I was reading "The Four Hour Work Week" by Tim Ferriss and I was very much inspired by a particular line: "Perfect products delivered past deadline kill companies faster than decent products delivered on time."
We've all been through it. Overwhelmed with deadlines and something's got to give. It's hard as a small business owner sometimes to keep your schedule under control. You have 3 active projects chugging along, a few out on approval and suddenly something new and exciting comes in and you agree to do it. You know the deadline is a bit unreasonable but you want to impress the new client so you figure you can just work late a few nights and get it done. No problem. The real problem begins when those projects out on approval come back in and are suddenly front burner as well. Argh!
What to do now? You start thinking, who can be put off? Who's deadlines are "less important"? Who would be easiest to break the news to? None of these are appropriate answers. None of your clients should ever be disappointed on a deadline. It's arguably the main thing they will remember about you, because it's the last thing they heard from you. Delivering late. This is not an impression you should ever leave.
- Get better at saying no. Is it better to agree to everything a client requests, or to be the voice of reason? I believe that the client will ultimately respect you more if you are able to say with conviction "I'm sorry - I'd love to work with you on this project but considering my present commitments, your deadline is just not possible. If you can wait an extra week, I'd be happy to accommodate your project". There is something to be said for being busy. Human nature dictates we want what we can't have. You'll be surprised how many clients are willing to defer their previously pressing deadlines in order to work with you if you are perceived to be in demand.
- Job it out. Another concept inspired by Tim Ferriss. There are many things in your daily routine that use up your time but actually don't need your direct attention, and most of these tasks probably hold very little interest to you. Take a close look at your daily activities and decide which of them is most interesting and inspiring for you. Hold on to these items and automate or job out the rest. Paying bills. Job estimating. Project management. Sales. Bookkeeping. Errands. Research. Cleaning. Free up your time to focus on what you excel at or what you truly love to do, and job out everything else. If you do this well, you'll be happier, your clients won't notice a difference, and it will free up more of your time so you can take on those last minute exciting projects if you want to, without worry of becoming overwhelmed.