You might think everyone knows what a deadline is. However, I am not sure that they do.
We have never had a problem with deadlines in terms of meeting them. In most of my past operations, even where we have run junior staff or contractors, they have usually met all deadlines or have approached me at an early stage for others to fill unforeseen gaps.
On the whole writers and editors, especially those with a journalist background, know that often late copy is dead copy.
However, clients are not always so clear about this. When asked about the deadline some clients will say things like, “Sometime next week,” or “not for a few days.” One can never take this on trust. There is almost always a deadline even if the point of contact with the client is not aware of it. It behoves the editor to try and tease this out.
The ‘sometime never’ deadline is not the only issue that arises. Sometimes an over eager client will set potentially unrealistic targets.
We once worked on a project over Christmas. The client wanted the text first thing in the morning on the Monday between Yule and New Year. The biggest challenge was the implementation of XML tags within the copy, all of which had to be live tested on a website to make sure that stray code didn’t crash the page.
To our families’ relief by 9.00pm on Christmas Eve we figured we had cracked it enough to take two days off and finish up over the weekend.
In the event the client was surprised that we had met the deadline given the season and had just plucked the date out of the air. The true deadline had been by the end of that month.
Now even though this was slightly annoying, it was far preferable than rather more vague ‘after Christmas sometime’ that we have just discussed. This was a client who understood that projects like his needed a clear end point to be achieved.
If you should encounter a vague deadline and after inquiries it is clear that no definite date has yet been required, then set your own target. Preferably set one that is drawn on information supplied by the client and have it agreed with them first. That way if there is a problem or their requirements are firmed up they know to tell you.
In order to develop this blog I set definite copy deadlines, although in this case I am my own client. Otherwise there is a tendency to have project drift.