11
MadFish
Re: Customers, Clients & Friends From HELL!!
  • 2006/8/13 13:43

  • MadFish

  • Friend of XOOPS

  • Posts: 1056

  • Since: 2003/9/27


Quote:
1) We won't come up with 'a few ideas' for free.

I always charge a nominal fee for preliminary design work. I'm prepared to go back to the drawing board to refine and develop ideas, but this must be paid for by the client. I try and keep the prelim fees low, but I always draw new client's attention to item 2)...

2) Copyright in our ideas including prelims remains with us unless agreed otherwise.


Good idea - I'll do that next time. I will also add something to make it clear that I won't maintain the site for ever and for free just because you paid me to build it. It's amazing how many clients think that a token design fee also entitles them to a free 24/7 lifetime service contract!

I've had a few clients from hell as well and strangely enough the worst of all have been the ones where I built them a site for free because it was a charity etc. One particular Charity Case From Hell sent a nasty email to my boss flaming me for not updating his site on demand (I was behind in my day job and preferred to remain employed).

He also flamed me on an international mailing list about how awful the server uptime was. We had given him free space on our in-house server (which, yes, has a lousy internet connection) because he repeatedly refused to pay $12 a year to rent some commercial disk space because it was 'too expensive'!

Charity Case From Hell #2 (a band) somehow simultaneously either skipped town or stopped returning phone calls, owing me the domain name and disk space fees for their site (which I haven't shut down...yet).

Quote:
If you don't do this, a client may well take your design - not pay you - then use their nephew to throw the site together for the price of a cheeseburger.


This is pretty funny - and I've seen it happen on more than a few occasions. Sometimes (to add insult to injury) followed by requests to please come and fix the Nightmare Creation of Nephew Johnny.

12
Peekay
Re: Customers, Clients & Friends From HELL!!
  • 2006/8/13 15:57

  • Peekay

  • XOOPS is my life!

  • Posts: 2335

  • Since: 2004/11/20


Quote:

MadFish wrote:
I will also add something to make it clear that I won't maintain the site for ever and for free just because you paid me to build it. It's amazing how many clients think that a token design fee also entitles them to a free 24/7 lifetime service contract!

Failing a service agreement, you can cover the cost of your time a little by setting a minimum charge. For example, we have a minimum charge of £20 and that figure is published in our T&Cs. If a client changes a phone number it's £20. If they change the fax number the next day, it's another £20. If the client doesn't query the charge when they request the work, I just keep sending them invoices for £20.

If they do complain, I now switch to 'we *want* to help' mode and in suitably chipper tone, tell them that "If you upgrade to our content-management service, you can change things yourself".
A thread is for life. Not just for Christmas.

13
technobia
Re: Customers, Clients & Friends From HELL!!
  • 2006/8/13 17:09

  • technobia

  • Not too shy to talk

  • Posts: 122

  • Since: 2006/4/17


You are absolutely right peekay you need to have some kind of an agreement along with a set of terms. PayPal is an excelent option as well. My terms talk about deadlines will not be kept if the client does not provide the required information in a timely manner. I also talk about what is considered out-of-scope work and what the additionally hourly fee will be for that. Then in the process I simply say "Yes, we can do that but that would be considered out-of-scope from OUR AGREEMENT". That puts them in their place quickly and sends messages that you will not be taken advantage of. If the REALY want that they will pay for it.

I typically ask for 1/2 up front and the balance due just prior to launch or monthly if it is a big job that is going to take months or they drag thier feet. Typically I collect the balance a time of the final draft approval. If they nit pick or take forever to move forward I bill them for the completed work not covered under the retainer or down payment. Then if they continue to drag on, I at least get paid and can move on.

If I do not get the balance I shut it down. Since most of my clients host with me that makes it much easier. I also do an up front FREE consultation, usually an hour that I eventually factor into the bid so if it is accepted I get paid for that time. Then I do a fixed bid. I find this, most of the time, properly sets the expectations right from the start and they don;t have to worry about a creaping openended bill.

