For precaution, I always set the deadline longer than the time it actually takes; e.g. for a 30-days work I promise the client it will be finished in 45-days. So in case something bad happened, I have the time make it up.

However sometimes pretty big shit just happens: like heavy illness or accident, where I won't be able to even put my finger on the computer for 2 weeks, even a month. This actually happened once and I almost unable to finish the project in the set deadline.

So, how to handle such problem? Is accident/illness really a pardonable reason to extend the deadline--would it make you look unprofessional? Or should I set longer deadline?

4 Answers 4

  • As early as you can, let the client know that you're unable to work for a while and what impact you expect it to have on the project.

  • If you know a colleague you are comfortable to recommend to work in your stead, who you've already contacted to find out their availability and willingness to step in, also offer to your client the option to have the colleague take over the project (entirely, or for the duration of your downtime).

Sometimes bad stuff happens. Most clients will appreciate your giving them an early heads-up and the fact that you've considered options for them. Maybe they can afford to wait and maybe they can't will need to hire your colleague or someone else they know. But they will appreciate and remember your professional approach to handling the changes.


I think you not look unprofessional at this case. You must sign to contract with your client and to provide this risks in the contract. Good tone will be i you can prevent your client about happened accident and try to find exit from this situation.

I you can, you may give this project to your colleague or friend, if it's exist. Or you can cancel from project and return money to client.

We all people and it's just happened with everyone.


Surprising things happening is just life; handling twists and turns in a timely manner is never unprofessional. However, just going silent or telling the client on deadline day that delivery will not be made due to circumstances you have long been aware of is quite unprofessional.

Remember, the client's circumstances may also change; they could be bought or close departments or fire the people who are your contacts.

It all comes down to what sort of relationship you have with the client. Generally, it seems the larger the client, the longer the contract. Regardless of the length and language of a contract, a situation not covered by the contract may arise - and when that happens, you deal with it.

In my personal view, attempting to cover all possible situations in a contract doesn't lead to the sort of client-relationship I prefer, whereas keeping contracts short and all dealings transparent and timely does. And when a client relationship is good, I find change management a lot simpler.


This is a risk that that client should be aware of also.

It depends a lot on the situation.

If you're part of a team, it's a critical part of resource management to ensure that there are multiple people familiar with a project and can continue with it or take/over if necessary. It's not good to have only one single person working on a project or knowing exactly where everything is and how it all works. Even if there isn't some big issue, what if someone on the team takes two weeks of holiday? There should be redundancy.

This becomes more difficult if only one person is hired to work on something. Nonetheless, these things can't be helped and the client should be aware of this.

You're taking a risk too

Another thing to point out is that the risk works two ways. What about if something happens to your client and they are in an accident? Then they won't be in any capacity to pay you for your work done.

What to do?

For the contractor: It would be better for your to spread out your time between multiple clients so that if something happens to one it doesn't have such a big impact on your income.

For the client: If the work can be spread out between multiple people, then that would help mitigate the impact of one of them suddently becoming unavailable. If this can't be done, being prepared with additional options (other companies/freelancers) in the case of an emergency would help to quickly handle the sitiuation. Additionally, ensure that you've stored somewhere what they've delivered so far to hand over to the backup company.

Just being aware is often enough

In either case, it's important to remember that these things can't be avoided, and that the best thing to do is have a backup plan in place if something does happen. The plan will be different depending on the situation and type of work, but thinking about the consequences beforehand will difinitely help.

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