Tips is a series which aims to provide young and early-career science writers with, well, tips to aid them in their budding careers. The series will attempt to link out to existing resources available online.

Communications consultant, Georgina Guedes, shares ten steps to getting forgiveness when you miss a deadline at The Media Online. In addition, I also point out that blogging regularly may help you meet deadlines more easily.


It happens sometimes. Even if you try to make sure it doesn’t, it just does and you pass the deadline like wooshhhh. So, how should you deal with your editor (or client) when it looks like you’ll be turning in that assignment late? Communications consultant, Georgina Guedes, has some good advice over at The Media Online.

But before proceeding to Georgina’s list, I probably must point out that it’s never in your best interest to miss deadlines. Especially as an early-career writer, you should always do your best to never miss deadlines. Work throughout the night, gulp in mugs of coffee and fight sleep if you have to.

If it still looks like you won’t make it in time...

  1. Be early. Warn your client in advance of missing the deadline, rather than on the day, so that other plans can be made or other freelancers pressurised.
  2. Don’t make it personal. If your kid is sick, or your nanny hasn’t arrived, just say something like, “I’m not able to…” unless the crisis really is a big one that’s not going to repeat like a death or a car accident. Don’t become that freelancer with the kid who’s always sick.
  3. Be straightforward. Tell the facts of the story simply. Don’t make a drama out of it. If there is a business reason, like an unavailable spokesperson, just let the client know.

Georgina’s list goes on with more good advice: be apologetic, provide options, etc. While the list is comprehensive, don’t take it as the gospel. To be honest, I think that if you did your best but still missed the deadline, this will go through during your phone call. So, I guess being yourself and explaining everything properly is what you should do.

Now, if you find that you’re missing deadlines too often, you should consider training yourself to work on a schedule. A good way to do this is to blog regularly. Set weekly deadlines and think of the blog posts as formal assignments. In other words take your blogging seriously: quality blog posts, published in a timely manner.

In addition to giving you a platform where you can train yourself to meet deadlines, dedicated science blogging can inadvertently provide you with other perks. Science writer, Bec Crew, for instance, started blogging about the science of fascinatingly bizarre animals some years back. Thanks to her blogging, she became an editor at a major science magazine, a blogger on the network here and the author of a forthcoming science book (about the science of fascinatingly bizarre animals).

In Scitable’s ScholarCast blog, she recounts:

“For the first 12 months, I was living off four hours of sleep a night, due to all the time spent finding good stories, and the following research that was required to edify and contextualise the story I had. I could see what a huge difference posting several times a week would have on the size of my audience. If you want to build an audience, you need to blog at least once a week—any less than this, and you'll see your audience numbers decrease rapidly.”

All in all, don’t miss deadlines and train yourself not to. And if sometimes life gets in the way, well, you know, it probably means that you have a life so don’t be too hard on yourself either.