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  1. #1
    SitePoint Enthusiast awrowe's Avatar
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    What to do, what to do?

    Alright, here's my problem.

    I was recently hired by someone to create a Mambo template, organise a domain, get the website up and running and as an ongoing arrangement, administer the website.

    The work was extremely time critical and I'm happy to say that I managed to get template, domain and website designed, up and running within three days. I submitted the sites to the eight major search engines using the tool supplied by the hosting provider and started the fine tuning of the site.

    Within five days, I had managed to get the site to first place on the MSN search for a phrase which was closely related to the website's subject. Thats something I was very proud of - although I don't know enough about the MSN search engine to know whether I should be or not. I read somewhere that it seems to give new sites or very recently updated sites preference. In any case, that was the first time I had seen one of my site's reach a position like that and it was a special feeling.

    All during the design process, I had been emailing the client with design concepts until we got what she was looking for.

    I had also written out a long user manual for the site which instructed her how to put content onto the site and in the right places, without having to go into the back end. The client is somewhat computer illiterate.

    After everything was done and dusted (bar the administration) I got a call asking me to come over to the clients house to help her work the website. She had been having trouble logging on and was suspecting that I had made the site unavailable to her or that I had given her a site which didn't work.I did this, to find five of her son's friends there standing around being threatening, while the client herself spent 45 minutes ranting at me and telling me how I had ripped her off. (As agreed, I had been paid for the design work after the website was up and running, but minus any of the content, which she was supposed to provide)

    The problem ended up being that she had put a tick next to "Work Offline" in Internet Explorer.

    At the end of the rant, she pointed to one of the men standing around and said "From now on, HE is going to be managing the website not you".

    I had been sacked.

    Under ordinary circumstances, I would just shrug this off and attribute the rant to some sort of chemical imbalance and not bother about it any more.

    Problem is though, before I left, I turned the the new 'administrator' and asked him whether he a) knew how to administrate in Mambo; b) knew anything at all about computers, and c) told him where all the passwords and information about the hosting was. He said he did know mambo, and yes he did know about computers ("I've got a laptop you know!") and "right, I won't have any problems".

    Since that day, I have visited the site out of morbid curiousity and seen that there has been absolutely no content go onto the site, nothing else has been done with it. On top of that, last night I got a phone call from the client asking me how to go about changing things on the website and asking whether I could please go around there and help them.

    I did the site originally as a bit of a marketing exercise. I'm a fairly new business on the block and I wanted to get some examples of sites I could point at and say "I did that", so I did the site very cheaply to begin with. Also, the lady was in dire need of the site for all sorts of reasons and because of her situation, I felt a little sorry for her.

    I don't know what to do though. With the way I've been treated by them, I really want to tell them to fold their site into lots of sharp corners and stick it where it hurts, but at the same time, the site itself has a lot of potential and I would like to be able to point to it and say "I did that".

    My wife tells me I should go over there tonight for exactly an hour, spend the hour teaching the client and the 'administrator' how to work Mambo. If it takes any longer than the hour I would give them for free, I should charge them 25 per hour or part thereof. She reasons that the only reason I would go over there is so I can say to myself that I have done everything possible to make sure the site worked for her and was what she wanted.

    I don't know what to do with this. If I'm off the job, I'm off the job. If I'm off the job but she wants me to fix this for her and I do, is she going to call me twice a week to do the same thing? I get the feeling she will. Her "web master" doesn't even know what an ftp client is, so I can't imagine he will be much help with the site itself.

    What do you all think?

    cheers,

    Alan

  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard Lil_Red's Avatar
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    When you signed the contract with the client, did you stipulate that you would provide x hours of support per month on the site? Did you stipulate a fee for continuing hours worked?

    If the answer to these questions is no then move on to the next project. Your time is money and clients like these can be both a financial and emotional drain on you.

  3. #3
    Non-Member Egor's Avatar
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    If you feel someone is taking advantage of you, and you fall into it, then, there's no doubt they'll do it again, and again, and again...

  4. #4
    SitePoint Enthusiast awrowe's Avatar
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    When you signed the contract with the client, did you stipulate that you would provide x hours of support per month on the site? Did you stipulate a fee for continuing hours worked?
    Unfortunately no, we didn't stipulate the number of hours I would provide for site administration. Thats lesson number one learned for me.

    We did however agree on a fixed amount per month for administration (which was foolish of me, without the above I think). Because of the time limitations however, nothing was written down - we agreed that we would sort that out when time became available.

