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How to Address Unexpected Delays in Job Completion

As an independent contractor, meeting deadlines is one of your highest priorities. After all, keeping your customers satisfied is what protects your reputation in the field. Sometimes, unexpected delays are unavoidable. When that happens, it’s important to handle them properly. Even if you deliver a project late, you can leave your client satisfied and willing to recommend you if you take a proactive approach to managing job delays.

Excusable and Inexcusable Job Delays

How you handle contracting delays depends on the circumstances. Ideally, you should spell out how you handle job delays in your contract before starting a project. This keeps you and your client on the same page about unexpected delays, and it makes negotiating agreeable solutions to job delays much easier.

In general, an excusable delay occurs when you can’t work because of something that’s beyond your control. For example, clients might change their minds about how they want something done, and the new way requires extra time to complete. Or bad weather might keep you from completing a job on schedule. These are delays that happen through no fault of your own, and they’re things you can’t control or eliminate.

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. These delays you can plan for and avoid if you’re careful.

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 changes plans at the last minute, it’s their responsibility to pay you for the additional time it takes to get back on track. Including this information in your contract helps your client avoid a surprise increase in the bill. 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. Since the fault lies on you, the appropriate thing to do is complete the work as agreed upon without charging the client more for your extra time.

Communicate About Job Delays 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 advance notice. Of course, sometimes delays happen out of nowhere, and there’s no way to provide advance notice. Be sure to keep detailed, accurate documentation of all job completion delays because you might need to include the information on your invoice.

Preventative Measures

The best way to handle job delays is to avoid them. When scheduling a project, always give yourself some extra wiggle room to account for the unexpected delays that often pop up. Should something delay job completion, you have a buffer to finish the work. If everything goes smoothly, you can complete the work early and impress the client. If the client has a tight deadline, make sure you can meet it before taking the job. You don’t want to pass up work, but you also don’t want to rush or leave the client disappointed by failing to meet the deadline. You should also 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 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. Even one negative review can make landing the next job a challenge. Taking each delay on a case-by-case basis helps you resolve the issue satisfactorily for you and your client. Being professional and kind goes a long way toward smoothing things over with clients. Own up to your mistakes, and try to learn from them.

You can’t always avoid unexpected delays in a job, but you can be as prepared as possible with tools that help you keep your business affairs organized. The QuickBooks Self-Employed app helps freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors track and manage their businesses on the go. Download the app today.

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