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New Poll: When Do Jobs Get Done?

Published by Chris Coyier

There is a new poll up in the sidebar. This time regarding when jobs that include completion dates actually get done.

There are reasons on both sides of the client/designer relationship that affect when jobs actually get done. How quick you are as a designer, how efficient communication is between parties, how long it takes to receive requested materials, how busy everyone is in general...

So the question isn't trying to place blame on one side or the other, or even pass judgment on the punctuality, but just to get an estimate on how well the industry is hitting completion date targets.


  1. Jack
    Permalink to comment#

    late, but only ever because of the client. If I had it my way, they’d be done on time.

    • Kris
      Permalink to comment#

      Same exact thing for me. I will give them a date, and do all I can with what they give me, then I have to keep going back to them asking for the data or such. I finally finished a project supposed to be done at the end of May, every damn time I would finished something there would be a change request for that exact thing, and half the time it was back to the previous design.

    • Totally agree! Damn’ clients.

  2. Early is on-time, on-time is late. I always try to pad time estimates as much as I can to keep client’s happy. No one ever complains when a project gets done ahead of schedule.

    • That’s good practice. Getting things done ahead of deadline is always ideal and it’s good to pad the timeline if possible, especially since surprises often come up.

  3. Permalink to comment#

    It’s not totally legit, but I always tack on a couple extra days to the schedule knowing I won’t need them. That way, I always come in early.

    • Permalink to comment#

      Yeah as I kind of thought, things are skewing toward “late”. That’s just the nature of the beast with our business I guess. But the answer may be, like you do, to always quote dates that are later than you think so you’ll either be closer to right or early.

  4. Permalink to comment#

    Lol, I do the same thing. ALways overestimate my time. The clients are happy not just because of the early delivery date, but also because of the discount they get at the end. Plus I don’t have to haggle for more money if the job happens to entail more work than initially agreed upon.

  5. Tommy
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    Overpromise and underdeliver = bad
    Underpromise and overdeliver = good


  6. LuK
    Permalink to comment#

    often clients want some changes near the deadline or on dead-day =)…and then it takes some time to do them…

  7. Permalink to comment#

    I’m a fairly new freelancer so I’m still trying to find that balance when estimating my time . . . so for now, I’m coming up a little late (even when padding it), oops! I’m progressively getting quicker and more accurate on estimating though and it’s usually only on the larger sites that I’m falling behind.

    Can’t wait to finish my OWN SITE! VERY LATE on that one! =)

  8. Permalink to comment#

    It’s usually more a last minute rush and barley on time kind of thing!

  9. Permalink to comment#

    Always later that estimated!

  10. Permalink to comment#

    I never give firm dates but rather a range covering a couple of weeks and make it clear that this is dependent on the client playing their part in terms of providing content and feedback.

    • Permalink to comment#

      That’s definitely the rational way to handle things. I think the average client understands when the hold-up is on their end.

    • Permalink to comment#

      Six to eight weeks after content has been provided.
      Never forget that in your budget.

  11. TeMc
    Permalink to comment#

    Well, this one really touches the honesty.

    I have to admit it usually get’s close (so Near the end, I call that “Late”).

    And well. Actually getting the job done, once it’s fully known to us what the goal is, is not hard.

    But usually (atleast in my experience) reference material or something delays everything, or maybe additonal features wished. Or layour change after you’ve given the final demo.

    Therefor I prefer to either meet in person or have some kind of communication, BEFORE the entire job, that is atleast audio-based (telephone, audio-chat). In which we meet eachother get a little bit of eachother’s style.

    Very important point: Do not discuss layout, do not discuss technical related stuff, do not start ‘making’ anything in this meeting.

    Usually what I dó do is (in no particular order)
    * What is the goal for the website (promotion, information, selling, job offers)
    * What functions are required (static page, news section, contact form, discussion forum, webshop etc.)
    * What are do’s and don’ts / What websites do you personally like and why ?
    * Is there anything specific that I should know ?

    After that’s clear then comes the time to make an offer for the project price (I personally don’t like payment per hour).

