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At a dead end with a client


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I took over a project that someone else did not finished. They handed me a cd with the graphics, and said build an e-commerce site. I put it together, and it was not what they had in mind. I said ok, show me some examples of what your after. I was shown a bunch of sites with heavy flash and loud background music. One of the sites even had an obnoxious flaming curser. I said that would be great if you were building a site for a Las Vegas nite club. We got passed that. Then the client kept sending graphic changes that were over 300 dpi. I had to spend hours cropping and reducing everything to 1028 width. When I explained to him that web graphics needed to be 72 dpi, he really got confused. It goes on and on.

 

How do I politely tell him that I spent way too much time on his project, and I have other ones to do?

 

I have never had this problem before, and I feel like I have lack of control on this project. Any advice?

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I always get a bit suspicious when taking over the work of someone else. It makes me nervous that I am working with a potentially bad client. If another designer/coder isn't able to work with them, who says I will be able to?

 

Do you have a contract of some sort? One that indicates the scope of the work you are doing, the rough amount of time you'd be spending on the project, and that you would be billing the client for work outside of the scope? Politely reminding the client of the terms of your agreement is one way to go. I wouldn't phrase it like "I have other projects to work on" but you can be clear that the two parties agreed on something and that you are doing work that is above and beyond the scope of the project, which indicates at the very least that the client needs to pay for this additional work. Focusing on the agreement avoids placing blame on either party, and indicates a common ground with something that both parties had agreed upon.

 

You could of discuss this sort of thing even if you don't have a signed contract, of course, but that makes it much more difficult. It could be that the client and you have a very different understanding of what was agreed upon, and without anything in writing and signed, it all comes down to a difference of opinion. If you never defined the scope of your work, you are sorta stuck.

 

You never mentioned how close the project is to completion. Of course, it's possible that you think you are closer to completion than the client thinks you are... I think you have a couple options:

 

-- Do nothing. Try to stick it out, get paid (hopefully!), and learn from the experience for next time. If you don't have a signed contract, make sure to get one next time for your next project. The contract doesn't have to be complicated; it just has to simply state the scope of the project, the amount of money involved and payment terms, explain that anything outside of the scope will cost additional money, a cancellation clause (what happens if one party decides to cancel the project) and a spot for both parties to sign.

 

-- Cancel the project entirely, move on, find better clients. Politely but firmly explain that this isn't working out, and it would be best if they found someone else to work on this with them. This involves possibly not getting paid, so if you don't have a contract indicating what happens in that situation, it's quite likely that you'll never get any money. Personally, I wouldn't choose this option unless you have had a discussion with the client about the scope of the project and your concerns, and have given them an opportunity to improve the situation.

 

-- Discuss with them (preferably in person) the status of the project and your current concerns. Like I said above, refer back to a signed contract as proof of what was agreed upon. Hopefully the client will take it well and you won't have any issues.

 

One possibility would be to set some sort of deadline for when the client will submit all changes to the website and when you will consider the project complete (and get paid) so that it doesn't drag on forever. I had to do this with a client just recently.

 

If you have a signed contract, I think you have a much better chance of things going well. There is always a chance that the client will take something the wrong way, and decide to walk away from the project. If you don't have a contract that specifies what happens if that situation occurs, you may have no legal way to get payment if they don't want to pay for the work you have done so far. Of course, you don't have to provide them with the files you have worked on either.

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Some clients do not have a clue about building websites and so they think it's simple as pie for you to get it done thus it doesn't take much time.

 

I agree with Ben. You probably need to make a decision that is best for you.

 

Next time when you bid on a project, give the prospecting client how many hours it would take to build it and then state that the project could go over or under that time frame. Always give them a update of the time spent. Typically I would keep my client up to date by informing them how many hours were spent each day. Inform your client when they have only a few hours left (5 or less hours) and discuss payment. If you finished the project under that time frame then bill them only for the time spent. This will put a smile on the client and more than likely will use that extra time for other things for you to do.

 

As always, get at least 25% down payment before starting a project. Thereafter, bill them weekly or every set of hours (10 hours, 20 hours, etc.)

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One of the first things you have to do as a web professional, is to clearly define what is expected (in terms of the job) before you do any work!! So you have to define:

 

- who creates the artwork, what format it will be delivered to you if they provide it.

- the style that they want.

- what tech requirements they may have - do they insist on Flash or jQuery? Do they want the server code to be in say PHP or .NET?

- how many allowable revisions? I used to give a limit of 3.

 

etc ...

 

I get the impression that you did not put that on paper? :unsure:

 

The best case scenario for a contractor, is to be paid as you go - good luck getting those contracts!!

 

:clap:

 

Typically, clients will ASK for your per hour rate but will then want a fixed cost - and as such, the contract is VERY important. If you were working per diem, it would not matter.

 

So, in your case, you might try and calmly (and with a spirit of trying to solve a problem) table your concerns (with suggested remedies - all on paper) and see what the client says.

 

Stefan

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Thanks for all your input, and advice. I normally create the graphics and web layout. I always have good communication with the client throughout projects, but I have more control on the output. This was to help out a friend. I’ve heard that sometimes it better to leave friend projects alone. The expectations can become cloudy. Money was not an issue. He did give me some money up front though, and it was a verbal agreement. We met a couple of times, but mostly through email. He had been asking me for a long time for help. I told if I have some spare time that I would help him. I did not realize that I would be teaching him about graphic design for the web, and fixing a lot of his stuff. I have spent way too much of my spare time. I would have been done by now if I was not being a teacher. I’m either going to tell to stop making graphic changes, and let me work with what I have. Or kindly tell him that I have done as much as I can, and I have to start on other projects. Lesson learned on my part!

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It sounds to me he's getting stuff for free. I have one so-called client that paid me to make a few changes to his site which was fine but then all the sudden he just kept coming up with more changes and questions and expected me to do them all with no additional cost.

 

You can let him know that you don't mind helping him but your paying customers come first which is what I said to one of my client. Weeks go by...he makes more request but I kept telling him the same answer, "Will get to it when I have the time but right now I have paying customers to tend to."

 

Several more weeks went by and he hints again about helping him with his site. I hinted back at him about the work load I have. After a few more months, he finally called and wondered what it would take to get his site done. In a nutshell I told him 'A contract'. Believe it or not the guy had no problem with paying for my services.

 

Contract signed. Deposit made. Work was done within a month. All invoices paid. Both of us are happy campers!

Edited by Eddie
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"Friends" are always a difficult one and I try to avoid working on things with friends or family as a rule. However, it is very difficult when they have been asking for a while. But it hardly ever turns out well in my experience. People get very demanding when they know you personally. :angry:

 

A contract, even with a "friend" is definitely the way to go in the future.

 

I think you just need to be open with them and tell them how it is, in nice way. Tell them you could have finished by now if they didn't keep wanting things changed and tell them that you are prepared to finish the job but they need to give you everything they need to give you within the next 24 hours (as and example) and then let you get one with it. After you produce the final product, say there is one more edit allowed and that it is. After that he will need to use someone else.

 

They are probably not going to like it, but I always find that it is better to be upfront about how you are feeling. Even if they end result isn't what you want and you are not longer "friends" or your relative's know longer speak to you, it is better for your own karma to be true to yourself.

 

95% of the time I actually find when I explain things, the other person actually understands to some degree and things go easier from there.

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