If you have concerns about a particular client, document your conversations in a follow-up email to them. As per our conversation blab la bla we will be modifying our agreement thusly…bla bla bla. That sends the message that you are on top of things and will not let them assume anything. And most importantly you WILL be paid for the work you do. This eliminates the resentment many of us carry!

This is a great conversation to have and I am glad to see this happening. Our business is fraught with risk and I feel I have found, for me, the right mix to spread that burden evenly with the client.

I hope I have not sounded too preachy, this was a HUGE issue for me and took me a long time to get to this place. Implementing these procedures and policies have REALLY helped. I make more money and everyone is happier. I hope this helps others formulate a better strategy for having your hard work valued.
Thanks, Technobia
www.PrideDEPOT.com
Everybody Has A Right!

14
McNaz
Re: Customers, Clients & Friends From HELL!!
  • 2006/8/13 20:49

  • McNaz

  • Just can't stay away

  • Posts: 574

  • Since: 2003/4/21


Peekay and technobia . Excellent information! Many thanks for sharing .

15
Peekay
Re: Customers, Clients & Friends From HELL!!
  • 2006/8/13 21:19

  • Peekay

  • XOOPS is my life!

  • Posts: 2335

  • Since: 2004/11/20


Quote:
My terms talk about deadlines will not be kept if the client does not provide the required information in a timely manner.

An excellent point. Once you have confirmed a website is to go ahead, take the view that you are losing money on that project every day until the final invoice is settled. Your bank interest, utility bills, office rent etc. will all accrue small increases every month. Those increases affect the profit on that job, so a site that takes four months to complete instead of one returns less profit. I believe the technical term is 'profit erosion'.

In our T&Cs we reserve the right to charge a monthly retainer fee if we are repeatedly kept waiting for client approvals. If a client announces that they have to wait for one of their partners to approve something and it could take more than a month we start billing a retainer immediately. It's not a lot of money, but when the MD/CEO sees several month's worth of retainer invoices he/she generally kicks ass somewhere down the line to get things moving.

As you point out, stage payments are essential. I charge a nominal amount (payable in advance) for prelims. For large jobs where specific stages can be identified, we set payment milestones. For smaller projects, we want 50% of the estimated production charge up front, with the balance on completion (before the site goes live). That way the client never parts with all their money before getting something they are pleased with, but we don't starve if things get delayed. We also make it clear in our estimate that any work requested of us that is not explicitly detailed in the estimate means extra charges.

My biggest problem is... I forget to send out invoices and chase payments. So I wind up renewing domains in a panic at the last minute and hoping the client will accept my invoice after the event. Not good practice really. My clients can pay online now, but I really need automated billing (like our domain registrar has).

I have spent some time playing with an online billing application called PHPCoin. I haven't used it up to now because my previous reseller account didn't give me access to crontab and it needs cron to send email invoices automatically. Our new VPS account lets me use cron, so I may start using it soon. To be honest, it's not the easiest application to set up, but your clients can log-in and pay invoices online, check their domain and server account renewal dates and purchase additional domains etc. Worth looking at if - like me - you are not that hot at administration.
A thread is for life. Not just for Christmas.

16
KateKoala
Re: Customers, Clients & Friends From HELL!!
  • 2006/8/14 0:07

  • KateKoala

  • Just popping in

  • Posts: 27

  • Since: 2004/7/27


Quote:

...decided to rename index.php to index.html because he "prefers html files."


Okay gestroud first of all let me say I feel for you completely, and have had my own share of nightmares, but I have to also thank you for one of the biggest laughs I have had in ages!

I could go into all kinds of note-comparing and mention that there is indeed nothing worse than "a little knowledge" but I would have to pick myself up off the floor first.

chuckle chuckle...renamed index.php to index.html..."prefers html files"...PMSL...classic...

17
KateKoala
Re: Customers, Clients & Friends From HELL!!
  • 2006/8/14 0:13

  • KateKoala

  • Just popping in

  • Posts: 27

  • Since: 2004/7/27


...and now that I have stopped giggling and read the rest of the thread...

