5 Emails to Tell Your Client You Are Unable to Meet the Deadline - Never the Right Word (2024)

As people, all of us are bound to slip up from time to time, and this includes missing important deadlines.

For whatever reason, we are often unable to deliver our work on time, which could lead to serious penalties and maybe a VERY disappointing look from your client or supervisor.

In order to maintain a professional image, it’s always better to inform your team and your manager in advance about any sort of delay in meeting deadlines.

To make this conversation less uncomfortable, we have drafted some very effective email templates to send when you know you’re unable to meet that all-important due date.

Read on for 5 Email Templates That Tell Your Client You Are Unable to Meet the Deadline:

Illustrations courtesy of Shutterstock.

5 Emails to Tell Your Client You Are Unable to Meet the Deadline - Never the Right Word (1)

Illustrations courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Email Template 1 | “We Underestimated the Time it Would Take”

Dear[Insert Name],
I am writing to let you know that I will be unable to meet the deadline for the project you assigned to me last week. I was unable to calculate properly how much time this project would take to complete, and I apologise for not being accurate in my estimate.
However, I assure you that my team and I have been working very hard to try and complete the work as quickly as possible. Currently, 80% of the work is complete, and we require three more days to deliver the remaining items. If possible, a short extension to the deadline would enable us to complete the final tasks and hand over the work.
The delay was caused by a planning error, which failed to consider the time needed to get the reports back from the surveying team. Now that we have all the resources we need to move on with the project, I assure you it will be completed promptly.
Thank you for your patience on this matter, and I look forward to completing the project very soon.
[Insert Your Name]

5 Emails to Tell Your Client You Are Unable to Meet the Deadline - Never the Right Word (2)

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Email Template 2 | “Our staff Went on Strike”

Dear[Insert Name],
This email is to inform you that my team has been unable to meet the deadline for your project. Everything was going according to schedule, but three days ago my team went on strike, which was called by their union.
I apologise for not letting you know sooner, but this was a very fluid and dynamic situation, and we had hoped that the strike would be resolved quickly enough to still meet your deadline.
The project is really big and valuable to us. Had the strike not happened, I would have delivered the task on time. My boss and I have been struggling day and night to put another team together and we did, fortunately, finalise a team of five members who will be on board with us for this project. If we could getan extension to the deadline, I assure you your work will be completed and we will work with more diligence to deliver what we promised.
Now that the strike is over, we have allocated additional resources to this project in order to complete it as quickly as possible.
Thank you for your patience on this matter, and I look forward to delivering the project shortly, and to working with you again in the future.
[Insert Your Name]

5 Emails to Tell Your Client You Are Unable to Meet the Deadline - Never the Right Word (3)

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In this course, Myra Golden shares approaches that can help you reframe such conversations, and use your words and actions to put a positive slant on an otherwise negative situation. Learn how to use empathy and pacing to foster a sense of connection with customers. Discover the words and phrases to avoid in customer service, how to use partnership language to leave people feeling heard and satisfied, and how to properly apologize. Plus, learn how to approach real-world situations, such as billing issues.

Email Template 3 | “I Was Unwell and Unable to Work”

Dear[Insert Name],
I’m writing to let you know that I will not be able to complete the project you assigned in time to meet your deadline. I do understand how important this project is to you, and I know that you stressed how critical it was to stick to the deadline.
Four days ago, I was taken ill unexpectedly, and had to go to hospital. Once discharged, I was ordered to rest for several days, and I have only today been well enough to contact you to let you know about this situation.
In view of these circ*mstances, would it be possible to grant me an extension, so that I can complete the project? I have already completed 80% of the work, and an extension of 2-3 days is all that I need to finalise everything and check it through.
Onceagain,I apologise for the delay and promise to deliver the project very shortly.
With best regards,
[Insert Your Name]

This template explains your unforeseen circ*mstances without going overboard on the details. It’s not necessary to explain too much, but you also need to impress on the recipient that this was a serious illness and not just a minor bug. By assuming that an extension will be granted, you are suggesting that this is a reasonable approach in the circ*mstances.

