I've been a freelance designer for about 7 years, but more recently have been functioning more as an agency with private project and a few staff....I wanted to get some advice on some issues that keep creeping up for me around clients not adhering to scheduling.....

At the moment, I'm being contracted by a company on a per project basis, let’s call them “The Agency” to do design work for their clients (The Agency does the wire framing) …

The Agency deals with the client and relays design feedback to me (the agency pays me for the work).

The Agency and I agreed to a schedule for both design and client feedback (2-3 days turnaround from client) to try to meet their already very tight deadline.

I’ve met all the design deadlines, however their client is taking over a week to feedback, which they haven't really managed very well and as a result, will inevitably affect the deadline (it’s gone well over the contingency now).

The problem is : the delay is now bleeding into days that I have booked on other projects. PLUS, I have booked a developer who’s schedule is also being affected.

Ultimately, their lack of adhering to the agreed schedule is affecting two other people’s schedules.

The Agency is now asking me what I can do to meet the deadline.

The only way we could do this is by working into the evenings and weekends, which essentially means they get my free time or hiring another resource to work in tandem with us - obvious this will be an additional cost which I feel they should have to pay for since it was their lack of client management.

Thoughts on how you all handle situations like this?

This has happened a couple of times and I’ve obliged but it’s now affecting my other work and costs which are ultimately down to their lack of management.

Obviously I don’t want to come across as frustrated but I feel like boundaries need to be set.

I have not drawn up a contract or terms with them (which clearly I will have to for future) - so would be happy to be pointed to any resources that show what other agencies term are....

Any other suggestions / experiences you’ve had would be great to hear…..


  • 2
    If this project involves software development at all (or other types of work with similar characteristics), please be understanding of the brutal realities around scheduling. The key then is how everyone involved responds to and manages those realities, and "adhering to a schedule" often simply isn't possible without reducing the scope of work. It sounds like you have a communication barrier with the client in this case; greater information sharing would put everyone in a better position to deal with the schedule problems.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 18:09

3 Answers 3


I actually have exactly these clauses in my contract.

  • Client agrees to review work within X days of submission by Designer.
  • Designer will endeavor to meet all deadlines set; however, if Client does not review work in a timely manner, Designer is not responsible for missed deadlines.

So IF this client is worth doing the work for, AND IF you think you can physically swing it (because sometimes you can't without a Time-Turner or a TARDIS), write up a Scope of Work (even if it's just an email) detailing what you will do, when Agency MUST get feedback to you, and what the rush charges will be.

Depending on the size of the project, the importance of the client, and how hard it will be to get this done, I would charge 150 to 200% of my original billing time (so if you normally charge $1.00 for X, charge them $1.50 to $2.00).

Agency absolutely must pay for their time mismanagement. It is not your fault if they blew a deadline, and you have other clients, and employees, who are being affected by this.

There is nothing wrong with setting these boundaries. You might want to check out the AIGA sample contract if you need language.

  • 1
    "Designer will endeavor to meet all deadlines set; however, if Client does not review work in a timely manner, Designer is not responsible for missed deadlines." - GOLD right there. I usually include a clause that states if the client chooses to spend more time BEYOND the expected time frame, they do so at an hourly rate. Say you give the project 4 weeks at 20 hours per week. If you deliver them (as promised) 2 spit-shined logos and they had a "wine party" and decided to start over, they can pay more for your time or get what they paid for.
    – JWhiteUX
    Commented Jul 18, 2015 at 4:43
  • @elCavador Yes; my contracts have 3 rounds of revisions, and anything after that is billed hourly. Glad to see so many people on the same page here! :) Commented Jul 18, 2015 at 13:27

If you already agreed upon a price with a contract, and said contract doesn't outline any penalties for your client due to them failing to stick with the timeline, it, alas, does mean it will cost you money.

Going forward, you need to be a lot more explicit in your contract with this client.

I'd suggest the following type of clause:

"Estimate is dependent on both parties adhering to schedule. Final payment is due upon agreed upon completely date. If project schedule changes, any work completely post agreed upon deadline will be billed at our hourly rate of $xxx"

  • Thanks I figured as much. It's a client I do work with regularly and we simply haven't had the time to draw up any agreement as we've been so busy working, which is no excuse I know, but this is a time when it becomes absolutely necessary. I appreciate the advice, thanks!
    – pixellator
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 14:59
  • 1
    @pixellator I'd call that a Kill Fee, or cancellation fee. Your client cancelled the employee/subcontractor/vendor/dev part of the project. Your dev had to book time which now cannot be billed (assuming worst-case scenario), so Client now owes Dev a kill fee to make up for the lost wages. Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 19:11
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    Alternatively, maybe a retainer would work. With a retainer, you guarantee X hours a month for $x. It's up to the client to use those hours up. And if they do, then they simply have to prioritize things and wait for the next month to get them done.
    – DA01
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 19:38
  • 1
    Thanks all, this is great insight and helpful advice. I hadn't thought of a cancellation fee or a retainer, but both i will look into now. Thanks again!
    – pixellator
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 20:48
  • 1
    "saying they can't accommodate overtime costs" #redflag - 100% you should account for this type of situation going forward. Yes they can, they just don't want to pay for it. I've been down this road the worst possible way you can imagine. I don't mean to be negative, but it's extremely disrespectful to not respect the clock. I've seen this in Software dev and post-production. The project deadline is the 11th. Prod thinks they have until the 10th to crank out their animations. They don't account for testing yada yada yada. It sounds like you do have a healthy dialog with them. Best of luck.
    – JWhiteUX
    Commented Jul 18, 2015 at 4:48

This is a very common problem when it comes to creative or web work. The way I've seen other agencies deal with it, and the way we handle it, is to specify duration of engagement during estimate or bid stage, with disclaimer that work beyond original engagement is billed separately.


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