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I signed a client for a flat fee redesign project in late August (my first mistake!). It was supposed to be a very small project, however this client called every day to change his mind about one element or another while I was still designing his template for him to approve. He even went so far as to look up my home number and call me on a Sunday morning at home when I wasn't answering my business line. (Just to clarify--I wasn't answering because I didn't hear it, not because I was trying to avoid him).
As the project progressed, he would add "little" things to what he wanted done. Quite often within a day or two decide that he wanted a change that he just requested removed.
I'm a "nice" person and I try to go out of my way for my clients and give them a little extra then what we contracted for. But, this guy pushed me to the point where I had to put my foot down and I told him that after x, y, z were complete my contract would be fulfilled and that I would be charging an hourly rate for any work he requested beyond that. I even got him to sign a document to that effect with my hourly rate on it--so there were no surprises.
Well, here's where I need some advice. I sent him his bill for October which was almost $600 with the taxes. Today I received an email from him stating that he was "surprised" at the amount of the bill. Let me just add at this point that I use a timer software on my computer, and I round to the nearest 5 minute increment, and I sent him the print out from the software which showed the activity, the start time, and the time taken. Most of it was small 10 minute things--but they add up.
Now he wants me to train his son-in-law how to make updates to the pages so that he can cut costs. But, he wants me to do it in less than an hour at my regular rate.
I have several problems with this, the biggest one being that I would normally charge a much higher rate for software training and I would charge for the trainging time, prep time and travel time. Is that unreasonable? Generally the training I do is for various non-net related software programs, or business marketing. I'm not in the habit of training someone how to do my job so that they can put me out of business.
Part of me is thinking that this guy has been such a pain in the butt that I should just do the training at the regular rate and cut my losses. However, since I am still a new business and don't have much of an income yet, that would put a severe dent in my cash flow.
I'm considering several options:
1) Do the training as is and cut my losses
2) Refer him to some online html tutorials and tell him that he can contact me with questions and my regular fee would apply
3) Do the training, but at the rates I would normally charge for software training, prep and travel time
4) Try to offer him a monthly package (I could be asking for heaps of trouble with this one!)
5) Tell him that I don't train people so that they can put me out of business, and that if he wants his son-in-law to make the changes he can take courses in how to do it at the college (okay, this is the B**** in me, but he's really ticked me off!)
Has anyone ever had a similar situation? Any advice?
Thanks for the help!
You make a good point about the $600. I haven't received a payment yet. He wants me to do the training this Tuesday, so maybe he's trying to not pay and still get the training so that his site can carry on without interruption. Maybe I should tell him that I won't do anything until his cheque clears in my bank account. Hmmm....
You can tell him you need to get paid before you can do the training just to get him to pay you. But don't do the training.
If he doesn't pay, tell him you will contact a credit agency and/or take him to small claims court. If he still doesn't pay, call a credit agency and take him to small claims court.
Okay, so my game plan is to tell him we can discuss the issue once I receive payment. Then, once the payment clears at my bank tell him that I don't do training and refer him to some online tutorials.
How does that sound?
As a startup, offer great service, great support, a great product. Build your reputation. If he is mad and bad mouthing you, it costs more than the dollars on his project. Keep him happy if you can.
For the training, I guess it depends on what tools are used to update the site. If it's so easy that I can teach it in an hour, I'd like to know more about it. Platform, CMS, ...?
Once you've been paid the current amount, a nice way to handle the training is to tell the guy it's not an hour deal, and since you have concerns about his expectations, refer him to the massive amount of info online. If he really wants training, count all the time.
On the other hand, if it's a really easy update tool, the guy will brag that his son is doing the updates, and might refer people to you to build the site.
Ongoing costs are a real problem for many businesses. They avoid them like the pox.
If you actually manage to teach his son enough in an hour to do the updates, the guy will think it's all easy-peasy and your original fee was way overpriced.
If you don't teach his son sufficiently in an hour, then he'll figure you haven't lived up to your end of the bargain.
AND if you teach his son what you can in an hour and then his son goes in and destroys the site, he'll blame you for that, too, for not teaching him right.
