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  1. #1
    SitePoint Addict jonparadise's Avatar
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    Am I right to see red flags?

    A bit of advice needed here.

    I have a prospect who is at the contract signing stage of the project. Leading up to this point there have been a few of those moments where a little voice in my head was whispering 'run!'.

    The main nags were:

    1. He had already designed his existing website and so has a little knowledge, a dangerous thing
    2. He fell out with his last developer for 'not delivering'
    3. His final words before I sent the proposal were 'keep it cheap'
    4. He has received the contract and deposit invoice but has just emailed saying he wants to 'amend about 5 points to alter his rights' in the contract.

    All of this really gives me a bad feeling.

    So really I'd like to know how to approach this. Should I refuse point blank to change the contract or should I see what those amendments are? Should I use this as an opportunity to ditch him or is that unprofessional at this point?

    It is also a little awkward as the prospect is a referral from a guy who has always been the perfect client.

  2. #2
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    im interested in the response my client similarily is an evil guy doing something like this

  3. #3
    dooby dooby doo silver trophybronze trophy
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    Hi Jon, I would see what his amendments are and then make a decision based on that. If you still have doubts then you can walk away with a clear mind.

    Alternatives would be up front payments of over 50% of the bill so at least you have a stronger position if anything did go wrong. You dont say what the deposit amount you request actually is as a percentage.

    Final decision must be yours as if this turns into a nightmare client, he will without doubt keep you from other projects and possibly damage your reputation.
    Mike Swiffin - Community Team Advisor
    Only a woman can read between the lines of a one word answer.....

  4. #4
    SitePoint Addict jonparadise's Avatar
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    Hi spikeZ.

    Yes, I guess it would be better form to see what the amendments are - as I can always refuse. The deposit amount is 50%.

    It's a difficult one, as so much is based on a 'feeling' about him more than anything else.

    I suppose it all hinges on those contract changes, if they are obviously dodgy, hopefully I can just say no to him and be done with it.

  5. #5
    SitePoint Evangelist
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    I would see what his concerns are.

    If you suspect something is fishy, if possible, I would try to dig right into the heart of the concern and provoke it, before signing a contract. Save yourself and your client time and money and test the waters.

    I've seen red flags before that's been real, but by sticking to my guns, still I've gotten a valuable relationship out of it. So life is not so simple that you can classify it into good and bad clients. But make sure that you understand enough of the picture before signing the contract, as it makes things so much easier.
    George Skee
    Follow me at GeorgeSkee.com

  6. #6
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonparadise View Post
    A bit of advice needed here.


    1. He had already designed his existing website and so has a little knowledge, a dangerous thing
    2. He fell out with his last developer for 'not delivering'
    3. His final words before I sent the proposal were 'keep it cheap'
    4. He has received the contract and deposit invoice but has just emailed saying he wants to 'amend about 5 points to alter his rights' in the contract.
    1. A lot of people who have designed their own sites later hire someone else to do it. That's not a red flag. That's an opportunity to show a client how better design will be better for his/her business.
    2. Make sure that your contract specifies exactly what each of you are responsible for delivering. Then there should be no problem with you "not delivering" as long as you stick to the terms of your own agreement.
    3. Cheap is a relative word. It might mean 5k to one person and $5.00 to another. Find out what his budget is and tailor your services to fit his budget.
    4. A contract is, after all, an agreement between two parties. It's my opinion that clients should have the right to add their input. Look at his amendments and see if you can live with them. If you can't you have two choices: negotiate for something you can live with or walk away.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  7. #7
    SitePoint Addict jonparadise's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice guys.

    So, I asked him to send me a copy of my contract with the amendments made.

    There are about 6 changes, but the ones that hit me between the eyes straight away are:

    1. I wouldn't be allowed to design a website for anyone in a similar or competing industry for 3 years!

    2. He's adjusted the 'any changes not in this proposal are chargeable' to 'minor changes are not chargeable' (obviously what does he think is 'minor'?).

    3. If the agreement is terminated by him and it doesn't break the contract I have to pay him his deposit and all other monies back.

    He also wants full intellectual rights to the design and copyright.

