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I'd love some advice on some clients!

 4:29 pm on Apr 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hello everyone! Iím new here and I wanted to get some opinions, if you have some time! This is going to get REALLY long, so bear with me if you can! Iíll at least make readable paragraphs! I have been designing sites and graphics for over 10 years now. However, Iíve completely under priced myself for too long. Most of my clients are stay at home moms (like myself) who have businesses they run from home, usually childrenís clothing for sale. You get the idea!

Anyhow, Iíve never felt the need to use contracts (great business head here!) because Iíve had great clients. However, my two most recent clients are about driving me to drink. Iím usually pretty clear about what Iím offering for the price theyíre paying. But it seems, these two clients are really taking advantage of me.

The first one gave me a clear Ė It looks great, publish it. Then days later, they wanted major changes and couldnít believe that I wanted to charge them for my time. Iíve got some nerve wanting to be paid for my time and energy, huh? Then they asked if I would do maintenance on the site. I said sure a few changes here or there, no problem. I literally get an email every two days for additions or removals. These people are insane! I have been paid through June to continue the maintenance on the site. So my question about them is, would you just grin and bear it and tell them to buzz off when the time expires or would you refund the remaining balance and tell them to buzz off early? There is no way in Hades Iím keeping them on as clients when the term is over.

Now, the other issue I have with another client. No contract with them eitherÖbrilliant, huh? Anyhow, Iíve done 5, yes 5 mock-ups that they keep wanting changed. My site clearly says Iíll do 2. Itís 2 ladies running this small business and apparently they donít read the emails they each send to me. One of them likes the blue, the other wants it changed to green. One wants this font, they other wants that font changed. The list goes on and on! So I think I need to email them letting them know that they need to get together and put their final thoughts into ONE email and Iíll do one more mockup.

Let me also mention, their site is mostly handmade graphics by me, because they want to use ridiculous fonts that not everyone has, so I have to make graphics and slice and map them. Plus theyíve taken weeks and weeks to get me just general info. Iíd also like to draw up a contract too, so I can outline what I will do at this point, but do you think itís to late for this? Do I just need to grin and bear it with them?

Iím so tired of people not getting it. I know theyíre not designers and donít know the ins and outs, but geesh, some of it is common sense, ya know? Thanks for getting through this and I really do appreciate any and all help and advice that anyone can give.


[edited by: coopster at 3:15 pm (utc) on April 25, 2009]
[edit reason] no signatures please TOS [webmasterworld.com] [/edit]



 4:48 pm on Apr 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

So, have you finally learned your first lesson (i.e., ALWAYS use contracts)?

I said sure a few changes here or there, no problem.

And being vague is almost as bad as having no contract. When you write your contract, use specific language like "Maintenance plans include up to x hours of work/month."

With your problem clients (no- make that ALL your clients), make a contract NOW specifying the limits to your work. Explain that going forward, the contract will apply to any work performed (or not performed). And make sure that ALL requests/approvals go through e-mail or fax so that you have a paper trail.

After that point, anything outside the contract should result in a message from you stating that it is outside the contract, but you would be happy to perform it at $X price. Problem solved.

If they don't like it, they can go elsewhere. And your problem is still solved!

In regards to refunding any money, look at it on a case by case basis. In some cases, it may just be worth it to refund some (or even all) of the money just to be done with them.

Itís 2 ladies running this small business and apparently they donít read the emails they each send to me.

Your contract should stipulate *one* point of contact at the company who will authorize all approvals/changes. If Betty is the POC (point of contact) and Mary says, "Oh, but Betty said this design is okay," then you respond, "I'm glad she likes it. Please have Betty e-mail or fax me the approval and I will get started right away."


 4:52 pm on Apr 23, 2009 (gmt 0)

This is great advice and I do appreciate it. And trust me, I have learned my lesson! I've started working on a general contract that can be easily changed on a case by case basis.

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to me! Now I'm going to go back through your advice and start my emails to my favorite (note sarcasm!) clients!


[edited by: coopster at 3:16 pm (utc) on April 25, 2009]
[edit reason] no signatures please TOS [webmasterworld.com] [/edit]


 3:25 am on Apr 24, 2009 (gmt 0)

I don't have much advice other than that you may want to take your name/business name out of your signature in case those"problem clients" google you. WebmasterWorld posts have a habit of ranking highly ;)

Fortune Hunter

 1:33 am on Apr 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

Welcome to Webmaster World. I wish your first foray into our community weren't under such adverse circumstances, but many of us have been where you are at.

I have learned my lesson! I've started working on a general contract that can be easily changed on a case by case basis.

I completely agree with Asia about contracts, but an alternative to a full blown legal contract is a simple letter of agreement that states what you will deliver, for what price, and when. My typical "contract" is actually just one page and has these major items in it. For most of my web projects this is all I use. When I start getting into consulting work as well they get a little more detailed and may run several pages, but in those cases I am being paid about 10 times more money so it behooves me to be a little more detailed.

No matter what format you use though NEVER do a project again without a written agreement of some type. A contract written with the most pale ink ever made will out do the "best" memory everyday :)

Meenakshi Mosaic

 4:42 am on Apr 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

Yes; single point of contact, timelines, quantitative estimation of efforts, written guidelines/approvals, MOM incase of call's make life easier. :)


 7:01 am on Apr 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

Keep it simple, but do it in writing... even something as simple as a purchase order or invoice. A contract is better, of course!

Handshake deals are okay for beer and barbecue but little else.

For "x" I will do "y" by "z". (Signed) or (paid) will get 'er done.

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