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Effective Communication During Rush Jobs
The advice I generally give for freelancers is to use the on-site messaging systems that all freelancing marketplaces provide when communicating with clients. This allows you to control the pace of interaction, and greatly reduces the chances of being constantly interrupted by higher-frequency forms of communication such as instant messaging or phone calls. However, this more leisurely pace of interchange is often insufficient for rush projects, especially ones with extremely tight deadlines.
This is really a judgment call and depends on both how far away the deadline is, and how quickly the client responds to queries. A rush project can still require weeks to do, in which case regular messaging is fine. But if the project needs to be turned around in a couple of days, or even a few hours, on-site messaging may not be sufficient. In these cases, I recommend telling the client plainly at the start of the project that you will need his or her assistance in the form of expedient replies, and also ask if there’s another way to contact him or her if you need to exchange information more quickly. Beware that some freelancing sites consider this a violation of their terms of service. Stupid, but they set the rules, so you need to make a judgment call between helping your client and possibly running afoul of some site bureaucrat.
The impact of adding a rush job depends largely on your work schedule and flexibility. Before agreeing to do one, make sure you have the time to get the work done that the client demands, without shirking other responsibilities.
First and foremost, do not take on a rush job if it means you will delay the completion of another client’s work in an unacceptable way. And in my view, anything that causes you to miss or push out a deadline, or compromise a promise, is not acceptable. It is perfectly fine to take on a rush job and deliver a less-urgent project later, if the new delivery date still meets that client’s needs. It is highly unprofessional to take on a rush job because you want to make more money, and have this result in an existing client’s deadlines slipping.
If you’re very busy, another option, of course, is to simply work more. Part of being a freelancer is a workload that varies over time. If you happen to see a good opportunity pop up and you already have so much work that you need to put in extra hours, consider yourself fortunate, and just do without some leisure activities for a while. Trust me, at some point you’ll have more free time than you know what to do with. :) However, be careful about making a habit of putting work ahead of other activities, or you could find yourself slipping into chronic workaholism.
All of the standard factors that go into pricing proposals come into play here, but the rush factor generally means you can ask for and receive higher rates than you would on a conventional project. Clients understand that they will often need to pay to have their project put at the head of the line, or to convince contractors to shuffle their schedules or even work “overtime”. The shorter the deadline, all else being equal, the more you can charge.
Of course, this all depends on the particulars of the project. If very few people are able to do the particular work required by the rush job, they can charge a healthy premium to get it done fast. In contrast, if the work is somewhat mundane, a large number of bidders may result in no additional cost for the rush work at all.
Above all else, be fair to both yourself and the client. There’s nothing wrong with insisting on being paid more money if you’re offering to drop other work to take on a rush job, or give up your personal time to do it. But don’t put the client over the barrel, either. You might get some short-term benefit from jacking up your rates to double their normal level for a rush job, but customers who feel they’re being taken advantage of are not repeat customers. You’ll gain more in the long-term by being fair and reasonable. I have in the past even told clients that I was intentionally not charging them extra for rush work, and been rewarded for my consideration with repeat projects whose value far exceeded the initial job.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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