Peekay and Technophobia I agree, that is fantastic advice and it's also inspiring to hear from people who have been there and developed ways to deal with these kinds of things.

Thank you!

18
Bassman
Re: Customers, Clients & Friends From HELL!!
  • 2006/8/14 0:43

  • Bassman

  • Friend of XOOPS

  • Posts: 1272

  • Since: 2003/5/23


LOL I have had my share of "challenging" customers, nothing that bad though. I'm just glad I don't rely on my web work to put food on the table :)

Interesting advice too, maybe something to consider later on...

19
jegelstaff
Re: Customers, Clients & Friends From HELL!!

Interesting thread. We always include an "Assumptions" section in all our project proposals. One of the assumptions is always:

Quote:

Freeform Solutions assumes that this proposal describes the entire extent of work to be completed as part of this project. If other work is required beyond what is described here, or if there are additional aspects to the work described here, that will be treated as an addition to the project and will possibly result in extra costs. Freeform Solutions and [client] may negotiate any such changes as they may arise from time to time.


It is also important to make sure the client has legal permission to use all text and images they are using in the site (they can simply stipulate this by including a line in the signed contract that says they have such rights).

It is also important to make sure the client idemnifies you from all claims that may arise from the operations of the site, etc, etc. Talk to your lawyer for indemnification wording that is right for your situation.

We write proposals for all projects, so the scope of work and expectations of all parties are down in writing before work begins. Sometimes we do several versions of the proposal before commencing work. If the client doesn't have their act together enough to know exactly what they want, or at least know it well enough to write a detailed proposal and project plan, then you walk away, no matter how tempting the project may be. It will blow up on you if there's not a clear plan.

Once a proposal has been agreed to by all, then a work order is signed that references the proposal ("This workorder covers the work outlined in proposal X. For details on the work to be completed, refer to the proposal document."). The work order always includes the legal names and addresses of the parties, and says at the bottom that "the undersigned have the authority to bind the corporation" since you don't want some junior nobody actually signing something that they don't really have the right to sign. That would be a problem if things blow up.

If you're dealing with individuals, then the binding the corporation thing is not necessary obviously.

Hopefully, doing all this helps your clients understand what they're getting into and what they are going to get in the end, so everyone is happy. But despite all this, projects can blow up. All the preparation and clarity in the world will not help when a client just decides that they don't want to pay. This preparation and clarity is really only of use when you then proceed to the legal system for redress. Then it can definitely help.

Last thing...if you plan out a project, and everyone signs off on it. Stick to the plan! Clients can sometimes change their minds about things and decide priorities have changed, or whatever, and they now want something different from what you signed off on. Or they want it on a different timeframe. That's when you've got to put the brakes on and refer back to the original proposal and the Assumptions in it!

Good luck one and all, it's a jungle out there.

--Julian
Technical Architect - Freeform Solutions
Formulize - custom registration forms, ad hoc forms and reports

20
jensclas
Re: Customers, Clients & Friends From HELL!! bit off topic

Hi there - you guys are sharing some great ideas and support for each other and it is really nice to see...if only I could do this with my students from hell!

off topic! (kinda)

Quote:
My terms talk about deadlines will not be kept if the client does not provide the required information in a timely manner. I also talk about what is considered out-of-scope work and what the additionally hourly fee will be for that. Then in the process I simply say "Yes, we can do that but that would be considered out-of-scope from OUR AGREEMENT". That puts them in their place quickly and sends messages that you will not be taken advantage of. If the REALY want that they will pay for it.


Imagine my 16-17 year old students:
I will not mark your work if you don't hand it in on the due date unless you pay me an overdue fee
I will charge you extra for every time I have to cajole you into completing set tasks or baby sit you like a child or be like a parent and admonish you for childish behaviour.

If only they would really want to do well in school!!
Sigh...in my line of work I can't use fees to pull them into line! I am stuck with yard duties, stay here for a chat at lunch time and it's time to call your parents in for a chat! (And many times the last doesn;t have impact at all) Lollipop bribes for doing good actually cost me!

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