Do you have that one client (okay, maybe three?!) that’s habitually totally unorganized and needing something big last week?
- The one that asks for an entire PowerPoint presentation for tomorrow’s 8am meeting? (Just 20 slides, I swear! 85 slides later…)
- Or that calls on Friday at 4:30pm to request a “quick” icon set for Monday morning’s software upgrade?
I’m talking about the client that always exhibits this behavior, not the client with one rare instance when they dropped the ball. For example, the client I’m thinking of proposed three of these big super-rush projects to me within one month!
While on the surface it looks like a win-win if you can pull them off, for me, it’s a big conundrum.
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On one hand…
…the money’s great. And I mean really great.
Super-rush projects like these have earned me $1000+ in one day.
For truly pulling off a miracle – a big project crammed into one day and half the night where you only get up to pee when you’re squirming, you should be raking in the dough.
So unless your current projects (or personal life) don’t afford you any wiggle room or the project is impossible to complete, it’s really hard to say no to that kind of cash.
…it’s what your client wants. They need need NEED this project done like yesterday, and you’re in a position to save the day.
Your client will absolutely love you forever and sing your praises to everyone they know, right?
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But then reality hits…
…when the bill comes.
It doesn’t matter to them that you were up at 2am making revisions, or that the entire project was started and completed within 18 hours. All of the working details are ancient history even if you sent the bill within a week of handing over the deliverables.
All your client sees is the final project and the price tag attached (this is especially true if you’re not working with the boss who approves the payment).
And let’s be honest, it’s not your best work. It’s passable, good even, but not ground-breaking.
(Really, how could it be? You crammed 2 weeks’ worth of creativity and process into 12 consecutive hours.)
So now your client feels like they’re paying top dollar for average work, particularly if they decide to pay you to improve upon it later.
Many more projects like this and they’re likely to view you as the always-available mediocre consultant suitable for minor jobs while they recruit a “top-notch” professional for the fun and exciting important projects.
…your client comes to expect your total availability. Rush becomes reality.
And then it’s not “Can you do this?” but “I need you to do this.”
Slowly your equality erodes until you’re viewed not as a professional contractor, but rather an out-of-office employee that is expected to perform when called upon.
So when the day comes that you don’t accept their super-rush project, your client believes they can bully you into taking it.
- First they throw a fit, often threatening to take their business elsewhere.
- Then they appeal to your emotions, attempting to guilt you into the project.
- Finally, they apologize and beg.
Then you start avoiding their calls, because you know what they want and you either don’t want to or can’t deal with it.
Finally, you lose (or fire) the client.
So here’s what I do:
While a couple of wickedly long, totally exhausting, and amazingly profitable days are pretty fantastic once the money rolls in, very rarely can we sustain client relationships like these long-term.
For that reason, I don’t let super-rush projects become a habit.
That’s right, I say no. I turn down that $800+ day, and I do it as soon as I see the habit beginning to form.
Remember the client that asked for three big rush projects in one month? I turned down one of them. In truth, I simply couldn’t fit it in my schedule, but I turned it down on principle just as much as on scheduling.
It’s hard to do, I know.
But guess what?
That super-rush big project still needed to be done the following week, and I got to work on it at a normal pace (for a normal price*). No stress. No sleepless nights. No pushing other project deadlines around.
Since I turned that rush project down, my client has only asked for one other rush project amongst a handful of normal projects.
And occasional rush projects I can handle.
*Not sure how much to charge? Check out our How Much Should I Charge? ebook!
What do you think? Am I crazy? Stupid? Genius? Share your ideas, questions, and tips for handling these situations in the comments.
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