I’ve worked on a number of projects in the last couple years that have what seemed to be a very laxed deadline. And I’m sure many of you have all had a few of those as well. The client presents the job to you and you ask “when they need it”, you then hear the client say “it’s no rush, take your time” or “we’re still working that out.” The problem is that the client always has some sort of deadline in mind when they presented the job to you and that deadline is likely different then what you were thinking. Since it’s presented as not being a rush you may not always jump into it right away. It gets pushed to the side and other projects that have deadlines get moved to the front. Sure the project is still in the back of your mind but you are under the assumption that you have plenty of time. Maybe a month goes by and you really haven’t done much on the project yet because other work with official deadlines come in and you know those have to get done. The cycle can quickly continue, weeks turn into months and those months begin to pile up. This open ended / no rush deadline project has now become an issues and the client is wondering where the finished product is.
My experience is that when you hit about that two month mark of when you started talking about the project and you have shown only minor things, the client begins to get strange… And of course for a good reason, it’s been two months and you aren’t done with the project. Or even near where they thought you would be by this time. All of a sudden they need it finished and you can’t possibly get it done because you can’t physically do two months of work in a few days. As a result the client will probably end up unhappy and the project might get pulled from you altogether because you aren’t going to be able to do what they wanted in the time needed. Future work with this client could also be unlikely and a bridge could be burned.
Don’t let the idea of an open ended deadline blow up in your face. A couple things I’ve done to try and deal with this issue are to first press the client for a deadline. They know when they want it done or at least would like to see something. If they don’t give you a deadline set one yourself and tell them this is when the can expect to see something. Even though you made up the date to show them the work, stick by it and don’t let it slide because you know it’s not a drop dead date. Deadlines allow you to output more work on a timely fashion and are only beneficial to you. Stick to the deadlines and make breaking a deadline a cardinal sin for anything you are working. Don’t fall into the open ended project trap because you are likely to get burned.