5 Emails to Tell Your Client You Are Unable to Meet the Deadline - Never the Right Word (4)

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Email Template4| “WeWereBusyWithOtherWork

Dear[Insert Name],
Throughout the [insert project name] project, I have provided regular progress updates to keep you informed of completed activities and issues that have arisen. Whilst previous reports have all been positive, I have to let you know that we are unable to meet the next deadline, which is in a week’s time.
Due to staff shortages and changing requirements from other clients, our scheduling has suffered in the past few weeks, and the consequence of this is that some projects have incurred short delays. we are doing everything we can to rectify this issue, and we hope to catch up completely within the next 2-3 weeks.
I do apologise for any inconvenience caused by this delay, and I assure you that the work is our main priority. If we are able to deliver the project earlier, we will of course do so, but I guarantee that it will be with you within 10 days at the most.
[Insert Your Name]

Whilst this template acknowledges that you were working on other projects, it doesn’t dwell on that point, as no client wants to hear that they are not important, or that they have been pushed to the back of the queue. It’s important to always inform the client that you will miss a deadline before it happens, so that they can make plans if necessary. It’s also important to be precise about exactly how much extra time you need to complete the work.

5 Emails to Tell Your Client You Are Unable to Meet the Deadline - Never the Right Word (5)

If you're looking to develop your communication skills for professional environments even further, we think you’ll like the following video course from LinkedIn Learning.

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In this course, productivity expert and best-selling author Dave Crenshaw helps you develop the survival skills to both avoid daily distractions and stay focused on what's most valuable. Curate your digital and physical space to strengthen concentration, discover ways to keep your mind on task, and protect your relationships—both at work and at home—by focusing on what's most important.

Email Template 5 | “I Forgot the Deadline for My Homework or Coursework”

Dear[Insert Name],
I am a student in your International Relations class and you recently gave us a Literature Review that was to be submitted today. Unfortunately, I didn’t submit it because I forgot to do the assignment, as I was preoccupied with a number of personal issues.
I assure you that I do not usually forget assignments, and I am committed to working hard on my course. However, the personal matters I mentioned above were serious, and they affected my concentration.
If it is possible, could I give the complete assignment to you tomorrow? I understand that I may be penalised for submitting the assignment after the deadline, but I really hope that you will allow me to submit it anyway.
I understand this is a core course and this issue will make it hard to get a good grade, which is why I hope you will consider my circ*mstances when deciding whether to accept my late submission.
[Insert Your Name]

Always remember to be truthful about the reason why you missed a deadline. No matter what profession or what circ*mstances, most people appreciate honesty and positivity.

At Never the Right Word, our aim is to give you practical examples of how to handle life’s difficult conversations. If you have an awkward situation that you’d like example templates for, request a topic here.

If you’re interested in further reading, we’ve also included links to our trusted resources and related posts below. To find out moreabout NTRWandourrecommended tools, you can do thathere.

Lastly, if you found this content helpful or want to share your own examples, let us know in the comments. We’d also be delighted if you shared this article and joined us on social media too!

5 Emails to Tell Your Client You Are Unable to Meet the Deadline - Never the Right Word (2024)


What to say when you can't meet a deadline? ›

Here are some steps you can take to tell your supervisor you missed a deadline:
  1. Address the situation as soon as possible. ...
  2. Provide a brief explanation. ...
  3. Apologize for the delay. ...
  4. Propose a new timeframe. ...
  5. Show your appreciation.
Apr 2, 2022

How do you inform the deadline of an email? ›

Specifying a deadline:
  1. by day / date / deadline.
  2. We will need this by day / date / deadline.
  3. We have a deadline on day / date that we need to meet.
  4. We need to meet our deadline by day / date.
  5. This task's due date is day / date.
  6. Our timeframe for finishing this task is day / date.
Jan 24, 2022

What would you do if you missed a deadline and couldn't meet required working hours? ›

Your best approach is to talk about a specific situation where you missed a deadline due to unforeseen or unplanned circ*mstances, yet take personal responsibility for the shortcoming and talk about what you are doing to keep it from happening again in the future.

