May I have your answer?

We live in a 24/7 society. Emails demand to be answered straightaway if not sooner, even on the weekend.

I’m a freelance editor and received an email from a new client in China on Saturday afternoon asking if I could undertake and return work in 3 days. I’m already fully booked for the week ahead so I just responded that I couldn’t meet that deadline but that I’d be happy to quote again in future when the deadline wasn’t so tight. I then received a further, wait for it, 4 replies over Saturday and Sunday, starting with ‘How much time will it take you, please?’ and culminating with ‘May I have your answer?’ After that final one on Sunday afternoon, I responded that I was fully booked until the 14th April. I concluded the email with ‘I could edit your paper after that, but judging from your emails I think you want it back much quicker. I’m sorry I can’t help on this occasion.’ I’m awaiting a reply on that one.

The exchange brings up two points:

Just how urgent are work deadlines?

The client started by asking for a 3 day turnaround but his follow-up email indicated he might compromise a little. However, the number of emails I received from him over the weekend suggested that he really wanted the work done pretty urgently. I suspected from my end that a 1 week turnaround would be reasonable and I just couldn’t believe his deadlines were that inflexible. I really couldn’t fit his work in that week as I was fully booked and surely he couldn’t expect me to bump other clients down to fit him in.

What’s with all this weekend work emails?

I don’t know how things are done in China but mostly around here, people take some time off at the weekend to, for example, spend some time with the family. Is that unreasonable? If I’m not responding to your email, surely you can wait till Monday? Or have we reached the stage where an email response is required within a few hours, even on the weekend?

How do you treat weekend work emails? Do you keep checking your work emails over the weekend and respond within an hour or two or do you wait till Monday? Do you find some clients have unreasonable deadlines and like to push for completion when really there is no obvious urgency. I’d love to hear your comments.

Update: On Monday morning after that weekend, I had an email from the client asking me to go ahead on my timescale. He had been able to extend his deadline from the publisher and so my turnaround time was fine. So as I suspected, there was some flexibility there after all.

2 Responses

  1. Ducky Says:

    When I get “urgent” emails from people asking me to do things, unless it actually is urgent, I’ll usually go back to doing what I was doing for a while before replying.
    Some people feel as though I’m sitting here waiting to drop everything to do their bidding and I like to make a point that I don’t do that (though it also depends also on how much they’re paying me ;P).

    That being said, some clients of mine will email me on a Saturday and the job will be done within minutes. It’s really up to how I feel about the client as to whether they get the job done as soon as I get the email, or whether I wait until the next business day to do it.

    We have to have breaks too, just think about how an office worker would feel if the boss emailed them a report to be done during their time off.


  2. techandlife Says:

    Thanks for that. I’ve updated the post now. That flurry of ‘urgent’ emails over the weekend kinda got at me. It’s the first time I’ve had someone so persistent for an email response over the weekend. As it turns out, his deadline was flexible as I thought and we’re going with my timescale now.

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