Deadlines to Keep Clients on Track

harlanwestblogphotoBy Harlan West, Design and Marketing Professional with 25 years of experience designing materials for major healthcare organizations, municipalities and large corporations.


Staying on deadline

More often than not, clients hand a design or marketing firm a super tight deadline for completion of a project. Yet, this is just the nature of the business where everything is due yesterday. You are lateAs creatives, we have grown used to these types of demands. But what happens when the client cannot meet their own deadline???

Too often, as an art director and project manager, I am waiting on the client to provide emails or respond to a request for approval. They are the ones holding up the show.


Here’s 9 tips for the design or marketing consultant to follow:

1) Set up milestones at the beginning of the project. Get the client to buy off on these.

2) Be Flexible when you can.  Work with the client to revamp the schedule, if needed, but let them know that the final delivery may also slip (through no fault of your own). Don’t be inflexible, unless there is an event or a hard delivery deadline.

3)  Ask the printer if they may have an extra cushion of time that would allow you to send the files a bit later.

4)  Send friendly, but non-nagging reminders, with deadline dates for a response.  Let the client know that you are helping them to save money for rush charges at the printer. Always add a due date to any correspondence regarding edits or approvals.

5) Provide reminder messages. Kindly let the client know if you don’t get the information by_______(date) that their project may drop down behind other projects you are currently working on. Other clients should not to be impacted due to the lack of promptness of this slow-responding customer.

6) Keep an up-to-the date production calendar at your office.  This not only needs to be easy to maintain but also needs to be fluid. Dates will most likely change due to the shifting demands of clients.

7) Document all client missed deadlines and your requests for a response or action.

8) Stay in constant communication with the client.  Friendly reminder messages sent via email or by phone  are great ways to stay in touch but don’t be a constant nag. Space out messages to every few days.  Do not overstep your bounds.

9) Adopt a sense of humor.  It will get you through the project.  My humorous motto is, “I’m Harlan West, the Best Pest in the West!”  One needs to be a bit of a pest in this industry if they are to be successful.  Indeed, the client can often be their own worst enemy.

Remember, missing a deadline can be deadly to an advertising or marketing firm.  That’s probably why we call them “drop dead” dates.


If your company or organization needs an innovative or unique solution for a promotion or marketing campaign, please contact HWDS at hwdesign@west.netWe make beautiful things happen. To find out more, please visit

Harlan West is the author of and has been working as a creative director and design professional for more than 25 years and has designed and art directed hundred of publications for both print and online purposes.