The Quick Turn: Writing to Meet Crazy Deadlines

I don’t prefer last-minute projects. But as a freelance writer, I understand that most of the time, sometimes it’s a necessity because that’s where clients need me the most and that the turnaround time may be out of their control. It can happen when a last-minute project (sometimes called a “quick turn” as shorthand for “quick turnaround”) lands in the client’s lap or the usual writer is unavailable.

Fortunately, writers are used to getting last-minute requests. While they’re not the sought after jobs, we do them for many reasons:

  • We have availability!
  • We excel at meeting deadlines.
  • Quick turn projects are an opportunity to connect with a potential long-term client.

So having worked on quite a few quick turn projects myself, success is more likely with these elements.

1. Meet in person. I like meeting clients face-to-face to kick off a project and get the download as quickly as possible. I can ask questions as they pop into my head, and I can see any visual examples immediately (on a shared laptop, for example). A meeting for even 30 minutes can avoid missed information later and establish a better level of trust and understanding.

2. Communicate often. Writers, be upfront that you will be in touch often, and ask for the best number to call or text. Ask questions for clarification. Provide updates. Send a rough draft or outline. Repeat.

3. Be candid about the results. If you have three days to turn around a 15-page proposal, as I recently did, tell the client that you cannot guarantee the quality of the final product. This acts as a disclaimer for the quality of work you provide and will give the client a graceful way to back out or kill the project. Get it in writing as part of the estimate you send to the client.

4. Agree on a final product you both can live with. If your client can live with a final, presentation-ready copy that may not be absolutely perfect, and you can live with some extra or late evening hours rewriting and responding to client requests, then go for it.

5. Call in another writer for final or concurrent review. This helps with quality control and will help make the final product even better. A second writer can proofread copy and catch any glaring errors and point out inconsistencies. He can write headlines and check for compliance with the project’s requirements. He can be moral support and be there at the end to say, “I can’t believe we did it.”

6. Price accordingly. Like the 1 a.m. call to the plumber when your basement is flooding, emergencies ain’t cheap. Make sure your quote includes an opportunity cost (because this job requires 100% of your time that will require you to turn down or defer other work) and reflects the unusual nature of the work and turnaround time (e.g., a stress surcharge).

I hope this overview helped you!  If you’ve worked on (or solicited) last-minute projects, what are your thoughts?

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