As an independent contractor, meeting deadlines is one of your highest priorities. After all, it only takes one dissatisfied client to tarnish your company’s good name. Sometimes unexpected delays are unavoidable, and when that happens, it’s important to handle them properly.
Excusable and Inexcusable Delays
How you handle contracting delays depends on the circumstances. Ideally, you should spell out how your handle delays in your contract before starting a project. This keeps both you and your client on the same page, and it makes negotiating agreeable solutions to delays much easier. In general, an excusable delay is when you can’t work because of something that happened that’s beyond your control. Examples include mistakes or changes to the work made by your client or bad weather. An inexcusable delay is avoidable and usually caused by you, the contractor. For example, you might forget to rent equipment needed to do the job, fail to hire enough workers, or make a mistake due to negligence.
Compensation for Additional Time
A general rule of thumb is that the person responsible for causing the delay takes the financial hit. For example, if you’re in construction and your client gives you inaccurate blueprints or makes a last-minute change of plans, it’s their responsibility to pay you for the additional time it takes to get back on track. If you fail to finish a project on time due to showing up late, though, you shouldn’t expect to be paid extra for the hours you work to catch up.
Communicate as Early as Possible
Consider opening the lines of communication as soon as you realize you’re not going to meet your deadline. Your clients might be willing to be flexible, as long as there’s a reasonable cause for the delay and enough advanced notice. Of course, sometimes delays happen out of nowhere, and there’s no way to provide advanced notice. Be sure to keep detailed, accurate documentation of all delays because you might need to include the information on your invoice.
The best way to handle delays is to avoid them. When scheduling a project, always give yourself some extra wiggle room. If the client has a tight deadline, make sure that you can meet it before taking the job. You should also take steps to stay motivated and on track during the project and know when it’s time to hire help to meet your deadline.
Protect Your Reputation
Sometimes it’s best just to apologize and finish the project as quickly as possible without asking for additional pay, even if the delay isn’t your fault. If you’re paying a crew, this isn’t always possible, but if you’re working alone, you may find that keeping the client happy is worth the loss in the long run. These days, a negative review can make landing the next job a challenge. Take each delay on a case-by-case basis, and always be professional and kind. Own up to your mistakes, and try to learn from them.