Slow Down! 5 Important Questions to Ask Before Taking on Rush Projects

RushUnderstandably, all clients think their projects are urgent. It’s the nature of business and society today – we want it done now and we want it done well. But before you commit to pulling an all-nighter to meet an unrealistic deadline, here are five questions to ask that will help you make sure you have a clear idea about what you’re getting into.

Why the rush?

Many times, this initial question will tell you all you need to know about what’s behind the emergency. Two of the possibilities may include:

There is something that’s not working as it should be and it is impacting the client’s own customers.

If this is the case, a rush certainly makes sense. And to take it one step further, if this is a problem with work that you initially provided for the client, then it is probably your responsibility to at least check it out. Depending on what caused the problem and the agreement you have with the client, troubleshooting an unexpected glitch may be in line with your initial contract.

If the work was completed by someone else, you may want to ask why the client is not going back to the person who did the work. Getting more information on the reasoning behind this will also help you determine the role you will likely play if you take on the rush project.

It is a new project the client is simply excited to see executed.

While this is common and actually a good sign, it doesn’t necessarily warrant a rush job. Especially in cases when it’s a new launch, it probably makes the most sense to slow down and take the project step-by-step. Be sure to impress upon the client the value that comes from taking the necessary time to properly plan, organize and execute a new project; they will likely appreciate your advice.

What is the scope?

Now that you know why there is a rush, take time to get the exact specifics of the work, what needs to be done and when it needs to be completed by. A good starting point is completing your project request form or any other tool you use when you start to work with a new client. It’s up to you to make sure you clearly understand each element of the project, so try to ask the most important questions to get the information you need.

Who is the client?

Whenever I am approached about a rush project, one of the biggest deciding factors is whether or not I have a relationship with the client. In most cases, I am willing to accept a slightly challenging timeline if the work involves a client I currently work with and enjoy working with. Or if the client is a referral from an existing and valued client or a respected colleague, they tend to have a little more weight attached to their request.

Can the client meet his own deadline?

I have seen many rush projects come to a screeching halt because the client isn’t able to meet their own timeline. Once you know the scope and before taking on the work, try to develop a list of action items and responsibilities for both you and the client. Then, make sure the client commits to fulfilling his responsibilities.

If it looks like they will have a major struggle getting you the information you need to do your part, it’s probably not a good rush project. If this happens, though, you may be able to rework the deadline with the client so it’s more realistic for them and then still complete the work for the client.

Can you realistically do the work on the requested timeline?

The last factor I consider is whether or not taking on the rush project will take time away from other work I am currently doing, make me miss deadlines, or cause me an inordinate amount of stress or lack of sleep. When analyzing a rush job, don’t overlook your own commitments and availability. Even if all of the other factors check out, make sure you have the time to take on the work without facing any other negative consequences.

Do you do rush work for clients? What factors go into your decision about taking on the work?

Image credit: Ralph Morris

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  • Graham

    Related to ‘Can the client meet his own deadline?’ there is also ‘Is the client going to take a holiday/vacation they didn’t tell you about’. I currently have 3 ‘urgent’ updates that are all stalled. I diverted attention to make their ‘urgent’ site changes and was greeted by an ‘out of office’ reply to my emails requested further information!

  • danielgm

    In my experience, that first question, “why the rush?” is a very good one. I’ve taken on projects with tight deadlines, only to end up waiting for the materials I need before I can start.

    The timeline can depend heavily on when you receive data or mockups and it’s important to communicate that to the client. Rather than giving a fixed date as a deadline, it might be prudent to say, “two weeks after I receive your data.”

  • just…b

    Very good questions to ask – will certainly note for future reference. Basically when I tell folks that there will be a “rush charge” that goes with the project urgency – sometimes the project becomes not quite so “urgent”. Your sense of urgency is my design time at a premium much like “Urgent Care” or “FedX” – it is a fair practice and I utilize it when necessary. It has been specified in the faq section of my site. Noticed too that once clients have been hit with a rush fee that they get their act together more efficiently for future projects …. and no, I have not lost any cleints because of this fee.

  • AngieDixon

    Making sure the client can meet the deadline themselves is very important. I’ve been in this situation a couple of times, and I’ve learned to get a lot of information before agreeing to a rush.

    Angie Dixon
    http://www.incredibleclients.com