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So I'm after some advise from anyone whose been in a similar position.
I knew he would want more of my time, than most other clients and allowed for this in my costings. He announced himself that he would be " the worst client I've ever had ".
Although I wasn't expecting this... He doesn't return calls or respond to emails. So a month ago I sent him a letter saying that I was uncomfortable in letting this situation go on, and would he let me know whether he would like to proceed with the project? If so then he'd need to send me the content.
So far I've completed a holding page, rough drafts of the site and he has a hosting account with me.
I've not been able to speak to him for a couple of months now, although when we did talk before christmas, he was very apologetic, and said "goodness you must be wondering what's going on, I'll get the files to you by next week, I know I've said it before but I really will this time, I've had a few problems lately with a major job"
Ok, so now I'm not sure what to do. Whether to send another letter stating that if I don't receive the content in 30 days, I can only assume that he no longer wishes me to go ahead and then make the appropriate deductions from the deposit, work completed so far and a "loss of profit" figure. And then draw the project to a close.
Which then only leaves his hosting account to be paid for in July.
I do actually get the odd call from his staff, asking me to reset passwords on email acounts, and once would i pop in and fix their office network. Being that I've not completed the project they aren't on a maintenance agreement yet.
I'm fairly new at running my own business, so any advise would be very welcome.
Thanks in advance...
Most of them will also drag things on and on, then when they finally do give you the content, they expect you to drop everything and finish the site in a couple of hours.
My recommendation is to figure out how much of his deposit you want to refund then send him a check. Write a nice note explaining that you don't feel comfortable holding on to the money since it looks like the project will never go forard. If that kick starts him into a flurry of activity, great. If not, then move on and forget about it as he's never going to give you what you need.
The domain name even expired recently and I renewed it for them for a couple of years...they had let it run out. They even sent me a 1099 for last year.
I would just sit tight and if they don't ever do anything then it's not your fault. If they do, then do them a nice website. It is weird admittedly...but some people have so much money that it isn't that big of a deal to them.
Another common cause of this situation is that clients often don't know where to start producing content. I know it sounds odd when it's their business but people tend to overcomplicate tasks like this in their heads. They start trying to think about what you might want rather than what the customer wants to see - this causes mental block. Perhaps you should try to start them off on the content creation process? Maybe you could meet them, or have a teleconference where you discuss what is needed? You may have already told them but I suspect that if you have they've forgotten 90% of what you said because, as I said before, they'e busy people and only remember the urgent short-term stuff.
Hope this helps.
Perhaps you could write them a (very polite, non-pushy) letter saying that, as it's taking a while for the content to be ready, you're going to be working on other projects in the interim (unless they're able to get the content to you within the next x days), so therefore you'll need advance notice of y days when they want to continue the project, so you can make yourself available.
(The implication is that if the content suddenly appears in 6 months time, you're not going to be instantly available to work on it).
PS I don't think you need to feel uncomfortable about holding on to the deposit - the reason you asked for a deposit was to cover exactly this situation, no? The deposit is their commitment that they want to go ahead with the work, if they change their minds about that then they forfeit the deposit. It's standard practise in many industries, they must have understood that when they signed the contract.
Perhaps you could help with the content creation process by sending them a checklist or list of questions relating to content? Adding a structure, and specific questions, may just give them the push they need. There are a few good threads in the Content, Writing and Copyright [webmasterworld.com] forum:
Content For The Smaller Site [webmasterworld.com]
Building Business Content 101 [webmasterworld.com]
How To Brief A Content Writer [webmasterworld.com]
If you have a contract you might look at it terms of what should be said about deposits and termination. There is plenty of good material around about how to handle these matters.
However, for your current situation it would be best to maintain a positive relationship. Send them a brief letter, perhaps, saying that you will need x-days notice when they resume.
Also offer to help to organize content information. But keep the letter brief and positive.
They are typical of so many organizations that try to do more than they have time to handle. Something will suddenly prompt them to get going. They could turn out to be your best reference. In the meantime consider them part of that wonderful business thing called "backlog".
And I definitely agree with the advice about specifying that since it has been so long you will need X days to start working on the project again if/when you finally get the content.
I will "hang on in there" I don't really want to loose the job, as it would be a great project to do and a real bonus in my portfolio.
Being that I'm fairly new to the business end, just thought I may be missing the signal to wrap it up.
I have offered to help him with his content, and he said there was "no need", I do think he's incredibly disorganised.
I'll write to him and state that I will need notice to begin his work, and take it from there.
"oh what a learning curve running your own business is..."
For starters, I wouldn't do any maintenance until they send additional content. If they don't respond for a while, I change the layout a bit and sell it to someone else, in my experience not even 5% of people who lag on content ever come through later.
Most of the time, once we chat to the client about the idea, they agree to pay extra for the service (after all they hadn't got round to it in several months).
Even if you have to cover the cost yourself, it may be nothing compared to the benefit of getting the project finished and the balance of payment.