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  1. #1
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    Help! I need advice on problem clients!

    I am having an issue with client delays, which recently is more of an issue.

    I've currently got 5 different web projects all on pause with very little or no client commitment.

    Some of those projects have been paused from 3 months., and I have one which is almost coming to it's 15 month mark.

    Most of those projects I am owed money, and even if I mention the sound of money things become even more difficult. Apart from their own commitment, the payment, or lack of it happens to be a problem.

    Truthfully speaking I've almost had enough with this.

    I understanding that this is mostly my fault, as I did not quality those clients. Most of the problematic clients where family and friends. Obviously this complicates things further... I have no idea what to do to solve the problem.

    I am thinking of just putting their website and services offline and ending the fairy tail from there. There is no point me continuing to host half finished websites and services which I have not been paid for or have any commitment from the client to be paid for.
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  2. #2
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    Hello,

    I'm a Yii developer and I have similiar problems to yours. I tend to avoid doing business with family, because it brings the exact problems you are describing. It is difficult to fix things when they go sour, if clients are your family. I'm guessing you did all your work by verbal contract? In that case, putting site offline might result in lawsuit from their side on the grounds that you are ruining their business. Even if you do have the written contract, if you did not specify that in case of not getting payed, you will put their site down, you cannot do so. At least legally... Anyways I think best way of approaching the problem is talking to your clients about the payment and move on to other projects. I would resort to putting website down as my last option. Better to not get paid, than to not get paid and have an angry customer. That is just my opinion on the subject.
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  3. #3
    Barefoot on the Moon! silver trophy Force Flow's Avatar
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    I'd say send them all letters/emails detailing the situation, saying it's been x months since you're received any feedback and progress has been halted because of it. If they wish the project to continue, they should meet with you about what needs to be done. If not, you'll consider it an abandoned project. As for payment, simply state what is owed and what services would be turned off (I'm assuming you're providing hosting?).

    I *never* do long-term projects for friends/family. They're more trouble than they're worth. If I have to spend more than a week on a project for friends/family, I decline it and help them find someone else who can take care of it for them.
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  4. #4
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    @coding123 ;
    They were all done by verbal contract.

    A written contract is ideal, but from experience they never get signed, even after depositing.

    Even if you do have the written contract, if you did not specify that in case of not getting payed, you will put their site down, you cannot do so.
    I can't possibly host them forever. There needs to be a cutoff point at some stage.

    To be fair I am not entirely happy with the situation. If I am honest withmyself I don't feel like I want another customer. They always stop when money or commitment is involved, only around 30% of the customers are worth their trouble.

    @Force Flow ;
    Thanks for your advice, I won't be taking on friends and family again.

    I provide hosting for all my customers.

    Friends and family are the worse, it seams as if because they are related to me, or have family connections, I must somehow do the work for nothing. There is no appreciation and no commitment from their end.

    What makes good friends, certainly does not make good business.
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  5. #5
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    Sega,

    A couple of points:

    You wrote: A written contract is ideal, but from experience they never get signed, even after depositing.

    There's a simple solution to that: Don't send them a contract that needs to be signed. Just write them a letter (or email), setting out your terms and conditions, and saying that, if they give you the go-ahead to do the work, that will be taken as their acceptance of the contract. That contract will be just as legally binding as one that has a dotted line and two signatures at the bottom.

    Regarding payment. You don't say whether you have actually invoiced for the work yet. If you haven't, then you can't expect to get paid. That's especially true if the client is a business (you said they were mainly family and friends, but presumably they want the sites for business reasons).

    If you haven't invoiced yet, I would suggest you first contact them to try to resolve the issue, but say that, if you don't hear back from them, you will assume they no longer require your services, and you will then invoice for the work done. The point is that, once you've issued the invoice, you have all the normal methods of chasing for payment (increasingly severe letters, threats of legal action, etc.)

    Admittedly, none of this might be appropriate in the family-and-friends scenario. I know it's too late to say this now, but it is something to keep in mind when taking on work on that basis.

    Mike

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    @Mikl ;
    I invoiced them, and in some cases sent reminders. It's hard pricing things that are not yet completed. I have a website pending for 4 months, another for 6, and my longer as started being 15 months.

    How would you charge for a pending task?

