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What Should I Do When Timelines Overlap?

No matter how long you’ve been a graphic designer, there are bound to be times when your projects fall behind schedule, causing unexpected project overlap. When this happens, are you prepared? We’re bringing you tips and strategies from our founder, Madi Balman, to help you handle timeline overlap with ease!

If you’re struggling to get back on track and stressing over which projects to prioritize after a delay, this blog is for you. As designers, we’ve all been there. Whether a situation arises on your end or your client’s, any delay in one project can easily create chaos in every other timeline if you aren’t prepared. So let’s talk about what you should do to realign your project timelines and what steps you can take to minimize future delays!

Life Happens

If you take nothing else away from this blog, we want you to know that you’re not alone. Life happens, and that doesn’t mean that you’ve failed! You can’t control what is going on in your client’s business or personal life. Sometimes you just have to accept the circumstances and make adjustments.

There will also be times when your own personal life will get in the way of a project’s timeline. I recently experienced this. I spent a month in and out of sickness, and it took a lot of hard work to get my projects back on track. I spent a lot of time reaching out to clients to explain the situation. Thankfully, my clients were incredibly understanding and gracious, but it still caused stress and meant working beyond my normal scope for a few weeks. 

So let’s talk about what you should do when you find yourself in this situation!

Set Your Priorities

Any time you are feeling overwhelmed with your workload, the first thing you should do is create a hierarchy of your priorities. What is the most important thing for you to get done right now?

Sometimes it helps to think about it in terms of consequences. For instance:

  • Which tasks have consequences if I don’t get them done today?
  • Which tasks can wait until tomorrow without incurring consequences?
  • Which tasks are on my to-do list, but don’t have consequences?
  • Out of the tasks with immediate consequences, which consequences are the most serious? Which ones will lead to a lost client, and which will only lead to a client’s frustration?

Sit down and create a list of your tasks. Write them down on paper. Once you’re sure every task is accounted for, reorganize them into a tiered system based on priority on a new sheet of paper. Now you can start thinking about which of your top-priority tasks you should get done first!

The most important step of this process is creating new timelines for each project. Don’t just think about the due date for the current portion of the project; future work on the project will likely need to be pushed back to new due dates. Once you have your project timelines restructured, you can reach out to each client and update them on their projects.

Now that you understand how to get your projects back on track, what can you do to prevent future overlap from occurring?

Preventative Measures

You won’t be able to prevent every project from getting behind. But with careful planning and good communication, you can lower the chances of project overlap and mitigate the damage if a project falls behind!

Contract Best Practices

One of the best things that you can do for your graphic design business is create a solid contract. This will help you set expectations and create good boundaries with your clients before your projects even begin!

When it comes to preventing project overlap, your contract will become your best friend. I recommend that every graphic designer include a client response time clause in their contract. My own client contract has a clause stating that if the client does not respond within a set number of days, the project pauses. This way, the client knows that if communication is dropped on their end, the project milestones will not be completed on the expected timeline. 

In addition to writing it into your contract, be sure to clearly communicate your response time policy in your initial discovery call and as you move toward signing the contract. You don’t have to frame it in a negative way–tell the client that you have a policy in place to ensure that you are giving every client the best experience. This way they understand that the policy benefits them as long as they stay in communication!

Our Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, your clients will feel more at ease when they know that you have everything under control. Communicate proactively. If you sense that a client may be falling out of communication, try sending another email or reaching out through another channel. Sometimes your client just needs an extra reminder! And if you know that something in your own life is going to create a delay, alert your clients early. As long as you keep communication open and frequent, you will be able to course-correct from any project overlap.

You’ve got this!

Jun 27, 2023