Q6: What do you do when you can’t finish a job at all?

By , November 26, 2009

Answer to #6 of 12 Questions I think are important for commercial writers to know. I think these questions are especially important for people newly striking out on their own.

I’ve got another short answer for you, because this situation requires concise action. No one wants to think “I can’t,” especially when they’re freelancing. It almost feels like you’re telling the client, “I won’t do it. And, please don’t ask for anything more.”

Unless that’s what you’re saying, your situation is not that fatal.

There was one time when I couldn’t complete a job. The situation was extreme for me. But the worst part was that I kept thinking I can pull this off. Finally, I was given an ultimatum deadline. After the date given, the client would find an alternative source. Several things made it easier to survive the embarrassment:

  • He was very gracious about it because we were long-time friends
  • He knew the trauma that lead me to being unable to complete the job
  • He already knew of someone who was available to do the job

Maintaining Integrity

There was still the problem of me having to face myself after the fact. I had declined at the last hour, and he said it was fine. Everyone won’t know me or my circumstance. My life should not be a factor, as I’m providing a service not a friendship. As a result of that experience and the goals of how I want to do business, I learned some important things to keep in mind:

  1. I need to know my limitations even in traumatic situations
  2. Get help, and review thoroughly any work that I subcontract
  3. If necessary, cancel the job with the person who hired me

The reason I say it’s not a fatal situation is because I consider what would be my reaction. I might be frustrated but not at the person. I’m always saying that life stuff just keeps happening. I’d be more concerned that I needed to find alternative resources to keep to my schedule than making the worker feel like crap.

Getting Others to do Your Work

If you know your human resources, then you may already know the person who can complete this job. If you contact your client with this information, be sure that you’ve talked to the service provider first. Check their availability and willingness to do the job. And if you are to remain the intermediary between the client and your replacement provider, be sure to check the work before you submit it.

Be sure to check your work and others’ work before you submit it.

I could put that in all caps. Some mistakes are fixable. The error of not checking is bad business.

When I was editing, I’d receive work from writers who, after there was a problem, stated that their other writers actually did the work. They further stated that they’d submitting the work without having checked the writers’ documents. That’s a big no-no. As the one submitting, you have to check the work, no matter who wrote it.

And, if you have writers you’re subcontracting to, don’t offer them up when mistakes are found, like that will excuse not checking the work. Especially if you’ve never before mentioned them.

The Best Lesson from My Work Experience

Remember, since you don’t know what the client is like until faced with the situation, look to yourself as the constant. Be honest, be forthright, be prompt in whatever you have to do. Maintaining integrity and an honest work ethic is what will see you through.

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