Editorial deadlines not your thing? Here’s why you should rethink that sentiment
I’m a huge fan of the editorial deadline. Whether it be self-imposed or passed along by a client, setting a due date for your writing and editing work is a valuable tool for prioritizing your work schedule.
Are you wondering why I sing the praises of editorial deadlines? Well, I have a lot of experience with other people missing deadlines, and I know personally how much it can affect many facets of a project. There’s nothing worse than someone else’s inability to meet deadline messes up the work that you’re doing. The truth is, we all have a lot going on in our lives. People are busy, and things get messy and unpredictable – that’s life. You just can’t let your life get in the way of due dates.
The problem with missing deadlines is simple. You let your client or boss down and are labeled as unreliable – a label that’s very hard to erase, especially when your missed deadline affects others around you and the ability for them to complete their own work. You become the bottleneck, and who wants to be that person? No one should ever be the bottleneck in projects. Ever.
[Tweet “No one should ever be the bottleneck in projects. Ever. Hit your deadlines.”]
This is how most writers and editors fail:
- They over-promise and under-deliver. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Even if you are eager to get a project done early, set a realistic deadline with that makes you comfortable. Any employer or client would prefer to get a project the day you tell them to expect it, than to get it late and mess with their schedule. Better yet, if you set realistic expectations for yourself, you can surprise your client with the project you finished early.
- They procrastinate. You might work better under pressure, but is your content actually better after you’ve been under pressure? With less time to re-read, less time for an editor to copyedit, and less time for you to come up with better graphics or anecdotes, the answer is a big whopping no. You might be more efficient under pressure because you’re rushing your little pants off, but your content will suffer. How much better could it be with an extra day or week and time for extra eyes to be on it?
- They email content in the early morning hours, such as 2am. You might think this type of behavior tells a client or employer that you burn the midnight oil for them, but what it really tells your client is that you procrastinate. It’s another way of showing that their project wasn’t worthy of your time earlier in the week and day or that you don’t practice professional time management.
- They give their client an editing burden. Did you procrastinate and rush through to your deadline? You could be unwittingly giving your employer or client more work. Before you deliver any content, be sure to copy edit it. You want to deliver perfect copy. If you don’t, your mistakes will make you less valuable to them.
Here’s how you can succeed by coming up with realistic editorial deadlines:
- Estimate how much time your content will take to finish. Once you’ve figured it out, add 10-20%. Remember, it’s better to deliver on time as promised, than to say you can deliver content earlier and not. It’s all about setting expectations with your clients.
- Create an editorial calendar a month ahead of time. Coming up with blogging ideas at the last minute means you’ll have less time to write good content. This sets you back before you even begin writing. When you’re put on the spot, are you ever at your best?
- Do your research early. If you’ve followed my advice and created an editorial calendar ahead of time, you’ll know what content you’ll need to research. Sometimes research is what takes most of my time when writing for a client. If I know what I’m writing about a month in advance, I might do preliminary research for everything at the start, and bookmark it for easy access later.
- Write at least a week ahead. If your content publishes next Wednesday, then your editorial deadline should at least be this Wednesday. By setting your deadline a week before it publishes, you give yourself a week to re-read, have it copyedited, and reviewed. This way, you know by the time it publishes that it’s as good as it can get.
- Plan ahead to ward off any last minute issues. A few tips: If you finish your work on a Tuesday, but it isn’t due until Thursday, don’t hold onto it. Send it when you’re able, and you can be sure your client receives it on time. Make sure your work location has reliable internet access. If it doesn’t, find a new spot to work from right away. Always be sure to keep your computer charger handy, and remember to back up all of your written content to the cloud or a storage drive. These steps might sound trivial, but most issues arise from little situations such as dead batteries, broken computers, and no internet access.
The most important lesson to remember if you miss editorial deadlines is not to make excuses.
The rule of client work is to be a light of inspiration and helpfulness. Never burden your client with excuses, no matter what your personal problems may be. Nobody will be fooled when you email them at 10pm the night a project is due and say you’ve been sick or your dog died. Unfortunately, most clients won’t care, and their ears will glaze over when they hear it. You could be telling the truth, but those excuses have been told to them too many times before. By working ahead and delivering a realistic deadline, you’ll be less likely to fall into this trap.
So what do you do if you know you’re going to miss a deadline? Step one – apologize earnestly, but make sure your apology is 100% excuse-free and at least a day ahead of the proposed deadline. Once you’ve made your apology, give them a realistic new deadline. Doing what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it is all that matters. Your final step is all about the delivery. Once you’ve committed to a new due date, do whatever is necessary to make sure your clients have their content on time for the new editorial deadline.
[Tweet “There’s no such thing as a “good” excuse for missing a deadline. Be the one who planned ahead.”]
Have you ever missed an editorial deadline in the past? Let us know what steps you took to resolve the issue in the comments section.