    Then comes the creative process of sketching, and creating a few concepts, one or more selection phases between me and client (make sure to make them concentrate on looks and not content*, and what they think their target audience likes not per se what HE personally likes).*

    And then the production. And depending on the complexity either make a few example pages in the CSM (and let them/him do the rest in WordPress, make sure you explain them how to use it, live demo is best).
    Or I let them send me all the material and do it for them.

    This has so far given me the best experience for both parties.

    * I get often that I use a stock image as example and get nagged about the image not being good wheares he already mentioned that he has his own photographer (PET PEEVE ALERT)
    * About the perspective of the client, and how to do other client-related stuff.

    I highly recommend watching this video:
    FutureOfWebDesign – Paul Boag (Educate clients in saying Yes, and other subjects)


    • Permalink to comment#

      This is a great comment, I really like you say out immediately to not design or do technical at the initial introduction. There is no need to flex any muscles at this stage and your short and sweet comment hit that home. Something that definitely helps the process when you get to do the job you have been hired to do in work time and not client time.

      Brilliant comment, thanks for the insight.

    • Permalink to comment#

      Ah yes, the “I don’t like that image/graphic”-problem.
      At some point I stopped using images in my mockups and I created a set of standard rectangles, triangles, circles and organic shapes in black and white. They have a big cross in them with the word SPECIMEN in them.
      This not only stopped them from making comments about it, but they also send me a picture back IMMEDIATLY after that.

    • As far as the graphic design part of the site, regardless if it looks good or not. Getting the functional requirements down and a feel for the style is important I think, it makes the process a whole lot more efficient. Working to budget and deadline, increasing your own turnover but effectiveness of the client site when you are working with focus in mind.

  12. Permalink to comment#

    I think it is when you receive the last payment and hand in the final files after this. I make take a couple of weeks, I think time really depend on client and how fast they hand in the information, as freelancer you know your skills you can really make an estimate of how much a project would take you if you have in that precise moment all the information ( by all I mean text image photos and any “oh can you include also this we forgot” )

  13. Permalink to comment#

    Scope creep, scope creep.
    Whatcha gonna do?
    Whatcha gonna do when they creep on you?

    I agree that spending adequate time to nail down enough specifics *before* you start work is critical. But the average client changes something significant after the scope has been agreed to. And they often think it’s “just a little change.”

    “Can’t we just have this form write to a database (that doesn’t exist yet) instead of spitting out an email?”

    It’s a delicate balance to either risk looking like the nit-picky bad guy or the good guy who’s falling into the black hole of scope creep.

  14. Wow Chris, seems its tending toward late, but a lot get done on time. So the next question is…. how do we as an industry keep late from taking 60% of the poll NEXT year !?

  15. Permalink to comment#

    I voted for Late. About a 3rd of the time, things are on time. Most of the time however the client is very late in getting me information that I require. I would say it’s most common to be a week or so late on an average project.

    For me it’s never been a problem because I really spend alot of time building expectations for the client in addition to myself. They normally have a good idea of what they are responsible for and usually take the blame for the delay.

    • TeMc
      Permalink to comment#

      That’s right.

      I too try to make it as personal as possible (as in, I made the website for them, and not ‘for the client’). This way communication flows better.

      It’s not per se that they take ‘blame’ for it. But they simply don’t make a point of it getting late since they liekly figured that if they’ed responded faster to the e-mails it would’ve been on time.

      @Chris: It’s a great poll. Question seems simple, but it’s actually a pretty much comes in hard.

      I find very interesting that it apparantly is common how things go in our work (the reasons why it’s late etc.) – there isn’t much talk about this subject and it’s certainly comforting to know that I’m not the only one.


  16. Sathish
    Permalink to comment#

    I thought I’m the only guy who makes things late…

    Thank you guys… Now I feel lot better :)

  17. Permalink to comment#

    I usually get them on-time, sometimes before schedual too. I’ve learnt the equation: Keep the client happy = Tip. (I don’t belong in a company, I get referrers and make sites for available clients).

