Freelance Basics - Under Promise, Over Deliver

Freelancing 20 February 2015 4 minute read

In the wonderful world of freelance, over-promising is a fantastic way of failing hard and fast. You and I both know you can't stick to the proposed deadline...

Setting Yourself Up For Failure

In the wonderful world of freelance, over-promising is a fantastic way of failing hard and fast. You and I both know you can't stick to the proposed deadline, even though you agreed to it. So what can you do to avoid awkward situations like this? It's a pretty easy and overlooked technique. All you need to do is stop letting your clients set the deadlines and dictate how you do your job!

I can't stress enough how important it is that you set the project deadline. Early on in my career, I would ask the client when they wanted the work done by. All that lead to was me saying "Yeah sure, I can do it by then". Inside I was thinking "I'm never going to get the work done". I bet you've had similar experiences.

The reason it's so important to set the deadlines yourself is so you have control over your own work. The client is hiring you to work with them, not for them. So in light of that, it's time to act as though you're working with them.

How to Appear More Efficient

A benefit of under promising and over delivering is you appear more efficient than everyone else. It may feel like you're taking longer, but that doesn't matter when you're seen as a consistently reliable resource.

Let's look at an example: You estimate some work will take four days and someone else says it will take only two. Imagine how good you look and how bad the person looks when you both deliver on day three. You appear more efficient because you deliver one day earlier than expected. The other person delivers a day late. They look unreliable whereas you look the opposite.

Build Trust, Not Doubt

When you make a promise, you'll be held accountable. If you fail to deliver on that promise, you'll be seen as unreliable. It then showers the people you failed with doubt in your abilities as a professional.

You want to build trust with clients. To do that, you need to seem as though you're always on the ball. Do you want to be the person who constantly hands in the deliverables late? Or the person who always finishes before the deadline? I think you know the answer.

Think about someone you don't fully trust. If you ask them to do something for you, you'll likely be dissatisfied with the outcome. Now pretend you're paying them a large sum of money. Not great, is it?

Worst Case Scenario

What's the worst thing that can happen when under promising and over delivering? Ironically the worst thing that can happen is you'll be finished on time. The secret to under promising and over delivering is giving an estimated, yet realistic, timeline of how long it'll take you. Even if you finish on the deadline, you still look competent and trustworthy. It's a win-win.

Finishing on time is nowhere near a bad thing. You may be disappointed because you only managed to finish right on the deadline. However, in the eyes of your clients, you're a reliable and trustworthy freelancer and that's exactly how you want people to see you.

In Conclusion

Nobody wants to set themselves up for failure. Yet by overpromising that's exactly what you're doing. Take some time to make a realistic estimate of how long the task or project will take, then add on a day or two, and things will run more smoothly.

Appearing more efficient has many more benefits than simply appearing reliable, it also builds trust. When you're working with clients, especially overseas, trust is an incredibly important factor. If there's no trust then there's a pretty slim chance of the project running smoothly.

The only thing left to do is go and make a start on improving how you appear. If you've ever watched any kind of drama on TV you'll notice there's always a character who doesn't care what people think of them. Do you want to know a secret? In business everything revolves around what people think of you. So get out there and become a reliable, trustworthy, freelancing professional.