I was hired to update a website for a client, based on a designated list of tasks. The client paid fully upfront, and we set a rough "loose" project completion estimate at 3 months. It was a fixed-fee project.

We've far exceeded those 3 months due to multiple delays throughout the project - some significant ones from my end (I was unexpectedly unavailable for a few weeks), as well as delays from the client side (slow to reply to requests, etc).

I know this client from a previous life, so neither of us made a big deal about the delays, especially since it wasn't extending the scope of the project (beyond the literal amount of weeks).

However, I just hit the point of being totally blocked on work because I need a bunch of things from the client before I can proceed on the remaining tasks. The client has known about these requests for a few weeks already without any progress.

I'm concerned that this project will just continue dragging out without any real progress. As such, I want to set a hard deadline (giving him 1-2 more weeks to unblock those tasks, and then 2 weeks for me to actually do the work).

With the background of all these delays, what's a fair way to express to the client that the project expires in 4 weeks?

Alternatively, is there a different way I should handle this?

1 Answer 1



If you are friendly with the client, speak to them, expressing the concern. I would not simply provide an ultimatum. That will often be seen as "demanding" and "unfriendly".

Instead speak to the client as if you would ask anyone for an extension on anything - i.e. imagine a professor with an assignment you needed an extension on, or a bill you needed more time to pay. This mindset will very often result in an amicable solution for you both.

Don't get "emotional" about anything and don't go into any explanations about your delays or theirs. Simply be upfront and friendly and ask to discuss a deadline. Chances are you can get close to your 4 week desires and make the client feel good about it as opposed to feeling like they are "being told" what they must do.

Hi [client],

I wanted to reach out to you to discuss the [whatever].

I'm a little concerned that due to the delays on both ends the project may start creating scheduling conflicts for me moving forward. I absolutely take responsibility for the delays on my end. In addition, I'm not at all troubled by any delays you may have experienced up to this point. I am merely looking at the project from this point forward and we've passed the original completion timeframe.

What I would like to do is come to a mutually agreed upon completion date at this time. This will allow me avoid any scheduling conflicts moving forward. It's been my experience that projects without a deadline for completion can, and often do, run on for very extended periods which often causes still more delays and a plethora of other scheduling issues.

As I see the [project] currently, there is still a need to/for [project details left to address] I anticipate this taking [timerame].

Can we set a hard end date for [date]? Would that work for you?


With that, factor [timeframe] and add in an apprpriate amount of time for the client to review and respond and then come to the [date] requested for the deadline. And possibly negotiate the deadline like you would for any new project.

In my experience, being diplomatic, and expressing that you are merely trying to avoid future issues, goes a very long way toward client satisfaction and helps the client feel vested in the issue. Ultimatums have the opposite effect with clients, at least for me.

  • 1
    Excellent answer; that's a good an diplomatic email. I might say, when talking about 'scheduling issues' that they would be 'scheduling issues with another upcoming project' to make it clear that the reason you're trying to chivvy this along is so that you can meet your obligations to them and also another client, which makes your professionalism clear. May 2, 2019 at 12:49
  • 1
    @MichaelMcPherson While there'd be no problem with using scheduling issues with another upcoming project, I feel it's more detail than is necessary. What other scheduling conflicts would there be if not with "upcoming projects"? I feel it's kind of superfluous overall. But.. to each his/her own :). My answer is merely a suggestion.
    – Scott
    May 2, 2019 at 17:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.