    • Permalink to comment#

      I can’t request deletion for some reason, please delete both this and the comment it was replied to. Thanks.

  18. Permalink to comment#

    I usually get them on-time, sometimes before schedule too. I’ve learnt the equation: Keep the client happy = Tip. (I don’t belong in a company, I get referrers and make sites for available clients).

  19. Yeah, deadlines suck. I like to be given a task, then I simply work hard at it until completion, even if it takes me a couple of days to get it done.

    I love the look of this site, very awesome!

  20. Permalink to comment#

    typically, it gets done on time – on my part. Yet most of the projects are late – due to client’s (in)action. For example, I have a project now, that is completed (on time), yet sitting on my test server because the client is taking his time to do – well, I don’t know what he’s doing. Another project I have, there is a ‘committee’ that needs to meet and approve everything. So what was suppose to take a day or two, is now taking a week or two. Still, as far as the contract goes, I deliver projects on time (most of the time), despite of them being usually late. Catch 22.

  21. Great question! I’ve got two answers…for my print jobs: on time, sometimes early. Web jobs: depends.

    Print is great b/c there are press deadlines, or publication deadlines–outside deadlines that will cost the client big bucks if I don’t get the content/sign-offs in timely manner.

    Web…scope creep, client delays, hosting snafus, etc. I put a range of time into web contracts…x weeks from receipt of content which is key. I’ve considered including scheduled payments to keep projects moving. Often clients get busy near completion, causing delays for one reason or another–just when I’m itching to launch. It’s different every time. ;-)

  22. Permalink to comment#

    For jobs that include completion dates, I tell my clients to hire someone else.

  23. Jillian
    Permalink to comment#

    I have no problem meeting deadlines and being early – I’m realistic about how fast I know I can get something done, and then I tack on some additional time to prepare for any unexpected hiccups. A few times the client totally failed to live up to their terms, which obviously makes me unable to deliver on time, but that’s a special case. I try to avoid such clients…

    Should the client do everything they’re supposed to, I think it’s pretty unprofessional to deliver design services late. That’s just as bad as them deciding to pay you less at the end. Make a clear agreement at the start of the project, and stick to it.

  24. Right now I’m working with a client and there really is no deadline. He’s just asking for updates and as my first project, I honor that because I want something presentable in my portfolio and naturally want his site to kick ass too. But with my own projects, they are late because I get sucked in by the distractions on the web. Other than that I would estimate in the future that clients giving me request will cause me to be late. It’s because of that, that I will add on extra time (maybe a month for fine tuning).

  25. Harry
    Permalink to comment#

    When a job gets done is more a question of when the customer is happy with what he’ll or she’ll get. In most cases it doesn’t matter if there’s a deadline or not. Sometime you have to dig a litte bit and show them what they would (probably) like even if they don’t know it yet.

    It’s difficult to meet a deadline if the customer want’s something else every day… Saying no isn’t an option anyway.

    My lessons learned include customers that one day wanted a two-column layout. The next day they wanted it to be three-column. So far, so good.
    All of a sudden the colors (which were part of the company’s logo) didn’t fit to the design anymore. The next design (same layout, other color variations) was too far away from what the company stood for (also the layout wasn’t appropriate anymore).
    I was tired of tinkering about with the designs, so I made a new one. Completely different to the others… and surprise, surprise: it totally was what the customer looked for but he never even knew it until he saw it.

    That story happened to me two times in exactly the same order.

    Also if the customer tells me a so called “deadline” but a few days they tell me they haven’t got any content to fill the page with which will result in a few weeks of waiting for me… so why hurry?

  26. Actually having a date (Milestones help) upon completion will get projects done by that date 90% of the time I’d say; if you are loose about when something is going to get done by then is when the slacking comes in.

    People will not do work right away if they don’t have a date when something needs to be done. I noticed that is how it works in my life too; if I give myself a date/time to do something it always gets done (98% maybe) but if I don’t set a date or time I may

    A) Forget
    B) Digress and never complete the action

    Creating action steps and Milestones (in Basecamp for instance) helps break down daunting tasks that seem to big to complete.

    IMHO =)

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