    I can't hold onto these clients if they are costing me more money than I am recieving. It really does make bad business sense to keep thing on, regardless of their family connection.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sega View Post
    How would you charge for a pending task?
    Good question. I guess the only way is to base it on the proportion of the work done. If you originally quoted a fixed price, then you will charge a proportion of that price. It's bound to be just an estimate of course. It's easier if the original quote was based on an hourly rate.

    Given that you have already done the invoices, I can only suggest you send some increasingly-stern reminders, right up to threats of legal action if you think that's appropriate.

    As for not wanting to hold onto the clients, that makes perfect sense. They're not much good to you if they don't pay their bills.

    Mike

  8. #8
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    @Mikl ;

    Thanks for you advice. I will certainly do this.

    One more thing which pondered me.

    What would normally happen if you have a client paused for 10 months? Showing no commitment.

    Do you charge the running costs, covering their domain and hosting for this time. I have heard of cases where web designers implement a deadlines e.g. 6 months, wereby they demand the complete amount after this date.

    I have also heard where web designers demanding full payment, after they did their job, and leaving gaps on the clients website.

    We can always work around clients, but how do you normally cope with prolonged client delays? Is there a breakoff point where you just fire them because you don't see it happening.

    Up to now I've never fired a client, so I would love to hear what others do.

    Truthfully speaking I honestly hate this part of my job, and it's the one aspect that controls your livelyhood making it very difficult to get by.
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  9. #9
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    Sega, you asked what I would do if a client paused a job for ten months.

    Basically, I try not to get into that situation. If the work involves any kind of software development or programming, and if the entire scope of the work is known in advance, I will quote a fixed fee. If it's a short project, I will invoice it when I deliver the work. If it's likely to take more than a few weeks, I invoice monthly, for the work done each month. The point is, in that kind of project, there is no opportunity for the client to pause the work.

    But most projects are not like that (as I'm sure you agree). In most cases, the client will not or cannot define the entire work in advance. Or, they try to do so, but leave many loose ends or open decisions. Or, I just know from experience they will not be happy with the first take, and will ask for endless changes. There's nothing wrong with that. But I would never quote a fixed price in those cases. I quote an hourly rate, and bill for the appropriate number of hours each month. If the client is slow in making decisions, that's a nuisance, but at least I would have been paid for the work I've done so far.

    I would add that, in almost every discussion here on Sitepoint where someone is having difficulty getting payment, it comes down to the same problem: A lack of communication between the contractor and the client. In most of those cases, the problem would not have arisen if the contractor and the client had set down together, and the contractor had explained to the client exactly what work the contractor undertaking to do, what the client's responsibilities were (in terms of making decisions or approving stages of the work), and when and how the contractor would bill for the work. I'm not saying that's the case with yourself, Sega. But it is a very common scenario.

    As far as firing a client is concerned, I would not hesitate to do that if the circumstances called for it. If a client was unreasonably slow in paying, and if I had gone as far as I reasonably could in chasing them up, I would give them notice that I would be withdrawing my services unless payment was received by a certain date (and make it clear that I will still press for payment even after I have withdrawn my services).

    And if the client does end up paying, and then wants me to resume work, I would agree to do it if, and only if, the client paid a substantial portion of the expected costs in advance.

    (But I must say that I have very rarely had to take those steps.)

    Mike

  10. #10
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    @Mikl ;

    Thanks, it seams I could have certainly taken measures to reduce this kind of scenario. Your advise certainly helped me gain a better insight to what should be done, rather than just hoping.

    I would have to speak to those clients and likely do some firing
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sega
    I am thinking of just putting their website and services offline and ending the fairy tail from there. There is no point me continuing to host half finished websites and services which I have not been paid for or have any commitment from the client to be paid for.
    That is what I would do. Though I've learned my lesson with family members. I just tell them I'm busy these days. Doing business with family is some of the most aggravating, frustrating, exhausting and thankless things you can do on the face of this planet. At least that has been my experience with family and friends. Though friends seem to be a tad better but not by much. Perhaps there is a way to designate the work as a donation and write it off on taxes or something.
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  12. #12
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    Thanks for your insight @oddz ;

    I certainly could not agree more. Thankless, ungreatful and no to very limited commitment really does come to mind. In either case I will let the clients sit for another month, and then let them go in the best manner. I will need to qualify clients better in the future.
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