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  • #982248
    RyanHallett
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    Hi all,

    This is a little long winded, but I felt I needed to write it down in detail so we are all on the same page, and you can feel the frustration.

    I am in the first 12 months of a new business venture in web design and so far most of my clients have been professional to deal with and take on board my suggestions as an expert in my field. I have been creating a website for a client since early January, and had initially quoted her on a simple website with a shopping cart for 3 items for a set price of $800. I made it quite clear over the phone that this was a discount compared to how much it would normally cost to set up a unique shopping cart site. The discount was based on the fact that she came referred to me through a networking program that I am involved in (a fairly small group).

    This was all going fine. I created a mock up of the design I wanted to do for her, and she agreed to go ahead with me as her designer. A few weeks later, after 2 or 3 revisions of the initial design, I met with her in person (because I felt we were getting nowhere) and we discussed what sort of feel (colours, layout etc) she wanted. The short of it was: I was with her for an hour and a half, I drew a few sketches of different layouts, we looked at multiple colour schemes, we looked at sites she liked, and I stated how we could make it work. Eventually, I came away from the meeting with little more than I already had, about to pull out my hair because of her indecisiveness. During the meeting I had tried to steer her towards certain options, but she kept explaining that until she saw it on the screen, she could not understand what I was trying to pitch. Now, I am not an incomprehensible person. I am able to relay my ideas with some form of finesse, which I think has served me well until now. So, at this point, because of the lack of structure I have to work on, I am worried that if I go ahead and start to create the website, I am going to have to make major amendments later. I should also mention that the initial “3” items for her to sell had expanded to 6 or 7, and the website had increased in size from a 4 or 5 page project to an estimated 15+.

    After the meeting, and I had time to think about what had happened, I wrote an email to her explaining that my quoted price was for the initial plan of the website, not for one of this scale. I gave her the option of postponing the site indefinitely (with no cost to her), upgrading the website package to include the amount of work that would have to be put into it (namely the time it was going to take me to complete the project now that the brief had changed considerably), or going our separate ways (with a minimal cost due to the time I had already spent on the project). She replied with an email along the lines of “How important is this project for your portfolio? I think the problem with your pricing is the invisible ceiling. I am happy to work with you and continue with the project.”

    I wrote back: “My client satisfaction is my number one priority, but a project with the level of collaboration you are wanting will take months to complete. If you can acknowledge and accept the website will be in production for a long length of time, we can go ahead.”

    Since then, she has swapped and changed her mind on colours, layouts, additional pages and I have supplied her with hours of support on the phone (which after the 2nd or 3rd call I had to suggest she contact me by email because it was much more productive for me and I wasn’t getting anything out of her).

    It is now the middle of March and I am still getting requests every 2 or 3 days during the week to change this or that, or to add something here or there. I have had the feeling from the start that this person would not be satisfied, no matter how many hours I put in. This has drained my work hours over the past few months even though I have made a conscious effort to only spend a certain amount of time per week on her project, so I can concentrate on marketing and other clients. We are now nearing the end of the project, and when I say “end” that could mean another 3 weeks of work.

    A few things that I have picked up along the way:
    1. I need to create a contract so both the client and myself know what is expected of each other for the project. I have been meaning to do this, but haven’t worried about it, mostly because of the reasonable clients I have had, and partly because of time constraints.

    2. My business is new and I am still learning skills as I complete each project. My confidence is building, but I have to be firm with clients, especially when I am sacrificing a lot of time with a project that is not paying well.

    I am feeling stressed in my life outside of work, and am dreading the next request that I receive. I feel that the advice I give to my client is not being heeded and I might as well be talking to a brick wall.

    My question to you is, if you have been in this kind of situation before, what was the outcome, and, after reflecting, what were the ideas you had that could have remedied the problem?

    What should I be doing in this situation?

    Thanks,
    Ryan

    #1135713
    DavidM
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    • Total posts: 329
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    Hi,

    You need to outline the process and create sign off gates along the way. Once they have signed off at a gate, it will cost them money to make revisions.

    Also, some clients are high maintenance. You get to know the warning signs (essentially no brief, slow to respond) and will learn to stay away from them or quote them a large price for your troubles.

    Good luck.

    #1135714
    Past-Member
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    Hi, I am sorry to hear you have been taken advantage of … the key here is …

    I am feeling stressed in my life outside of work, and am dreading the next request that I receive. I feel that the advice I give to my client is not being heeded and I might as well be talking to a brick wall.

    Do not invest physically and emotionally more than you are able to give. Otherwise you will end up ill and other areas in your life affected.

    There is no doubt that this person is unlikely to pay you and may never finish the job.

    For future reference, in cases of work that goes beyond a month, you should send progressive invoices. That means that you say something like: Invoice for month of February – hours for …. total $….. Payable now within 7 days.

    And in small text somewhere. Further work will not be done until payment received.

    I make this clear with all my clients having experienced something similar to yourself many years ago. My accountant was the one who told me to always do progressive invoices.

    Progressive invoices do not show the total of the final job. Just the work you have done so far. (You can always issue a statement together with the invoice if you are deducting from a said amount.)

