How To Best Prevent Last-Minute Client Emergencies

How To Best Prevent Last-Minute Client Emergencies

Updated July 22, 2020
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Can You Prevent Last-Minute Client Emergencies?

Do you know what constitutes a real social media emergency? Have you ever been asked to step in, or step up, without much previous notice, and yet be expected to work at all hours of the day and night at the drop of a hat, because the client says so? Do you want to know how you can prevent last-minute client emergencies? We will learn together!

Check out the following scenario:

What would you do?

What would you do if you were a (freelance) social media manager and you just got a text from a client on Christmas Day (or any other major holiday for that matter) in which the client is requesting you share or post something insignificant for them, right this instant? To lay it our clearly; the client asks you to do something that is not in line with your overall social media strategy and something that certainly does not warrant a Christmas Day text exchange, something that should have been discussed weeks ago during your holiday marketing planning session.

Would you

1) Ignore the text and not respond at all.
2) Answer the text but tell your client you are off today.
3) Calm down and stay professional. Respond and process the request.
4) Immediately reconsider the relationship with that client.
5) Other ________

This is a real question about a real situation, recently asked in our Social Media Managers Facebook Group.

In this article, we will be looking at the pros and cons of responding to unreasonable client requests. We will also look to see if there is a way to prevent a client from making their emergency your emergency.


Lack of Planning on Their Part Does Not Constitute an Emergency on Your Part.

Before we look at how to best prevent last-minute client emergencies, let us look a bit closer at different approaches to the above mentioned Christmas message. We checked some of the answers given in the Facebook group to see what the general feeling was towards this type of behavior.

 1) Ignore This Crazy and Inappropriately Timed Communication With Client

Several social media managers indicated they would not respond to a text message received on a holiday, under any circumstances.

  • Do not respond at all and on your next workday say “I'm sorry, I didn’t see this until today. I don't check messages on holidays.”
  • Be confident in your contract. Know what it says and what you offer and realize that as a freelancer, you do not work per hour and are not ‘required’ to be available a set number of hours, but instead, you work per project. If your ‘project’ of scheduling and promoting the content is done, you do not owe a response.
  • Don't respond or take any action. I'd put my phone in airplane mode! If they want it done so bad, they can do it themselves
  • Ignore until after the holidays since it's something you wouldn’t do anyway. Then re-establish boundaries.

2) Answer Your Client, But Only to Explain That You Refuse to Do the Requested Task.

Other social media managers found it best to respond but suggested you only need to respond to say that the request was received.  The message should be a clearly stated sentence relaying that the request would not be processed until a later date, due to the holiday.

  • “This is outside working hours and it’s going to cost xxx” or simply say “I’m sorry I can’t do it”.
  • Pretend you are an automated message. Write “thank you for contacting ______ and Merry Christmas. We are closed for the holiday as we spend this quality time with our loved ones. We will resume our normal hours of ____ to ____ on _____. We will reply to your message upon our return and we look forward to working with you then!” Then keep posting that same reply to every message she sends. It works wonderfully!
  • No one will respect your boundaries unless you do. Simply state that it is Christmas and you will get back to them on ‘xyz' date!
  • Wait several hours and say: “Apologies, but I'm spending time with family for the holiday and not checking my phone. I can make an exception this one time, but typically I don't take requests via text message on weekends or holidays.”
  • Tell your boss/client you’re off until the third of January (if that’s the case) and tell them you’ll be offline until then unless urgent.

3) Stay Calm and Work On

Then there were a few social media managers who answered that as they do not like conflict they would be answering the text and/or call and get the work done.

  • Charge double for holiday rate.
  • Complete the task to keep the client happy, then turn the phone off and move on.

4) Ditch The Client Seems  Too Harsh

We didn't hear from anyone who advocated ditching the client over this occurrence. We do recommend that if this behavior is part of a continuous cycle of procrastination and undesirable client behavior, you go and have a chat with your client as soon as you are back to work.


Here is the hard truth:

Responding to an unreasonable client request is reactive.

Preventing an unreasonable client request is proactive.

Thefore, be proactive in your communication, and set firm boundaries.

Let's find out exactly how social media managers prevent last-minute client emergencies from becoming their emergencies.