Where in any of these scenarios do you come out ahead?
Now they want a whole lot more work done. We are stalling at the moment but I agree with some of the comments regarding keeping the client happy. There is a lot of potential damage in an unhappy client.
The main lesson I have learnt is to set and rigid contract down before you start, no matter how much of a hurry the client is in.
I have to agree with everyone with not burning your bridges. What I described above is my own drastic example and I would not want you or anyone else to go through it.
With that said, I decided not to do the training (for the reasons Sonjay pointed out, and more) and to cut myself off from this client as politely as I could.
I told him that training is not a service that I offered and referred him to several online tutorials that his son-in-law could read to make the revisions.
I then told him that I have other clients with firm deadlines on the go so I wouldn't be able to accept any further work from him at this time. And I thanked him for his business.
Thanks again for the help! :)
Would you believe that this guy emailed me back after I tried to cut ties and stated that he "detected" some resentment in my email?
Even with saying that, he still wants me to do updates to his site later on! Oy! :o
I haven't written back yet as I'm too busy with my other clients, but boy was I surprised by this one!
for clients who wish to do their own updates I usually set up some sort of cms, but I charge them an arm and a leg. It may sound a little shady to some people, but hey I'm not in the business of putting myself out of work.
When someone asks me to teach them, I kindly inform them that it simply wouldn't be worth it for them. The hours it would take me to teach them properly would be so great that it would be cheaper for them to just pay me to do the updates myself. If you get some idiot who demands that you do it in less than an hour, just simply inform him that it's not possible to do. You are in now way obligated to be ordered around by this man. Stay professional and respectful, but don't let people walk all over you.
Is this a formula for success?
I have stopped doing flat rate jobs. Instead, I tell them my minimum (only if they look like they will be well below it), and I show them a handful of sites I have done and tell them that "these sites ran about $#*$! to $xxxx; the more expensive ones wanted lots of changes ... " or something like that.
The benefit is that there is no "getting more/less than you paid for" possible.
To quote a job solely by an hourly rate (unless it is very simple - less than a days work) implies an inability to define, describe, and estimate the project; a lack of professional and business ability. It is open to dispute: time required to do each task, etc.
Writing good proposals and subsequent contracts is where many tech contractors fail. It is skill that is very necessary to succeed in the longterm, especially when bidding for work from larger enterprises who pay their employees hourly and their contractors by invoice as per contract.
Regarding clients that want to be taught - I refer them to the closest community college and suggest an online search for tutorials. The only exception is if specific training for specific persons is included as part of a CMS installation contract.
Like all services if you are going to provide training you have to plan and price accordingly - it is not an afterthought.
First thing I'd do is make sure I got paid. Then I'd decide how I felt about the training. *If* you decide to go ahead and train them I'd be charging more not less. After all you're effectively putting yourself out of work.
Having said that after I got the money I'd tell him to go jump. From how you've described his behaviour he's either really stupid or seriously expoiting you.
Good luck whatever you do!
I would tell the guy nicely but firmly, sir I have been more than leanent with my terms, and this is not normal practice for a web contract.
This customer has finally paid, so that is no longer an issue.
It's now been 2 weeks since I've heard from him, so hopefully that's the end of it.
I've taken the comments from several of you and have revised my contract to be much more detailed in what I will offer and how changes will be handled.
To flat rate a job successfully is simply to describe (by contract) exactly what will be done, when, where, and at what price, with a method to allow for mutually agreed changes. For clarity it can help to note specific exclusions (perhaps with additional optional pricing attached).
Further (at least in the US) you cannot substitute for the court and bring down the site without court clearance
You can be prosecuted for that; ironic isn't it?
re the training--I always tell clients who ask about this that I've been a webmaster for ___ years and ___ years in college taking internet classes and they will have to take classes for ____ years to catch up to what I know (most of which is via experience so add on ____ years of experience also). I would refuse to train anyone. Tell them to take a nite course at a community college or something.
I also write at the bottom of each estimate--anything requested other than what is stipulated above will be added onto the final bill at $--- per hour.