    In your case now I would send an invoice to that person for the full $800 or whatever you quoted. Nothing less than the full amount as you have done beyond what was asked.

    And on the invoice,

    Please make payment within 7 days.
    Further work will not be done until full payment received.
    Thank you.

    Make sure your Direct Deposit details are on the invoice also.

    Then you will know:
    1. If the person will pay at all;
    2. If the person refused to pay, whether to chalk it up to experience and not have further contact with the person because no contract was signed.
    3. If they happened to actually pay, then you will state that you will send a monthly invoice for further work and make sure you do it under the same conditions. ie no further work till invoice paid.

    This will help you decide.
    Many of us have been through this, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
    Best wishes.

    #1135715
    Sydney Business
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    • Total posts: 141
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    You are working through a learning process and in the first year of business you learning will be steap. There will always be clients who push your boundaries and you will learn better ways of controlling them.
    This client may become one of your biggest fans – see what she can do in return as she may be able to refer business back to you and you can get back some of what you have outlayed.
    All business go through clients like this, in the end though you have to find a way of turning it into a positive situation – go ahead and ask her for some referal business.

    #1135716
    LucasArthur
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    • Total posts: 3,171
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    Hi Ryan

    Oh my, this is terrible.. the never ending job for no reward..

    Not sure of your fix for this client, although progressive payments, time frames and maximum alterations are a must.. Also, just because you are ‘still learning skills as I complete each project” does not mean you have to give them EVERYTHING.. Be polite, firm and to the point with what was initially discussed and stick to your guns.. It is human nature to push back and ‘see what i can get out of this that i am not paying for’ so do not fall for it.. If you flex, they will continue to push until you break ;)

    Now, on a more serious note.. before you amend and introduce any contracts can you please call me to discuss my new eCommerce Package.. i tend to like your terms at present 😮 … joking,, well,, no joking,, well for $800 maybe not.. :D

    Good luck, let us know how you travel.

    Jason

    Jason Ramage | Lucas Arthur Pty Ltd | E: [email protected]   P: 61 3 8324 0344    M: 61 412 244 888
    #1135717
    BrettM33
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    This is not a hard & fast rule, but often times the clients that want more than their money can pay for ($800 is VERY cheap for a customised ecommerce site) are usually the most trouble.

    Your problems come from not having a contract in place (this helps show the clients you are more serious & they can’t push you around as easily) & secondly by charging a flat rate. Yes most smaller businesses prefer flat rates as they don’t want any nasty surprises, however the caveat there is that in your situation is that say you were charging an hourly fee, she would know this & wouldn’t waste your time so much as she would know she is getting charged.

    I’m not a designer myself, but most designers offer a maximum of “x” number of revisions before they start charging by the hour.

    You need to put some processes in place so that you can avoid clients like this & avoid the stress. :)

    Oh…… and as for her not paying any attention to your suggestions; when she comes to you with an idea & you don’t like it, don’t just say “No!” as that just puts a barrier between you & them; say something more like “I can see where you’re coming from, but can I ask some questions?”; then you start to challenge their idea & through discussing it they will come to realize themselves why it’s not the best idea rather than you just rejecting it… they may come to respect you for taking that position & do it your way; if not, don’t stress – do what they want & if you’re not happy with it then just leave the site off your portfolio. Lastly, try & pick your battles – don’t sweat the small stuff. :)

    Good Luck!

    #1135718
    TheGoldenGoose
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    • Total posts: 860
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    Hi Ryan

    You poor guy!

    Sounds like you’re a bit of a newbie in business, and also sounds like this experience has taught you alot!

    I can highly recommend managing client expectations. This is no easy task and is something that can be picked up with experience.

    Having terms and conditions that the client signs and returns is always helpful to manage their expectations. That way they know what is expected of them. They also know where they stand and what they can expect from you.

    In quoting, make sure you ALWAYS write inclusions and exclusions. How much revisions cost and how many are included is a big one in the creative field, otherwise – projects can go on forever!

    Take a look at this – she is the “I know it when I see it” client. Keep your eyes peeled for her in the future!

    The good thing is that with experience you learn to spot these ‘types’ better, and you also learn to become a better expectations manager. You pick up comments etc that are clues that they may turn out like this. I have a few clients that are like this, and I always include a couple of additional changes into the project and pricing to compensate. If you know you’re getting paid for it, it probably won’t urk you as much.

    Boundaries are ALWAYS a good thing. You never know when a relationship of any kind will go sour, so best to protect you (and the client) by having paperwork in place.

    What do you WANT to do? Afterall, if she’s stressing you out on top of other stressors it’s not healthy for you! It’s also not helpful to her if you are resenting her.

    If you think you can hold on until the end of the project, perhaps you need to put some sort of limit onto revisions now? Email her and say that you think another 4 revisions is reasonable (for example) for a project that has already had 15. Apologise for where you have gone wrong (I find honesty is the best policy in most situations) – because it is your error that has lead you to this point by not having terms and restrictions in your pricing.. but something I’m sure you’ll learn from! ;)

    Make her feel valued and appreciated. Talk about some positives from the project too.