    I have to say them alarm bells are clanging away in my ears.

  8. #8
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Each of these can be considered on their own:

    Quote Originally Posted by jonparadise View Post
    1. I wouldn't be allowed to design a website for anyone in a similar or competing industry for 3 years!
    3 years is a long time. If I had no intention of working with anyone in that industry and the contract was worth quite a bit, I'd consider this but usually I'd push back on this unless it was very valuable.

    Quote Originally Posted by jonparadise View Post
    2. He's adjusted the 'any changes not in this proposal are chargeable' to 'minor changes are not chargeable' (obviously what does he think is 'minor'?).
    This is not good. If you are charging by the hour, you should charge actual rather than how large a change is. If you aren't I guess you could define what a minor change is, but I wouldn't want to get into this with a client. The manner in which you bill is really up to you, and this language doesn't mean anything anyways.

    Quote Originally Posted by jonparadise View Post
    3. If the agreement is terminated by him and it doesn't break the contract I have to pay him his deposit and all other monies back.
    That's just ridiculous

    What I think when I read these terms are: this client is nervous and is trying to protect themselves from getting screwed. Many inexperienced clients (and landlords and other types) do this - they want to reduce risk by adding protection for themselves into the contract. Unfortunately this erodes the fairness of the contract and usually antagonizes the vendors.

    For example, if HE terminates you have to give back your deposit. But, if YOU terminate does he still owe you outstanding funds? A good business deal needs to be fair or it wont work.

    I would try talking to the client and asking why they wanted these terms, especially number 3. Maybe this is just a matter of inexperience and trust.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

    SAGEWING LLC - QUALITY WEB AND MOBILE APPS. PREMIUM OUTSOURCING SERVICES.
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  9. #9
    dooby dooby doo silver trophybronze trophy
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    Run Forrest, RUN!
    Mike Swiffin - Community Team Advisor
    Only a woman can read between the lines of a one word answer.....

  10. #10
    From Italy with love silver trophybronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by spikeZ View Post
    Run Forrest, RUN!
    Indeed

    The first one is a classic, but in my opinion only valid when you are an employee. And even then three years is a long time.
    AFAIK, asking a freelancer not to work for other clients is ridiculous. It's like saying to your plumber that he can't fix the toilet for your neighbours.
    Of course, there's a price for everything...

  11. #11
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spikeZ View Post
    Run Forrest, RUN!
    I have to agree. Sagewing's advice is good, but in this case there's just too much to make it worthwhile unless you're talking a hefty four or five figures with no decimal points.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  12. #12
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    I have to agree. Sagewing's advice is good, but in this case there's just too much to make it worthwhile unless you're talking a hefty four or five figures with no decimal points.
    I have learned never to get into dollar values on this forum. It's amazing how people value money so differently! Just when I'm thinking something like, "I wouldn't do that for less then 50k" someone else says "No way for less than $1500!!". Then someone else says "not for less than 200k!".

    Same goes with project values - some people get excited about projects for under $1000 while others really won't consider projects for less than 10k, and on and on.

    But yea a 3-year restriction should come with a 'large' amount of compensation - whatever that means. Then again, if someone gave me $50 I would sign a deal saying I wouldn't work with anyone in the lingerie, fish bait, or deodorant industries. You never know
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

    SAGEWING LLC - QUALITY WEB AND MOBILE APPS. PREMIUM OUTSOURCING SERVICES.
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  13. #13
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    I probably wouldn't take the job for any amount of money. I see red flags like that pop up and they just aren't worth the grief. But if "a 'large' amount of compensation" was at stake, I might look at both sides of the flags to make sure they were red clear through.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  14. #14
    SitePoint Zealot metho's Avatar
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    Hate to chime in late, but this client is a control freak. Say thanks, but no thanks.

    If you agree to exclusive services for 3 years, say that will cost him another 3x's the total cost of the job.

    All change requests not in the proposal, no matter how minor, should always be chargable.

    Regarding his indemnity from breaking the contract, that's A-Grade cr4p. He bails, you keep the deposit - end of story.

