Nailing the scope is an important part of meeting a deadline. You don’t want to be surprised with unexpected work during the project. Unexpected work is the primary cause of missed deadlines. Ask all your questions now!
Estimate the project as accurately as you can
The best way to do this is usually to break the project down into smaller chunks and estimate how long each chunk will take. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel each time either. The more work you produce the more natural this will become. You can also cross-refer to previous similar projects for guidance here.
Allow a little extra time in your work agreement
A designer will likely encounter some unexpected complications during your project. Also, you don’t know what other problems might arise while you are working on the project. Life can throw curve balls.
Consider existing projects before you commit
Unless your existing projects have very flexible due dates, you need to allow yourself enough time to meet your current project commitments and still do the new work. You owe it your other clients before you commit to others.
Negotiate deadlines that look unrealistic NOW
If a client deadline seems too tight to you, ask if you can have some extra time to produce it. Some designers are afraid to ask for a deadline change, but many clients are more flexible about deadlines than they might seem. It’s much easier to negotiate a deadline at the start of a project rather than during or Heaven forbid near the end of a project.
Carefully consider ‘rush’ jobs before you accept them
Rush jobs often cause designers to fall behind on their regular ‘on the board’ work. Make sure you really have enough time to do it before you accept a rush job.
Allocate dedicated time to work on the project
Putting yourself on a schedule helps you to stay on track. Plan what tasks you need to accomplish each day to achieve the end goal.
Once you’ve properly prepared for meeting your deadline, you are ready to start work. Come on then, let’s get busy!
You need to be diligent, realistic and true to yourself and your work during the course of the project if you want to meet your deadline. Here are some techniques to help designers work more efficiently:
Start as soon as you can
When it comes to project work, procrastination can lead to desperation. Don’t wait until the last minute before you start a new project. Instead, get a head start. The sooner you start, the fresher the thought process is.
Prioritise tasks and milestones
Schedule yourself to complete the most important tasks first. Large or difficult tasks should be tackled next. Finally, schedule optional tasks last.
Use an effective time management method
We use a project management tool at Lemonface Design to keep track of where we’re at and where we need to be. We used to use Post-it notes but we ran out…of wall space and Post-it notes! Effective time management will also keep you from burning out.
Don’t let your mind wander when you really should be working. A good way to stay sharp is to eat right and get enough rest. Also, make sure your work area is distraction-free and turn down or turn off the alerts on your phone. Don't wander into your coworker's office for good yarns and to procrastinate - here's looking at you guys Helen & Karli.
Track your progress
Compare how much you achieve each day versus how much you expected to accomplish. If you start to fall behind, you may need to work extra hours or get some help.
If necessary, temporarily suspend non-project-related tasks
For example, social media presence is one task that you can temporarily put off. If you already have a good presence, missing a day won’t hurt. Just don’t make non-participation a habit.
Bring in extra help if you need
If the project turns out to be significantly more work than you realised, you may need to farm some parts of it out to freelancers. It’s a good idea to know in advance which freelance designers are available. Build up a pool of people you can rely on. If you don’t know any, then get to know a recruitment agency that specialises in this field.
Check work carefully before you present it
No matter how much of a rush you’re in, you can’t afford to damage your reputation by turning in sub standard work. Now your project should be complete. Job done? Not quite.
Even though the project is done, you’re still not quite done with the deadline. Here are some final steps in the process.
Submit your project to the client early if you can
Beating the client’s deadline, even if only by a day, can make a good impression as long as you didn’t cut corners to do it.
Confirm receipt of the project
Make sure that the client actually received the work. It may sound silly – but this is a THING. We know from experience.
It’s a fact that the longer you wait to invoice a client, the more likely it is that you’ll have trouble collecting payment. Strike while it’s fresh in your mind and their mind.
Request feedback from the client
Show them you care, even after the work is complete. You may want to find out what you could have done better so pay close attention to any suggestions the client makes. Good feedback can help you with future projects.
Feeling better now? Good. So are we.
Right…..on to the next job.
You need it when??&&%%!