    Thats lesson number 2 drawn from this. EVERYTHING gets written down. I am right now in the process of setting up a section on my site which stipulates this. Everything, from reasonable expenses up gets written down and signed by both parties BEFORE work commences. I think I would rather not have the work than be in this situation again.

    If you feel someone is taking advantage of you, and you fall into it, then, there's no doubt they'll do it again, and again, and again...
    Thats what I'm afraid of. I won't let it happen though.

  5. #5
    SitePoint Addict orion_joel's Avatar
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    Hmm if you dont have a fixed contract and have already completed the site and been paid then in reality you dont ahve any thing more you have to do. The only problem could arise that they will say you had a verbal agreement which starts the we said they said argument. Maybe look to do it once but if you have caller id in future maybe not answer the phone to them.

    You just do not need clients like that enough to bother dealing with them. It is much easier to say no to a client you expect to be problems then it is to deal with them every time they want somthing.
    Joel Brown - Orion Networks
    Techie-Central New Updated Style and Forums
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  6. #6
    SitePoint Enthusiast
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    Our first break turned out to be a nightmare. We did the work for free on the basis a friend of mine would take our work to his contacts for us as an example of what we could do. We did the work and the "IT Person" at his firm promptly butchered the site.

    The way we got around this is we showed our next prospective client the site WE developed as an example and didn't send him to the destroyed site.

    We got that job and have never looked back.

    Don't let people take advantage of you. Either things go the way they were agreed or they don't go at all. Really highlights the importance of protecting yourself through your contract and standard processes.

  7. #7
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    Exclamation

    So you completed the initial work stage, got paid for it and were then sacked.

    Now they want you to work for free.

    It's not even worth seriously considering saying yes. Even if you were to give free assistance there's no assurance either that the new server admin will do a good job and make the site into something you can be proud of, or that the client will give you any credit for it, both of which you need if you're to show the site as a portfolio work to other prospective clients. From the situation you've described, I'd say that they're likely to fail you in both respects.

    An informal maintenance contract isn't worth the paper it isn't written on, particularly if someone else has been appointed to replace you. She can't enforce it and even if she wants to make a big noise about it, most reasonable client is probably going to believe your side of the story. And it's the reasonable clients you want to be dealing with in the future. Time to move on...

  8. #8
    SitePoint Addict LittleFigment's Avatar
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    Do absolutly nothing free for this woman. You did them a cheap deal and got no respect. If they want any more from you state clearly your new high price and get paid in advance.

  9. #9
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    For god's sake don't do anymore work for them - I can't believe you're even contemplating working with these people after what they've done. Move on and learn from your mistakes!

  10. #10
    SitePoint Enthusiast awrowe's Avatar
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    Hello all and thanks for your replies. You have given me a lot to think about and I believe I have learned a lot as well.

    My problem is, I don't want to give them the opportunity to say I haven't done a good job. I can't point to search engine results, because they have no idea what they mean. I can't point to the already growing member list, because they have no idea what that takes. I can't point to the design of the site, because they have no idea what is involved.

    I realise that most if not all sensible people would listen to the story and see what I have done is in all probability the right thing to do, but its left a rather bad taste in my mouth and I want to prove the *******s wrong. I guess my pride has taken a hit too.

    That said though, I can't educate these people. I don't have the time or the inclination. I'll give them the hour I promised them tonight, then tell them if they want any more help, each hour or portion of an hour they take up, on the phone, by email or in person is going to cost them 25. They certainly won't want to pay that and there is no way in hell I am going to enter into another business arrangement with them.

    Alan

  11. #11
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    Personally, I wouldn't do any work for these people again and tell them exactly why their behaviour is inappropriate and unprofessional. Some people just aren't worth the aggravation they give you.

    I can understand that you want to salvage something from the project but, believe me, it'll all end in tears. The best thing to do is get out now and put it down to experience.

    This side of running business can be very difficult in the early stages but I promise it does get easier as time goes on. No matter what you decide to do, you will learn some great lessons that will help you in your future as a businessman.

    I wish you the very best of luck.

  12. #12
    SitePoint Enthusiast awrowe's Avatar
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    People, thanks very much for your comments. They have made me feel an awful lot better about this situation.

    As a small update to whats happening, I went around to the clients house last night at their request to show them what they needed to do to update the site (again).

    Instead of even attempting to let me do that, the client started complaining about the money she had paid me for the site, told me I was being deceptive for organising hosting in the US rather than the UK and that she was going to be going to her solicitor tomorrow.

