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Back in November, I had a conference call with a prospective client about redesigning his company's site. Everything went pretty good, and we agreed on the price and some other basics, so I sent him a contract and worksheets to help them organize the new content. One of the stipilations of the contract was that I would start once I received the signed contract.
Before Christmas I got an e-mail asking if they could make some changes to the contract, and I said okay, (they seemed small enough). So I waited, about a month later, about the middle of January, I got an e-mail telling me that they had all the information and was ready to go. I was starting to think that maybe they were going to go with a different designer, so it was kind of a surprise to get the note. Anyway, I didn't receive the contract, but a few days ago (middle of February) I got a check in the mail for the whole amount of the site, we agreed that they would pay half until final approval.
So some of you may be asking "what's the problem?"
First they picked at the contract, (they may end up being the type that picks at the design too), and still haven't sent it to me, which is a small red flag. Then it's been over 3 months since I first did the roughs for the site, too long to keep the creative thoughts going. And finally there seems to be poor communication in the company, they send the full amount of the design, without having a signed contract or agreement.
My gut is telling me that I should send them their money back, and tell them that too much time has elapsed for the orginal contract to still be valid. But I have only been somewhat sucessful as an independent, so if I could get through it, this could be a useful client.
If you want to be cautious, don't cash the check. Just stick it in a drawer until you get the signed contract back so you can make sure you agree with any changes they've made. Then submit a timeline of milestones for the site design. Tell them something like you have a large project coming up next month so you will need to get their project off the books by the end of the month as you won't be able to get back to it until June. This will generally force them to get off the fence one way or the other.
Some companies are really messing up their administration.
Confirm in an email what you think you have agreed on. Something like: "Welcome as our client. You can expect... as we offered in contract #1234."
JM, to avoid the "waiting for 50% content for 2 years" scenerio, we just started putting in completion dates like this:
50% to begin
25% in 30 days
25% in 60 days or completion, whichever comes first
If not completed in 60 days due to client delay, extra 25% every 30 days until project is complete.
...this gives them the option to take more time if they want, with the costs laid out. And our time is bought, so we don't have to look for more clients to fill the time and yet finish this one, etc.
Our first time presenting it, all the client asked for was a 90 day project end instead of 60... no other problem with it.
Honestly, I'd write the 50% client you've got and tell them they have 90 days to complete before your rates will officially go up...? I mean you might as well walk away from it or re-negiotate it. Surely your rates HAVE risen since then? With inflation if nothing else?
I guess it may seem like a dumb question, but my instincts are telling me that I should steer away from them.
In the very least, as others have said, don't cash the cheque until you have the contract.
Yeah, I'd ask for the contract back before cashing the cheque
Realize that cheques do stale date and are worthless after that (is 3 months or 6?). Try a quick deadline.
you need to see what the changes are. You can say your accountant or lawyer demands it - doesn't matter if you have one or not.
Also, if communication is a problem in their company have them appoint one contact. Make communication that persons issue.
Last also, ..... it sounds like having them agree on when the assignment is finished maybe an issue. When you think it is finished send them a letter to that affect closing the assignment.
Webwoman- I was trying to convince myself of exactly that, to follow my instincts despite the need to get some big clients. Hopefully my instincts are wrong.