    Clients should retain copyright to their corp graphics and content (but not the whole design and gfx source files). If the client wants exclusive use of the whole design AND copyright, charge accordingly. You should retain ownership/copyright of the overall design and all development files (html/css/js/php etc).

  15. #15
    SitePoint Addict jonparadise's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the input guys!

    The project itself relatively lucrative but certainly not lucrative enough for the sacrifices he has requested. He is also in a large industry where I could quite easily have another project enquiry very soon, so the 3 year limit is just madness.

    In all honesty, I think even if he offered to pay over the odds to secure the contract I'd still say no, it's more a case of what he would be like to work with - and the stress that would cause - than the money. If it was a silly amount maybe, but I really doubt he's the type to pay a silly amount for anything.

    it looks like I'm going to have to politely decline his contract amendments and suggest he looks elsewhere.

  16. #16
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonparadise View Post
    Thanks for all the input guys!

    The project itself relatively lucrative but certainly not lucrative enough for the sacrifices he has requested. He is also in a large industry where I could quite easily have another project enquiry very soon, so the 3 year limit is just madness.

    In all honesty, I think even if he offered to pay over the odds to secure the contract I'd still say no, it's more a case of what he would be like to work with - and the stress that would cause - than the money. If it was a silly amount maybe, but I really doubt he's the type to pay a silly amount for anything.

    it looks like I'm going to have to politely decline his contract amendments and suggest he looks elsewhere.
    I think you're making a good decision.

    I do some outsource work for a developer who specializes in designing websites for industrial and construction markets. To sign a non-compete in either area would certainly adversely affect my business and his.

    Moreover, non-competes strike me as employer-employee considerations. IMO, once you concede to being an employee, you lose your status as a self-employed business person. If I was to pursue a project, such as the one in this thread, I'd suggest to the "employer" that he put me on payroll so that I would have adequate compensation for all of the business I would lose on his account. I wonder how well that would sit with him?
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  17. #17
    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    jonparadise: The best advice I think anyone can really offer someone in a situation like that, is to follow and trust your instincts. Over the years, we build up an idea of what can be naturally expected from the client and learn how to best deal with their requests, but every now and again you're going to come across clients which are pretty much a gamble (in every respect). If you get a gut instinct telling you that something doesn't feel right or something looks "off" in how they want to go about a project, you're better off taking a good careful look at the implications and deciding the cost VS benefit ratio (as to how much risk the project will do your business) and make a decision either to go ahead (being careful) or to say no and lay down your cards. I would agree that in this case the best thing to-do is walk away, but it's certainly work keeping in mind for the future that saying "no" is probably the best lesson any professional (especially a freelancer) can learn.

    PS: I'm from Brighton too

  18. #18
    Serial Site Creator ToddW's Avatar
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    3 Years you can't design a site for someone in the same industry.

    That right there should be all you need.

  19. #19
    SitePoint Addict jonparadise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlexDawson View Post
    PS: I'm from Brighton too
    Aaah. Sage advice from a fellow Brightonian. Although I'm still fresh off the boat, moved down about 8 months ago.

    Love it though.

  20. #20
    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    It's a great place for web design, we have several conferences down here (I'm attending dConstruct in September) and there's more web professionals in the region than anywhere else in the UK according to statistics released a while back (even more than London which is surprising).

  21. #21
    SitePoint Addict jonparadise's Avatar
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    Gosh, really? I guess that makes sense though, the place does has that certain 'vibe'.



    I'll have to check out those conferences.

    On a similar subject, do you happened to know of any meet-ups or groups around the city for getting a bit of interaction, doesn't have to be networking?

  22. #22
    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    Well Brighton is the home to a few famous web designers... Andy Budd, Jeremy Keith and Richard Rutter are all in the area at ClearLeft!

    Not sure on the meet-up front to be honest, This conference is my first official "meet" with other professionals so it's a bit of a reach out for me too... But there's upward of something like 5,000 web professionals within the Brighton & Hove region so there must be a few of those kind of things going on

  23. #23
    SitePoint Addict jonparadise's Avatar
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    I'll have to walk around with my sandwich board on.



    Quite incredible that all those guys work in this area. I must say I wouldn't have a clue what they looked like though.

    Cheers for the info anyway!


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