    She also told me she was 'being polite' when she said she liked the site and she didn't actually like it at all.

    I told her I would be looking forward to her solicitors letter and walked out.

    Lessons I have learned from this experience:

    1. Always get a contract written down, which contains all expectations from both the client and myself.
    2. Each major step of the project will be signed off by both the client and myself, either in writing or by email.
    3. Always get a contract written down. See Item 1 again.
    4. Any payment for site design will come in stages, probably as each step of the project is signed off. I am considering how to set up a system where an advance fee, similar to a retainer would be paid. If anyone has any idea's on this, please let me know.


    This entire experience has left me with a rather nasty taste in my mouth, but from another perspective, I have learned an awful lot from it. I won't be making these mistakes again.

    Alan

  13. #13
    SitePoint Enthusiast
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    In reply to your point 4:

    Write your payment terms into your written contract. Something along the lines of 50% up front before work can begin, 30% after the design is completed (strictly 14 days or all work stops), and the balance before the site goes online and before copyright (if you do actually do this) is transfered to the client.

    You may wish to attach different types of milestones that require payment than the ones I've detailed above. Many use time as a milestone e.g. % payment up front, % payment after so many weeks, % payment after so many more weeks. This is a good one if you have problems with clients who can't get around to sending you content and so the project drags on for years. It won't matter because you will have been paid regardless.

    Hope this helps.

  14. #14
    SitePoint Enthusiast awrowe's Avatar
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    So payment up front is fairly standard then? I know that might seem like a silly question, but until now, I have never really seen the need for that. I generally preferred to leave the payment till after I had delivered.

    In point of fact, this client I mentioned above tried 3 times to pay me before the site had been started and I refused each time. I told her it wouldn't be fair to take the money if I couldn't fulfil what she wanted. Kind of funny she is now kicking up a stink about it.

    Add lesson number 5 to the list above:

    When doing a business deal, a firm handshake and looking the client in the eye is NOT ENOUGH.

    Alan

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    Rocket Scientist
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    It sounds like you have learnt an important lesson there, but I can't believe the nerve of the client just because of their own ignorance!

    I learnt from a very similar situation too - always writing stuff down is so important

    On a side note, I'm from Northumberland too!

  16. #16
    Rocket Scientist
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    Quote Originally Posted by awrowe
    So payment up front is fairly standard then? I know that might seem like a silly question, but until now, I have never really seen the need for that. I generally preferred to leave the payment till after I had delivered.
    I've always asked for 1/2 upfront, but often settled for 1/3 if the client wasn't happy. I wouldn't take any big job on with nothing till the end after being stung before.

  17. #17
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    I wouldn't say its standard but its very common. Not only do you get a non-refundable deposit (make sure you put this in the contract if you do plan on not refunding any monies) which you keep even if the client backs out (kinda keeps them involved and tells them your serious) but it is good cash flow management also.

    Think of good cash flow management as getting money in faster and paying your bills slower. You will put yourself in a much stronger business position this way.

  18. #18
    _ silver trophy ses5909's Avatar
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    Another thing you need to do is after you create the site design and she approves it (whether she is being polite or not), create a site acceptance letter. Print out the layout and design and any additional graphics (like a logo) you specially made, then write a short paragraph stating that the client accepts this design for their site and any further changes made will require additional payment. Then both of you sign it. I do this for every client.
    Sara

  19. #19
    SitePoint Enthusiast awrowe's Avatar
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    Thanks very much people. I'm putting all of these suggestions into play as we type.

    I'm not going to get caught like this again. Even if I'm doing a favour for someone, there are going to be procedures dammit.

    thanks again,

    Alan

  20. #20
    Webwellwisher Robert Warren's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by awrowe
    I'm not going to get caught like this again. Even if I'm doing a favour for someone, there are going to be procedures dammit.
    And the number one procedure should be: when the client questions your honor, they're officially no longer your client. Wrap the contract, settle your obligations, head for the door and don't look back, no matter how apologetic they are about it later on when they need you. That should be a capital offense in your book.

    People like your client and her "administrator" generally don't like being taught; they'd much rather you just confirm what they already believe. They had already accused you of dishonesty, so of course that would be their default position going forward - there was absolutely no way to make them happy, short of perhaps ritual suicide.

    My policy is to never, ever, under ANY circumstances work again with a client who has questioned my honor. My prices, sure. My practices, okay. Service, fine. Product, well, okay, we'll talk. But never my honor. The accusation against your integrity was more than enough to cut her loose without another word.