    Hope that helps you buddy!

    #1135719
    RyanHallett
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    • Total posts: 3
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    Thank you to my responders!

    I greatly appreciate your feedback and suggestions, this really is a fantastic, supportive forum!

    I have since written an email to my client explaining the hours that have been devoted to the project already, and that I am willing to work “x” amount of hours further, after which time I will be charging at an hourly rate. I have been positive in the way I have presented it, suggesting the things I need from her for the project to be completed, and also set a deadline.

    I am positive the project can be completed by then, within the “x” amount of hours, if no more additions are made.

    In a return email, she stated she is unable to see the site being finished within the timeframe, due to the amount of work still left to be done (in her eyes), and reminded me we had already negotiated a set price for the project.

    I am writing an email currently that basically states “We had set a price for the initial brief and since then, many alterations have been made including the addition of “x” amount of pages and design features. Since I am now working outside this initial brief, the circumstances have changed”.

    I’ll update you on further happenings.

    Thank you all so much for your help,

    Ryan

    #1135720
    The Copy Chick
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    Good luck!

    #1135721
    LucasArthur
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    Oh boy,

    Good luck, from the info posted sounds like more challenges lay ahead.

    Jason

    Jason Ramage | Lucas Arthur Pty Ltd | E: [email protected]   P: 61 3 8324 0344    M: 61 412 244 888
    #1135722
    Divert To Mobile
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    HI Ryan,

    You are in the grips of a lost situation. Anything you do will end up in you losing.
    This client will not be a long term satisfied client even if you stick with the $800 budget. After you complete the site there will be ongoing requests which she will expect to be included in the $800 quote. If you end up standing your ground and say the site is complete and this is extra she will drop you and rubbish you to the group. You can tell the members she was expecting too much.

    Or you could tell her your unable to complete the job and walk away with nothing except for the experience and lesson to create a scope document and guidelines. But she gets nothing too. She will rubbish you to the networking group. You tell the members you put x hours into the project before it got too complicated then you gracefully backed out without any payment.

    or something else. its been 3 days since your post, I wonder what you did.

    Steve

    #1135723
    Zava Design
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    CondorCreative, post: 154827 wrote:
    Your problems come from not having a contract in place (this helps show the clients you are more serious & they can’t push you around as easily) & secondly by charging a flat rate. Yes most smaller businesses prefer flat rates as they don’t want any nasty surprises, however the caveat there is that in your situation is that say you were charging an hourly fee, she would know this & wouldn’t waste your time so much as she would know she is getting charged.

    I’m not a designer myself, but most designers offer a maximum of “x” number of revisions before they start charging by the hour.
    Yep, contract, contract, contract. Without this in place you will always leave yourself open for this kind of situation.

    Fixed price is fine, but you do need to have something in there about when additional fees kick in. For the design stage, may be after a certain number of revisions rounds, for example.

    This is also of very great concern:

    “A few weeks later, after 2 or 3 revisions of the initial design, I met with her in person (because I felt we were getting nowhere) and we discussed what sort of feel (colours, layout etc) she wanted.”

    Why did this occur AFTER your initial design phase????

    Apart from the contract issue, it seems your overall work process needs to be revised.

    #1135724
    ScarlettR
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    Hey Ryan, I’ve been there man. Oh God have I.

    I didn’t even have a budget, if you can believe it. I volunteered for the project as I was seeking an opportunity to help out a charity or NFP.

    My challenging situation was that it was run by a pair of sisters who had not delegated responsibility of final decisions, or distinguished who decides on what portions of the business. As they were only just up and running they had no business plan either and were sort of flying by the seat of their pants.

    After three full, alternate rounds of different website options it became clear that there was always going to be conflict and misdirection as there was no limit to revisions, no budget to worry about, and worse- no one to have the final say. Just no clarity or direction and I had to fire them as a client.

    It was the best decision I ever made, the first client I ever fired, and it was at a great pinnacle. Trust me when I say you NEED these clients. You need these ones so you can identify the next ones, so you can deal with the situations confidently and know where you stand.

    I was in website design for a few years and I was totally lost business wise. Doing friend’s sites here and there, super cheap, feeling my way through. But it’s worth it. The challenging times are the important times. You’ve done great! You’ve clarified the situation for yourself and given the project boundaries. From here you may need to let the client go, or proceed as you need.

    Good luck!

    #1135725
    Excellence Solar
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    • Total posts: 32
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    Raising your prices to something a little more realistic will go some way towards filtering out this kind of tar baby client

    if they need that kind of work done for $800 they should be taking it to elance or somewhere like that, and then be able to write watertight job specs and navigate through all the proposals to get what they want.. to get a full service job from a local freelancer, with all the hand holding that goes with it, has to cost significantly more.

    #1135726
    Shaukat Adam Khalid
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    We all experienced scope creep. I suggest reading up on how to handle it before and after (as in your case) a proposal / mou is agreed upon.

    You’ll be fine provided you take action immediately. don’t be afraid to fire costly clients. If you are any good, the vacumm will be filled quickly with clients you’ll enjoy working with.

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