When In Doubt, Just Ask

Alisa BonsignoreIt never fails: my services are never more in demand than right before I leave town for a trip. Since I have a lot of travel planned for April, I shouldn’t have been surprised to be flooded with requests.

I’m not exaggerating. In four days I got requests to do seven major projects, all with the bulk of the work falling right in the middle of Travel Month.

By the time Request #7 arrived, I was in a bit of a panic. I really like this client and I wanted to do the project, but between the mid-month wedding and the end-of-month conference, how could I meet the April 29 due date, particularly when I had other projects to balance? I felt overwhelmed and considering the other projects on my plate, I just couldn’t see a way out.

I drafted the email response, declining the project. But I stopped myself just before I clicked send. What if there was another option?

I deleted the original email and composed a new one. I explained that I was booked with other projects for the first part of the month, but that if she had flexibility with her deadline, could we start the project on the 12th? That would give me a solid week to generate a first draft, a relaxing respite at the wedding while they did their review, and then three days for me to work on the second revision between my return from the wedding and my departure for the conference. Again, they could review in my absence, and I could finalize upon my return, just one week later than their initial target date. I held my breath and clicked send.

Much to my surprise and delight, she said yes. We now have a carefully structured schedule built around my needs, one that should allow me to not only travel, but also travel with a clear conscience.

As my mother always said, it never hurts to ask.

Has anyone else tried this? (And I can just imagine what the workload will be as I get ready for the Creative Freelancer Conference, June 23-24 in Chicago!)

4 thoughts on “When In Doubt, Just Ask

  1. Alisa Bonsignore

    I should post a follow-up saying that this has sparked a new trend for me: asking, negotiating and structuring. Of course, I always did this to some degree, but I’m starting to ask for bigger things, stuff that I would have previously convinced myself was outside the scope of reasonable requests. It’s worked out really well so far!

  2. Ilise Benun

    Me too, Alisa. I’ve been telling the story in my presentations recently about a situation where I asked for one small thing that was very valuable to me and I thought my negotiating partner wouldn’t want to give me. Don’t know where I got that idea, because they responded immediately offering me 3 times what I had asked for!

  3. lidia varesco design

    I had a similar situation happen a few times where I declined a project because I knew I couldn’t hit the deadline, only to hear back from the client that they were willing to extend the deadline. So I quickly learned that it doesn’t hurt to ask for more time if you are too busy and/or unsure you can complete a project within a client-specified time.

    I used to feel like I had to drop everything to accommodate my clients, but realized it’s not always possible — and clients (the good ones) usually understand this. It also helps to mention something like, “I want to assure I have enough time to do a great job on your project” so that the client realizes you have their end goals in mind — and are not just trying to stretch the deadline.

    Alisa, great news that you’re so busy… and happy travels!

  4. Yvette

    Having worked in high-stress corporate environments with very limited staff, I learned quickly to ask if a timeline needed to be extended. Often, the drive for a particular deadline is not set by some other outside influence, such as a conference. In those cases, most clients are willing to negotiate the timing.