  21. #21
    SitePoint Enthusiast SheWritesCopy's Avatar
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    AMEN Robert!
    I couldn't agree more. Awrowe, there are THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS of potential clients looking for your services on the net. Don't get bogged down on this one. You did your best, now let it go.
    Anita Franklin
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    Creating copy that works as hard as you do.

  22. #22
    SitePoint Enthusiast
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    Quote Originally Posted by awrowe
    Thanks very much people. I'm putting all of these suggestions into play as we type.

    I'm not going to get caught like this again. Even if I'm doing a favour for someone, there are going to be procedures dammit.

    thanks again,

    Alan
    what is the URL of the site?

  23. #23
    SitePoint Enthusiast Dancer555's Avatar
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    Hi Alan,

    Sounds like you've been through the wringer with these people.

    We had a similar situation that ended up in small claims court and the client didn't even show up. She sent a friend who was in law school to try and intimidate us. Fortunately for me, I printed out every single email, piece of paper and everything that was ever passed between the client and me. I walked into that court with a 3 inch binder of customer comments like, "You guys are great. I love it."

    Quote Originally Posted by awrowe
    So payment up front is fairly standard then? I know that might seem like a silly question, but until now, I have never really seen the need for that. I generally preferred to leave the payment till after I had delivered.

    In point of fact, this client I mentioned above tried 3 times to pay me before the site had been started and I refused each time. I told her it wouldn't be fair to take the money if I couldn't fulfil what she wanted. Kind of funny she is now kicking up a stink about it.

    Add lesson number 5 to the list above:

    When doing a business deal, a firm handshake and looking the client in the eye is NOT ENOUGH.

    Alan
    As far as money goes, we started out getting a third, third and a third but found that was too hard and we wanted more money up front. So we now, after 4 years of business, get 1/2 up front and balance upon completion after the site has been made live.

    We are even in the process of changing the balance to be due upon approval of final site before it goes live. Then once payment is received, we launch the site with fanfare.

    Anyway, you'll get better at spotting these clients right off the bat. If they question your pricing right from the beginning, just thank them for their time and tell them that you don't think your compaines are a good match for each other. Remember, it's a 2-way street.

    Hope that helps.
    Dancer555
    ************************
    PointVision Web Development
    Web Development for Association and Non-Profits

  24. #24
    SitePoint Enthusiast awrowe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bugalugs
    what is the URL of the site?
    Bugalugs, at the moment I'm feeling so annoyed at these people that I would prefer not to give them even one more visitor to their site than I have already sent their way. The last thing I did with that site was to remove the footer information I added which included the link to my site. I don't even want their inbound link.

    Robert, you are absolutely right. Even outside of work, if someone impugnes my honour, I cut them loose immediately. As far as I am concerned, its an unforgivable offence which I won't tolerate. To add yet another lesson to the few I have listed above, if I won't take offensive behaviour on a personal level, there is no way in the world that I should take it from a professional one. That has just become my number one policy for dealing with difficult clients, if I should happen to deal with any more like these ones.

    SheWritesCopy, As you can see from what I have written so far in this post, thats exactly what I have done. I have totally disassociated myself from the client now. As far as I am concerned, the client can do whatever she wants with the site. I am secure in myself knowing that I have done everything I possibly could to keep her happy.

    Dancer555, you are right, this was probably one of the worst client experiences I have had. It has actually had me lying awake at night trying to figure out what I could have done differently, but no matter which way I go through it, I am convinced the only thing I could have done was to not have taken the job.

    I have wandered around the net looking for different strategies for this issue and I found this article, which I wish I had read before I met this particular client.

    Read it now though, so I know what sort of processes I need to go through to sort the clients into "bad" and "good" baskets.

    Once again, thanks very much for all your advice and words of comfort - it has been an amazing help.

    Time to move forward and use the lessons learned from it I think.

    cheers,

    Alan

  25. #25
    SitePoint Zealot medicus's Avatar
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    Lets say hypotheticaly there was a briliant IT manager in my version of the story. The manager went into a tantrum not knowing why his computer didn't work and calls the IT guy in. Now the IT guy checks and finds the computer unplugged and fixes it back into the socket. The manager fires the IT guy.

    Few days later and the whole system is in disarray. Would the IT guy :
    A) Refuse to work totaly for this firm ?
    B) Agrees to work if he gets paid a better salary and get more work incentives ?
    C) Goes back to work with the same old incentives and routines ?

    My choices would be in the following order : B then A but never C


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