How do you answer tell us about a time when you failed to meet a deadline? ›

Admit that you missed a deadline, and explain why. But do not blame others for it, even if they are to blame. Ensure the hiring managers that you did your best, stayed overtime, set your priorities clear, and did everything you could. It didn't work out on that occasion, but did on many others.

How would you handle a situation with tight deadlines? ›

Best tips for dealing with tight deadlines
  1. Break the project down into manageable chunks. One of the biggest mistakes any company can make is to try finishing an entire project in one fell swoop. ...
  2. Set priorities. ...
  3. Tune out distractions. ...
  4. Ask for help when needed. ...
  5. Make every second count.
May 19, 2020

How do you professionally remind someone of a deadline? ›

Deadline reminder emails should be polite—not pushy.

If you keep your message short, explain the situation clearly, and give them a way to resolve the problem themselves—you boost your chances of getting a reply. The most helpful advice we can give to you is that people's inboxes are a busy place.

How do you inform unavailability? ›

Dear Sir, I write to inform you that I will be absent from my desk between the hours noon and 1pm, tomorrow. This is due to an appointment I have with my lawyer.

How would you explain to a client that you are late with a deliverable? ›

Let your client know that you understand the trouble the delay will cause him. This demonstrates that you take the situation seriously and that you're concerned about how it will affect him. Also, reassure the client that you have a handle on the problem and won't let it happen again.

How do you apologize to a client for the delay? ›

Here are some phrases you can use: “I'm really sorry that I've kept you waiting…” “I'd like to apologize for the delay caused…” “I'm so sorry for misplacing your order…”
  1. Own up and explain what went wrong. ...
  2. Offer a solution. ...
  3. Regularly document and review all support issues.
Jan 4, 2022

How do I email a delay in delivery client? ›

Sub: Letter for Delay in Delivery

Sir, Sir, I am writing this letter to inform you that there has been a slight delay in the delivery of your order. The shipment that we were supposed to receive yesterday (date) has not arrived yet. (state your actual problem and situation).

How do you write a deadline? ›

Here are some tips for setting realistic writing deadlines, and what to do when roadblocks get in the way.
  1. Set the big deadline first. What is your main writing goal and when is the real deadline? ...
  2. Set smaller deadlines to keep on track. ...
  3. Put it all on the calendar. ...
  4. Check in with yourself.
Jan 9, 2018

How do I write an official email reminder? ›

How do you write a gentle reminder email?
  1. Choose an appropriate subject line. A solid email subject line is a must. ...
  2. Greet the recipient. Like a subject line, a salutation is a must when you're sending a polite reminder email. ...
  3. Start with the niceties. ...
  4. Get to the point. ...
  5. Make a specific request. ...
  6. Wrap it up and sign your name.
Nov 4, 2021

How do you set a deadline? ›

How to Set Deadlines and Achieve Your Goals
  1. Come up with your big goal or determine your project. ...
  2. Figure out the tasks that you need to complete to make this goal or project happen. ...
  3. Schedule each step on your calendar. ...
  4. Write down your deadlines. ...
  5. Figure out the right time limit. ...
  6. Use a timer. ...
  7. Do the difficult parts first.
May 31, 2022

How do you write an email extension? ›

Here's how:
  1. Step 1: Come to terms with the fact that it's not getting done on time. ...
  2. Step 2: Write it out. ...
  3. Step 3: Explain, but don't give too many excuses. ...
  4. Step 4: Set (or negotiate) a new due date.
Dec 2, 2016

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