How To Best Prevent Last-Minute Client Emergencies

Here are 10 practical, tried-and-true ways to prevent last-minute client emergencies

  1. My Welcome Packet states the holidays I’m off and that all posts will be scheduled in advance. There will be no last-minute and organic posting on those holidays.
  2. I don’t give clients my cell phone #.
  3. Ring central allows you to text from a business line and avoid clients having your personal number.
  4. I set very clear boundaries as to how and when clients can contact me.
  5. I make sure that my contract clearly states the days, times and holidays I am taking off, including weekends.
  6. I charge appropriately – some of my clients have paid for the right to have work conversations with me anytime (they can reach out to me anytime, and I get back to them truly asap).
  7. Set up parameters for contacting you. We use slack and email for clients. We're “closed” outside biz hours, which are listed in my contract as well as my email footer.
  8. As a general rule, social isn't full of emergencies. Periodically, you'll have an issue that needs an immediate response but generally, there's nothing that will absolutely make or break the business if it's not posted immediately. (And if you're a business that constantly has that level of emergency, there needs to be a team in place to ensure full coverage.)
  9. It's a choice to offer that level of customer service – it's not required by any means.
  10. Add an urgent “out-of-office” fee/rate to your contract.

Prevent Emergencies; Enforce  Boundaries and Reinforce Contracts!

When you first start out as a social media manager, you might be under the misunderstanding that you need to be available to your clients 24/7. This should never be the case as this is not sustainable for a long period of time. Everyone needs to take time off, sometime. Whether that includes evenings, holidays, weekends, vacations, any or all; we all deserve to unplug.

Here is the recap of what seems to work well for social media managers to prevent last-minute client emergencies:

➡ Prevent Emergencies By Being Proactive

  • Ask for content weeks out, plan accordingly and schedule holiday content far in advance.
  • Put weekend and holiday hours right in your contract.

➡ Prevent Last-Minute Requests By Setting Communication Boundaries

  • Communicate via email or Slack, Basecamp etc, NOT via text messaging.
  • Don't respond to after-hour emails or messages until the next business day.

Think You Have a Toxic Client? Read and Compare!

If you are not sure about what your client is asking you to do is reasonable, you should listen to your gut. If you're not sure, most likely the request is not appropriate. Check out these client stories. 

“I was recently added to a group text by a team member of an agency I work for. One night at dinner my phone would not stop dinging – by the time I finished dinner and looked at my phone I had 30+ messages. That is the last time anyone on any team I work on gets my cell phone number.”

“I had a client text me a request after I gave birth to my son; 5 days after the birth of my son. (I was on maternity leave) Even asking if I was in the office because I was playing on my personal Facebook page. We broke up after that.”

“As a freelancer, I work remotely in a home office. My local clients, however, are a bit spoiled with my attention.  When I worked from Europe one summer (to visit family) two of them complained that ‘they were paying for my vacation' even though all social posts went out on time. I had made the mistake of friending them on Facebook and they saw my (weekend!) European fun! After that, I set up my profile so they couldn't see my ‘fun' posts in Europe anymore. The work got done and they were none the wiser.”

“Nothing like being lectured for liking one Twitter post that wasn't directly related to our company.  The complaint was so petty.”

“Today, I got a series of five texts from a client. It is Christmas Day! After venting to my boyfriends at the disrespect I felt for asking me to do things during my personal family time, I told them I wouldn’t be working on Christmas and would help them tomorrow.”

“A client I had asked me to lower my prices because “someone they knew” was offering to do their social media for cheaper. I then suggested they hire that person and lose my number.”

“I was informed my client was about to hire a new web person. We were to work together. When asked about his team, he got so defensive he went on the offensive and verbally attacked me. Turns out he was a salesperson who'd done a great job selling himself but didn't know the first thing about websites. I exposed him for who he was and quickly decided to lose the client.”

“I received a request to ‘add a few platforms' to my workload, even though my contract stated I was only in charge of two. When I referred to the contract they said to ‘just automate it those other platforms'. I spent way too much time educating that client before throwing in the towel.”

“With a November 1 deadline for content for the Thanksgiving newsletter, I tried getting content from the client all of October. I emailed back and forth to ask for all the content, which never materialized. I kid you not. Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving I received it all in one email. Needless to say, I was out of the office and already baking pies with my kids. No email newsletter went out, of course!”


we teach the business of social media management

If you have had a problem with clients and were successful and learned to prevent last-minute client emergencies, we want to know about these strategies and we know our readers do as well! If you found a great solution, we sure would like you to share that with our community. Comments welcomed below!

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