Category: Managing Clients

Overcoming a String of Bad Clients

Everyone has a bad client sooner or later. It’s a part of building experience as a freelancer. However, it’s easy to get into a pattern where every client can seem like bad client early on in your career. I remember my first couple of years in business. I had clients who:

  • Never paid.
  • Paid late.
  • Pretended like they didn’t understand something we had agreed on in order to try and weasel out of paying me for work I had done.
  • Wanted to negotiate an already low rate on my part.
  • Agreed to my rate and then tried to continually devalue it through negotiation.
  • Had me agree to a flat fee and then expanded the scope through ongoing clarification of what they wanted.
  • Tried to manipulate me with praise to get more work done or lower my estimates.

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Is It Bad Form to Charge for Excessive Calls?

A few years ago, my agency took on a client from a software startup in Toronto. The founder was a guy I will call James. I was doing all the communication with James and when we first discussed supporting his startup, I saw a few red flags in our conversation that revolved around pricing.  However, when I presented him with our rates he still wanted to hire us.

I hate doing calls. I find them to be emotionally and mentally draining. Because of this, I require calls to be scheduled in advance. This helps me to divert people to email for quick questions and prepare myself emotionally for when it is important to get on the phone. Over the course of the two months we worked with James’ company, he regularly called me out of the blue to waste my time discussing something that I had already explained in an email very clearly. I knew it was clear, because he would reiterate what I had told him, sometimes two or three times, but then would go off on tangents. On top of this, he would regularly use the time to complain about our rates. Every time the phone rang my heart would jump with a surge of anger. I wasted a tremendous amount of time and mental energy trying to manage the relationship.

After two weeks, I knew that we needed to get rid of him. I formed a simple plan: I was going to charge him for every time he called and interrupted my workday. I could do this, because when we first discussed our working together I explained that we billed for everything. Our billing policy is simple: we bill for every task your project requires that prevents us from working on another client’s project. Continue reading

Using a Stalled Project Clause to Limit Waiting on Clients

Waiting on clients to review your work or supply you with needed material to continue a project can be extremely frustrating.  It can also be damaging to your business because the gaps in time lower both your and your clients clarity about the scope of the project and your agreement.  It’s not uncommon for scope to expand over time as people forget the details. This often results in additional project management overhead with emails, calls, and meetings even if you’re vigilant and clear about the scope. When the project is not moving forward, you have to try to manage slack into your schedule for the possibility of closing out the previous project and taking on new work. Finally, you’re not getting paid in the meantime which is crappy for your personal cash flow and ulcer inducing if you run a small web development company like I do and have overhead to pay down each month. Continue reading

3 Tips to Prevent a Project from Dragging on For an Eternity

If you’ve worked in web development for any length of time, chances are that you’ve had at least one Frankenstein project that crept along at a snails pace. My personal record was as a freelancer with a two-year project. I was continually waiting on the client for reviews and sign off and when they did get back to me I found that we were often expanding into gray areas of scope- at my expense of course. As the project evolved, I spent countless hours doing research and trying to guide them through these gray areas to successful solutions. As I bent over backwards to help them, they began to expect it. The expanding scope created extra communication in calls, emails, and meetings and required even more time to review before moving onto the next part of the project.

The worst thing about it was that I really liked them and wanted to provide them with a great solution. On second thought, the worst thing about it was that I wasn’t getting paid for all that extra work because it was a fixed bid. The fact that I liked them just helped to make the whole process a smudge more bearable.

While I waited months between the communications to move forward I would dream about the day that the project would finally be completed.

How could I have prevented that slow-motion train wreck? Continue reading