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Has "Nightmare Client" Written All Over It
...which is why I should probably run, not walk

 12:18 am on Mar 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have never had a pitch meeting with a prospective client that hit every single one of the "warning signs" so dead on. I know what I am going to do, but thought I would share this anyway. Comments are welcome.

It began with a phone call Friday from the Marketing Rep of the client who advised that they had hired a Web Firm in LA who produced a template that they were very unhappy with. They were going to fire that inidividual and hire local (Warning Sign #1 - dumped their prior developer mid-project. Not ALWAYS a big deal, but inidicative of a client who cannot be satisfied)

I met with this lady today. They need it fast, and they need it cheap (Warning Signs #2 and #3). Fast, because they have already wasted so much time on their other crappy design, (they want it launched within 2 weeks) and cheap, because they have already blown a ton of money on the prior design.

We all know the axiom in this business that "you can have it fast & cheap, fast and excellent, or cheap and excellent, but you can't have all 3.". Not so with this lady.

She asked me, after breaking the news that it needed to be launched in a couple of weeks for near-nothing, if I could mock up a site to help sell it to the client. Warning sign #4 - wanting spec work. Only twice in my career have I mocked up a site as part of a proposal, and twice, I did not get that job.

And finally, she said that if this goes well...there would be a "real" site maybe next year. The client is branching out, so the winner of this charity project would be first in line for the "big" project next year. Warning sign #5...promise of future work in exchange for gimmes on the present project.

Are you KIDDING me?

Oh yes...and "they are interviewing several other firms"

It's nearly a foregone conclusion that I will not get this job. And based on experience, it's very likely I do not want it. If we're dealing with a client who is that demanding (and every time I have EVER assumed a job after the "fired" firm, the client has been a nightmare) it stands to be a real hassle.

So, what I am doing is what I normally do. I am bidding it with standard pricing, standard timeframes. I will put in a clause for expedited service but with a surcharge for same. There will be "max design modifications" built in, and no spec work, under any circumstances.

Expectations are low. If I end up with the job and it turns out to be a good experience, I will post accordingly!



 12:38 am on Mar 16, 2010 (gmt 0)


Fast, Cheap, Correct (can get two of three) I think is what you meant and is the theme I use with folks like this. Good luck! Been there so many times I don't even bother expending time providing detailed quotes.

Please do let us know what happens.


 4:50 am on Mar 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

Okay . . . well . . . take it from a seasoned provider . . . the ball was in your court, and you missed your chance to volley it in your favor.

after breaking the news that it needed to be launched in a couple of weeks for near-nothing,

This was your chance to put on the brakes and steer them straight. When you hear these flags, it's your turn to say "wait a minute - why do your poor decisions become my problem?" Of course, you wouldn't use those words exactly, but this is the point you need to get across. This will make them sit up and listen. Since you passed this one, what's the message?

FISH ON! :-)

Everything else is a dangling carrot, it's clear who is selling to who here . . .

if I could mock up a site to help sell it to the client.

"So . . . this isn't even your site? Sorry, I work directly with clients. No exceptions" (i.e., I shake parasites off my coat tails, thank you very much . . . )

"they are interviewing several other firms"

They probably already have, and are feeding the same bull to all the others. Whoever comes back with the lowest price will be the one to get the job, and also the one they will be complaining about to the next developer when that developer realizes what they've gotten into.

There are entire books out there on how to screw web developers, how to get the rock bottom dollar by playing on our psychology, and this will continue to happen and get worse as (some!) wannabe "web marketers" become educated on the art of exploiting us.

I know that often developers feel the need to "serve the client" supersedes all other directives, but you need to stand your ground, set boundaries, never budge an inch. Define project scope ruthlessly or they will take up every ounce of slack in your proposal.

You know what happens if you do this? Two **major** things: They'll respect you. Second, this will set you apart from those "other firms." Most of them will be playing lapdog, eager to get the job, but when you stand your ground, it brings a sense of reason to the table. The end result is that you'll build a **good** client out of them. But you need to take control of your own part in it.

I have had the most insane clients with the most unrealistic expectations come to me, and done everything short of turning them away. In the end, they appreciate it and turn out to be the best people I've ever worked with.

At this point, I'd weasel my way out of this one, don't even waste your time on the proposal. You just might get the job . . . and you are right, this will be a nightmare, and you might be the next one they dump.

RUN Forest, RUN!


 9:24 am on Mar 16, 2010 (gmt 0)


Points very well taken. In fact, the words "your problems are not my emergency" were ringing through my head.

The "marketer as front man" has never occurred before for me personally, but that's an excellent point and in fact, I can see the potential quagmire working through an intermediary.

That's why I come to this forum! Thanks much for the insight!



 3:40 pm on Mar 16, 2010 (gmt 0)

...which is why I should probably run, not walk

Forget walking or running away- grab lawman's Shelby [webmasterworld.com] and DRIVE away fast!

Spending any more time is most likely just wasting it. rocknbill is right- there were a few moments during the initial consult when you might have been able to swing things your way. But even that's doubtful since it was a 3rd party.


 7:15 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Spend 20 hours...get paid for 10...lose sleep to hit an unrealistic deadline.

I would spend two hours tomorrow calling 30 new companies and introducing myself. If you don't get a better deal out of that, bid the project hourly with 10 hours up front. As for a design for free...ask them to tell you about the last time they gave away their services for free.


 6:37 pm on Apr 17, 2010 (gmt 0)

Say no thank you and leave them alone


 3:57 am on Apr 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

So, what I am doing is what I normally do. I am bidding it with standard pricing, standard timeframes. I will put in a clause for expedited service but with a surcharge for same. There will be "max design modifications" built in, and no spec work, under any circumstances.

Since you might actually get the job (stranger things have happened) I would recommend that you double your normal rates since it is 'an emergency'


 8:01 pm on Jun 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

hey mcjohnson, it's not a company selling a weight loss supplement is it? This sounds almost identical to a customer I refused earlier this year.


 8:21 pm on Jun 7, 2010 (gmt 0)


no, it was for a dentist. But the person I was meeting with was the outside "marketing consultant".

I am thrilled to say that in the months since then, I have gotten booked so solid that I would not even get past the meeting in a case like this. Things are looking up.


 3:08 am on Jun 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have recently had a customer just like this however not quite so bad. They wanted a large job completed in a short time and they told me their budget.

I politely said 'no' then told them the price was too low and I am unable to start any projects for another 3 weeks. Then they agreed to pay considerably more and the project was set on hold until I was available.

I was stunned to say the least. Firstly that they would change their minds so quickly and secondly that they would even try that on in the first place.

One thing I've recently found is that it's far better to turn down these projects and maybe have a light month (where you can catch up on internal jobs) than to accept them and be working 18 hour days for very little income.

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