The client’s deadline is a great way to gauge their commitment level to the project. When I’m discussing an upcoming project with a client, one of the most critical questions I ask is, “When do you need it by?

I can accept many answers. I can even accept an answer where the client wants it in an unreasonably short amount of time. A red flag to me is when the client doesn’t have a deadline or doesn’t even have a range.

The best answer is, “We need it by _________, because if we don’t get it done by then, _________.

Why I need to know your deadline

The client plays a critical role in the project.

  • facilitate project discovery and communication
  • review wireframes, design comps, mockups
  • provide feedback
  • content, photography, etc

The client’s responsibility to the project varies, but the project cannot move forward without them.

When a client doesn’t have a sense of urgency:

  • slow feedback
  • increased risk of scope creep
  • the project is in a constant state of start-stop-start
  • your complete your part of the project and you’ll be waiting on the client to complete their part, i.e., content enty
  • delayed final payment
  • the client resurfaces from an idle state when you’re busy with other projects
  • major changes occur within the client’s organization while the project is still in progress

Perhaps the most dangerous of all is when major changes occur within the organization. The client’s organization will certainly undergo changes that are out of your control, so I don’t ever want a project to go on any longer than it must.

Project goals may change when:

  • key stakeholders leave the company and their replacements have a different perspective
  • leadership within the organization changes
  • restructuring of products or services

Tips

  • establish a deadline
  • put it in writing
  • make sure the client understands their role in the project
  • put terms in your contract that protect you from redoing work, changing goals in the middle of a project, and the client neglecting the project