Guest post: What to do when clients ask for an impossible deadline Reply

Every once in a while, you get to encounter translation projects who want to tie you to impossible deadlines. They ask you to complete the project or a part of it within a timeline that is clearly unrealistic. Worse, there are those who ask you to expedite a project for earlier submission even when a deadline has already been agreed upon earlier. What do you do in these situations? How do you deal with the clients?

Consider the following pointers:

1. Be sure to clearly inform the client about the deadline problem, present the reasons, and state what you can realistically do.

Obviously, if you are made to work on a project that you reasonably cannot do, you have to make it clear that it is not doable. Never commit to doing something you are not capable of doing. Give your reasons and let the client know the realistic output you can offer. It’s very important to clarify this to avoid problems later on. You also need to cite concrete parts or aspects of the project that make it difficult to work within the given deadline.

2. Negotiate and try your best not to lose the project.

As you explain to the client that the deadline is just too difficult to meet, you also have to offer a compromise. Break down the different components of the project to carefully propose adjustments. More often than not, you will be able to convince the client that you can submit some considerable partial output within the “impossible deadline” instead of having to extend the deadline for the entire project. There could be tasks that can just be finished later on as long the core part of the project is completed. Moreover, don’t think that you should immediately drop the client because they are “impossible to work with.” Often, these clients just need some explaining for them to understand that their demands are impossible to meet.

3. Make sure there is a written agreement stating all the terms of the project.

After negotiating and coming up with a workable agreement, make sure that you have all of the terms in writing. Usually, clients who don’t seem to have a realistic sense of project completion times easily change their minds. You can’t afford to be whimsically dragged to a new deadline or be forced to submit some things earlier than the appointed date.

4. Take control and work efficiently.

Once a compromise is reached, proceed to completing the project mindfully and efficiently. Avoid acting like a victim or someone being made to work beyond your capabilities. Have the mindset of someone who is in control.

5. Be open to suggestions.

This is not a contradiction to being in control. Being receptive to ideas from others can help you tweak processes to do things more efficiently and quickly. “Sometimes other people have great suggestions that can help you see things more clearly. When you’re under pressure, it helps to have the backing of a supportive team,” says Sean Hopwood, President of Day Translations. “We’re often asked to complete projects earlier than agreed, and we often do. It helps that we have such a diverse team of talent to contribute and come up with creative ways to solve the problem.”

6. Learn from the experience.

Be sure to learn something from the experience. There’s always something the challenge imparts. These will help you deal with the next similar impossible client demands in the future. The experience will let you gauge your or your team’s actual capacity to handle demanding projects. A failure lets you see your mistakes (including the possibility that you may have underestimated the difficulty of the task) while a success gets you motivated and serves as a good credential useful for attracting more clients in the future.

When faced with an impossible deadline, it only makes sense refusing to work within such an impossibility. It’s, after all, impossible. You have to ask for compromises or adjustments and then work on the compromise as efficiently as you can. Also, don’t forget to learn from the challenge of working on a project with an “impossible deadline.”


Today’s guest blog post is by Bernadine Racoma – an experienced blogger, writer, and researcher who particularly loves working on topics involving the Internet, online solutions, app development, and translation services. She is also an advocate and mother to 7 successful children.