I got my start in software development in the US Marines in 1992. Over the years, I’ve done and seen thousands of projects, and not a single one finished on the original deadline. Fixed deadlines rarely work.
I’ve never seen a project go on time. It’s rare. Don’t clients always want project deadlines, though? Not in my experience. They want the outcome without risk and ROI.
Don’t commit to project deadlines your clients set.
Instead, embrace per-project billing and get a 100% payment upfront or at least a 50% deposit.
Implement value-based pricing, so the client gets what they want and need and gets paid what you’re worth.
You are the professional who sets project durations and timeframes. It’s your project.
You can’t blame clients. They’ve got reasons for wanting a fixed deadline.
They see it as timeboxing the work.
They want to know how long the project will last and when it will end.
It provides them with security and a sense of predictability.
Here’s why you shouldn’t commit to fixed deadlines.
Deadlines put artificial and unrealistic urgency on things in most cases.
Creative Projects, especially software projects, are a collaboration. It’s not like building a house or installing a pool.
Nobody, not you, the team, or the CEO, controls every project’s communication point. You can influence it but not control the entire thing altogether.
You can have 5, 8, 10, or 20 stakeholders involved in a project across locations or continents. There’s no way you can control all that.
A project can only move as fast as the slowest person.
A fixed deadline sets the wrong expectations.
The correct expectation is that you, the freelancer, are the best professional for the job. You’ll get it done as fast as possible, delivering quality results.
You’ll always be stuck in a game of deadlines if you bill by the hour and price by time and materials. A great fixed deadline resource is from the PMI.
Use per-project pricing and implement value-based pricing. Know the business reasons and the pain behind a project. Only experienced consultants can pull that kind of information out of clients. Good news. Anyone can gain this experience.
Keeping automation projects on track prevents scope creep and ensures things don’t go off the rails with communication.
You handle projects in timeframes or sprints like a week, two weeks, or a month with a defined task list based on a business purpose. Your sprint could be a week
Say that in your discovery meetings, put that in your proposals, and know that you’re a professional. You’ll focus on the outcome and avoid the risk of completing the work without a fixed deadline.