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Web design contract issues
clients keep changing their minds and argh!
jeremy goodrich




msg:779726
 3:52 pm on Jun 21, 2001 (gmt 0)

Last month, I wrote up a contract for some development and design work which the client accepted. After one month the site was supposed to be done, but it took more than the month for them to even get me most of the materials to make the pages.

Now that the design for one page is finished, per their specs and a couple reworkings, they want to redo some of the page, again.

Here is a section of the contract I wrote:
Payment: (...)

  • Company agrees to pay (design firm) all fees and charges as set forth in the service agreement preceding by customer and agreed to by (designer), together with any subsequent fees and charges acquired from and related to additional services performed by(designer) that was at the request of the company.

Time wise, I've already invested more than the value of the contract, and they want even more rework.

Do I write them and say that they are already over limit, and any further work requires additional funds? Or do I just finish, and submit one hefty bill?

I have a feeling billing them after the fact won't be the greatest way to go, which is why I'm wondering how I should approach them now, as they want work that is beyond the letter and intent of the original agreement.

Any and all advice greatfully accepted and appreciated.

 

TallTroll




msg:779727
 4:13 pm on Jun 21, 2001 (gmt 0)

3 approaches possible here, I think :-

1) Softly, softly - point out that it'll cost 'em and see what they say. Maybe they'll agree to pay up, no quibble

2) Mr Scrooge - get some legal advice on how well the contract will stand up, and if it will, do the work, and charge the full amount. If they object, sue them

3) Easy life - Do the work, submit a bill for the agreed amount, and charge the rest to experience

In all casesthink about amending your client relationship processes. We've had similar problems in the past, and we use a "bitesize" approach now, eg agree the look and feel, get client sign-off (further work is chargeable), decide site structure with client, get client sign-off (further work is chargeable), so on and so on.

To focus their minds, we ask for a 50% deposit up front. If they then prove to be awkward (refusing to sign things off without huge amounts of reworking) we have a lever to ask for more money, or we can deduct a suitable amount, return any overs, and pull out at break-even (we've never had to do this).

I know that some of that doesn't really help NOW....

tedster




msg:779728
 9:12 pm on Jun 21, 2001 (gmt 0)

Tall Troll, I couldn't agree more. The scenario jeremy paints has also been the rule, not the exception, for my design company. So we developed a pre-contract worksheet for the client that gives them a heads up in essential areas.

It spells out key factors that we've found cause project delays, in a questionaire form. Simply by reading this questionaire, the client is stimulated to create the internal business processes that will feed the website project. By signing off on it, the client knows that major changes may cost major dollars. They've also received a quick tune-up in what website creation will actually require. The completed worksheet then becomes our basis for a final contract and we developed the contract boilerplate with a lawyer.

Our goal is to get the client ready to drive their end of the process, rather than our company driving the whole thing. Everyone needs to agree as to who owns each piece of the pie. Otherwise our email and telephone time alone end up eating too much of our revenue.

Add in that hefty up front payment to get the adrenaline going (33% to 50%), and things get a whole lot smoother. And yet, even with all this, it's still nearly impossible to keep to a schedule!

The main issue is that creating the website may be our core competency, but for the client it is not. They're still involved their core business, and the website work often needs to be pushed back on their list of priorities. At least the questionaire helps them assess those priorities in a more realistic fashion.

rcjordan




msg:779729
 9:38 pm on Jun 21, 2001 (gmt 0)

>3 approaches possible here, I think

Add a fourth. Give them the bill for the work done to date at contract rate and ask for payment. Tell them exactly what you've laid out here. If they balk, you walk.

I hate to tell you this, but the odds are that you're not going to get minimum wage out of this deal. You either have to set them straight now, or cut your losses. This assumes that you do not already have any sort of advance payment from them.

jeremy goodrich




msg:779730
 2:08 pm on Jun 22, 2001 (gmt 0)

I already have %50 percent. What I'm toying with right now is posting the current project, as it stands, and then saying further modifications require additional cost, as per contract. Or some such thing.

They even asked about rework before, but I didn't give it too much thought...ignorantly, I assumed that they would understand we were the experts, and they weren't. Already one of their pages has a download speed of 10 seconds over dsl...I shudder to think what will happen when somebody on 33.6 k hits that thing. They'll walk, and the client will think it was something else.

So does that sound okay? I'll mention, politely, the contract says additional work, additional money...and we have a policy already of %50 percent project cost up front.

rcjordan




msg:779731
 3:00 pm on Jun 22, 2001 (gmt 0)

>So does that sound okay? I'll mention, politely, the contract says additional work, additional money...and we have a policy already of %50 percent project cost up front.

Yeah, that sounds good to me. Present it as "you've triggered the 50% tripwire (which is covered by our contract)."

TallTroll




msg:779732
 3:25 pm on Jun 22, 2001 (gmt 0)

If you've already collected 50%, that gives you a lever at least. I think that ultimately you are going to have to decide how much you want the work.

If you've got other projects that will produce a better ROI on your time, be stern, but fair. Point out that they are taking liberties, and they need to either pay up or get out, and come to some arrangement for settling up that leaves the least ill-feeling, without stitching yourself up. Here I would point out that there are companies in this world who will take any opportunity, real or perceived, to get something on the cheap. If you growl back, most often they back down. If they don't, hey you've got 50%, publish whats done, and leave

If things are a bit slow, or there are other considerations with these clients, invest some time in negotiating with them, bring them to a point where they understand that your original bill was based on certain assumptions of how long it takes to do the work, with REASONABLE scope for revisions. Then point out that they arent being reasonable, and tease more money, or an agreement to go "as is" out of them.

>Present it as "you've triggered the 50% tripwire (which is covered by our contract)."

This, or a variant on the theme should fit the bill nicely (no pun intended)

lizzie




msg:779733
 3:09 pm on Jun 23, 2001 (gmt 0)

I've never done any work ever for a client or company without full payment in advance. You'd be surprised how easy it is--I've never had anyone refuse. This includes fortune 500 companies (interior design work.)

minnapple




msg:779734
 6:14 am on Jun 24, 2001 (gmt 0)

Try these rules in the future.

All projects require an estimate.

All estimates require a written/signed acceptance by the client.

All approvals become a contract.

All contracts require a schedule.

All schedules require a written/signed acceptance by the client.

A percent of contracted price is required before production begins, with the remainder due upon completion.

Alterations/additions over the original contract are billed monthly.

If the project is not completed per schedule due to client, time/materials/expenses are billed on a monthly bases.

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