How I feel about last minute work
I hate last minute work, I'm sure we all do. That job that comes to you minutes before work closes, or that your client gave you today but wants back by tomorrow. There really is no specific length of time that defines "Last Minute Work". For some, once the true estimated time to complete the job exceeds the given deadline, then you have a ‘last minute’ project. It in essence means your client came to you too late to complete it, but wants you to work a miracle. Last I checked I’m not Jesus and I am sure you aren't either.
Last minute work calls often go something like this... "Hey, I need a favour..." or end like this "I need it like yesterday". Terms like these are serious red flags. Sometimes we’ve taken these last minute jobs without thinking, because we were low on funds and project came out of nowhere to save the day. Other times we get that bad feeling in the back of our necks, but we ignore it because the work is coming from a reputable company or a friend. Whomever it comes from, it can often rob you of precious time and earning potential.
These jobs are usually cheap, but turn out to be expensive in the long run. Here are 5 ways to spot last minute work you should not touch, or at least how to handle these jobs - if you choose to accept them.
1. Open to Definition
The first thing you must do with ANY client is interview them. Ask them a million and one questions, and then some. They might get annoyed, but due diligence is key. Ask them what they want and get it in as definitive terms as possible. Do not accept "You are the creative one, I will leave that up to you." That is a cop out statement that means "I don't have time for this and my boss is the one that really needs this done." Whether they know it or not they are trying to pass all the responsibility onto you. Since the end product is not for you, neither should the definition of the end product be yours unless they are willing to not question your decisions and pay you what you want. At the end of the day, If they don't know what they want neither will you.
2. False Start
Clients will be tempted to have you start working before coming to an agreement or the signing of a contract. This is a huge risk and a big red flag. In many cases you might get away with it, but in several cases you might end up not getting paid and still doing all the work. Insist on some payment upfront. This demonstrates that they are serious if they fulfill the request. Not wanting to pay on a rushed job is a big RED FLAG. If they were in that much of a rush they would be willing to pay quickly to get the ball rolling.
3. Long Run Short Catch
Funny thing about these last minute jobs. They always come along disguised as a quick buck. One or two hours of work. At most a day or two, but they somehow string out into a week's worth of changes, because again...they didn't know what they wanted in the first place. However, when they see what you have given them they realize what they don't want. Now you will be entwined in a never ending cycle of changes. Sometimes even repeating the very same changes they previously rejected. This cheap job suddenly became expensive because you are now losing opportunities and the payment for this job is not increasing with each edit. Make them know up front that they will need to pay for changes, or give them three changes free and no more. That will make them think carefully before giving you a mountain to climb for a drop of water.
4. Quantity vs Quality
When persons rush you to do a job, they 9 times out of 10 don't care if the time is too short or not. They want you to deliver on time and at the highest quality despite the fact that persons with more expertise than yourself have never accomplished anything like it in such a time span. Maybe they are hoping they discovered a prodigy but most likely you are an ordinary man like anyone else. Always stick to the simple triangular formula. You must always balance the equilibrium of Time, Quantity and Quality. Quality x Quantity = Time. Extrapolate this equation any which way you want either quality or quantity suffers when you limit the time. If you KNOW the time is too short say so from the get go and do not relent. Either you state that you cannot do it and move on or you tell them they need to give you more time or scale back either the quantity or the quality. Do not make them bully you. You will most certainly regret it and your reputation will hate you.
5. The Nose Knows
If it smells too good to be true it might just be. You always know when a job is not right. You smell it, you taste it, you hear it, you feel it. Do not ignore your senses. Think back to past experiences with clients, those that worked and those that didn't. I am sure if you look back you will remember your spidey senses tingling when the job came your way. That feeling you can't shake, but can't prove at the same time. Your heart tells you, "What's the worst that can happen?" but your common sense keeps telling you "Run Forrest RUN!!!". If it smells like a rat run for the hills. If you don't run, repeat steps 1 through 5.
These are my 5 warning signs to look out for and how to handle them when last minute work comes your way. It will happen to all of us at some point. Like Kenny Rogers said "You've got to know when to hold em' know when to fold em' know when to walk away and know when to run." If you can't master these tips then my next best advice is to buy a bottle of Panadol or Excedrin because you will be needing it.
I am a Filmmaker, Animator and Writer. I love telling stories and making them come true. You will see me on the big screen soon enough.