The Secret of Explaining Personal Emergencies

I’ve had personal emergencies that have interfered with my ability to finish a project on time. I’ve found that there is a secret to handling these personal emergencies.

It’s a surprisingly simple secret, too. When you’re trying to explain a personal emergency to a client all you have to do is stop. Heartless as it may seem, clients don’t really care about the details of your personal life. They want to know what this delay means to their project, not to your life.

When notifying a client of a project delay, I try to go with something along the lines of the following email template:


I’m in the middle of a personal emergency. I apologize, but I will be unavailable for the next few days. I will be back on Monday, and should be able to complete your project by the revised due date of January 1.

Thank you for your understanding,

I don’t include details. I focus on what my client actually wants to know. I’ve found that if I have a long-standing relationship with the client, they might contact me and offer sympathy or ask for details, but unless that happens, I really feel that it’s better to keep the details to myself.

It’s definitely a change from when I had one of those ‘real’ jobs I had to physically show up to. Several years ago, I got the news that my grandmother had passed in the middle of a busy office. My boss knew every detail of the situation and actually took care of rearranging my schedule for me.


  1. Allena   •  

    I heart you TB, because I have wondered this exact same thing.

    You want to provide details because then the client knows you’re dead serious, and not blowing them off, but, who wants to tell all their personal drama?

    Not me! This is one of the reasons I miss office work: personal days.

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