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Negotiating and Renegotiating a Writing Deadline

renegotiating Renegotiating a deadline is certainly possible, Sharon Hurley Hall, a beautiful persoa and wonderful writer, reminded me in our forum, in response to How to Gracefully Miss a Writing Deadline

She’s absolutely right.

Renegotiating a deadline isn’t rocket science, but it does help if you’ve got all the pieces in place. How you negotiated the deal in the beginning has a great deal to do with any renegotiating you might need to do.

Initial negotiation

When you first accept an assignment or agree to do a piece of writing, you make an agreement with the client, hopefully in writing. It contains the creative brief or scope of work. Generally this includes the expected length of the writing plus anything else, like photos, etc. you are to provide, how much you can expect to be paid, how you will be paid and a deadline of when the client expects the finished work.

You can often negotiate anything and everything at this point, including the deadline. There really is no such thing as a standard contract.

If you understand the reason the client wants the writing, if you know what they are trying to accomplish you’re much more likely to know where the negotiation points are.

Often clients needs a piece of writing to meet a deadline of their own; if you know what their deadline is you have a fair idea if you can push your deadline or not.

If, for example, they are asking you to get it done right away, and you’re already swamped you can either ask for more time, or, if you can do it to their requested schedule, you may be able to charge as much as 50 percent more for the rush job. The client might be willing to pay extra because they need the work to complete something on their end. Or they might prefer to extend the deadline.

You’ll never know unless you ask.


It’s often possible to renegotiate a deadline when you realize you’re going to be late.

Plans change, life happens and sometimes that means a looming deadline is looking impossible to make. Rather than simply letting the client know as soon as possible you’ll be late, ask for an extension.

I think it’s probably best to make the request by phone if possible. Be straight forward, perhaps something like this:

“Hi, it’s Anne Wayman. I’m working your XYZ story. I know it’s due by the end of the week. I wonder if either Monday or Tuesday of the following week would work for you?”

Notice I haven’t made any apology. The truth is I’m not likely to be sorry at this point, and pretending I am doesn’t make sense and telling even the whitest of lies doesn’t usually work in the long term. I’ve stated who I am, what I’m working on for them and asked for an extension in a pleasant, business like tone. Nor have I given them any excuse. The reason I’m asking for an extension really isn’t any of their business.

The client has several choices in this situation. They can say something like “Well… if I can get it by noon on Monday, okay…” or “No, I need it by the deadline.” Sometimes the client may ask why you need the extension. My hunch is this is really a way to buy some time to think through the request. How you answer such a request is up to you. A short, neutral explanation like “I’ve just gotten behind” may be better than more details. On the other hand, if you’ve been in an accident or fallen ill, it may make sense to say so. Just don’t drag the explanation out.

When a client refuses to extend the deadline, you have two choices. To figure out how to make it and get it done and say you will, or simply repeat that you can’t get it done.

Saying you can’t get it done probably will sever the relationship with the client; getting rid of an impossible deadline might be worth it.

If you can’t reach the client to have a conversation, you’re stuck with email or texting. You can ask for an extension in much the same way.

Once again, you’ll never know if you can get a deadline extension unless you ask.

Got questions about renegotiation? A story to tell us about it? Share it in comments.

Write well and often,


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