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  1. #1
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    Question not enough done to justify the invoice

    that's the gist of the response to my most recent invoice to him

    he's saying that there wasn't a much work done

    it's the accumulation of 3 simple updates to his website

    I never discussed my hourly rates with him. In the past he had not complained.

    Do I back down and lower the price?
    How do I respond?

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    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    You never discussed you hourly rates? Then, I take it you don't have a contract. Back down. Walk away. Get a contract that defines what you'll do for what price.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

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    Back down to what amount? Ask him what I should have charged him?

    I charged him based on my hourly rate. So, I have a contract that says what my hourly rate is. Then what? Every time he emails for asking for an update I give him estimate? What if I am wrong with the estimate, then what?

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    Yes. Every time something is requested document what it's going to take, even if it's informally. If he knows the rate from your contract and you respond with "this will be between 2 and 4 hours, ok?" and the client responds that it's ok you've got something to stick too. If they say "change this" and you come back and say it took 22 hours and they think it should have been 22 minutes with nothing said you'll be lucky to get paid and certainly lose the client.
    - Ted S

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    What do I do now with the current situation?
    Walk away and not get paid?
    Ask him how much he thinks he should pay?
    What?



    Once there is a contract, do you have a 0.5 hour minimum?

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    SitePoint Evangelist Unit7285's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ieee488 View Post
    he's saying that there wasn't a much work done

    it's the accumulation of 3 simple updates to his website

    I never discussed my hourly rates with him. In the past he had not complained.

    Do I back down and lower the price?
    How do I respond?
    This is a communication problem, not a contract problem. You will get your money when you politely explain how the invoice was calculated.

    You don't need to wave a contract at somebody to resolve a problem like this. In fact the moment you start waving contracts at people they get even angrier even faster and the chances of an amicable solution slip away rapidly. It's just not appropriate as a first response.

    If he was happy with similar work and similar prices in the past then he can be happy with it again - just as you were expecting. Can you just phone him up (not email) and explain what the work entailed? We all know that clients often think you press a button and the update magically happens. When you explain in detail all the steps required it starts to sound more significant.


    Paul

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    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unit7285 View Post
    This is a communication problem, not a contract problem. You will get your money when you politely explain how the invoice was calculated.

    You don't need to wave a contract at somebody to resolve a problem like this. In fact the moment you start waving contracts at people they get even angrier even faster and the chances of an amicable solution slip away rapidly. It's just not appropriate as a first response.

    If he was happy with similar work and similar prices in the past then he can be happy with it again - just as you were expecting. Can you just phone him up (not email) and explain what the work entailed? We all know that clients often think you press a button and the update magically happens. When you explain in detail all the steps required it starts to sound more significant.


    Paul
    I'm not suggesting he "wave a contract in his face" now.

    This is the quote upon which I based my response.

    Quote Originally Posted by ieee488 View Post

    he's saying that there wasn't a much work done

    it's the accumulation of 3 simple updates to his website

    I never discussed my hourly rates with him. In the past he had not complained.

    Do I back down and lower the price?
    How do I respond?
    It's hard to believe anyone contracts for work (on either side) when price isn't discussed. I guess I would ask him what he expected to pay and then tell him what I did that justified the larger amount.

    Hopefully, you can reach a compromise this time. Next time, use a contract. It doesn't have to be a four-page document. Just get it in writing how long it will take, what it will cost, and what you will do for the price. Don't start the work until you both agree on the terms.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

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    SitePoint Wizard cranial-bore's Avatar
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    ieee488, is the problem the number of hours, or minutes billed rather than the rate?
    For example you've done 30 mins work for minor updates and are charging for half an hours work, but your client doesn't think 0.5hrs is worth invoicing for?

    What is the actual amount of time that you invoiced for?

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    SitePoint Wizard LiquidReflex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cranial-bore View Post
    ieee488, is the problem the number of hours, or minutes billed rather than the rate?
    For example you've done 30 mins work for minor updates and are charging for half an hours work, but your client doesn't think 0.5hrs is worth invoicing for?

    What is the actual amount of time that you invoiced for?
    This would be my question as well. It's not very clear in your post what your client's actual issue is. Is it because they do not think enough work was done for the amount you are asking for? Or are they saying that only part of the updates are done (not all of them) so they are not wanting to pay that much yet until all of them are complete?

    You say that they are for 3 simple updates ... so I guess I would be interested to know what you are billing as well to understand the problem. If they are simple updates I wouldn't think it would take very long, thus the client having an issue with it seems odd. There must be more to this story or problem ...
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    King of Paralysis by Analysis bronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by LiquidReflex View Post
    This would be my question as well. It's not very clear in your post what your client's actual issue is. Is it because they do not think enough work was done for the amount you are asking for?
    That's how I read the original post. I see things like this all the time where customers ask for a "little" change and don't realize how much work goes into making that "little" change work?

    For example,

    What do you mean it's going to take you three weeks to add one item to a report?

    To add an item to the report means we need to capture it in the first place which means that we need to add it to the add widget screen, now that we've added it there we also need to add that item to the edit widget screen, add it to several database tables, and then we can look at adding it to the report.

    But all I want is to add one item to a report, you must be joking.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    You never discussed you hourly rates? Then, I take it you don't have a contract. Back down. Walk away. Get a contract that defines what you'll do for what price.
    Call a lawyer for some advice. You won't get his rates or a contract, but you will get a bill...

    The expectation of website service work is that it's easy and it's not time consuming - i.e "we just want to you add an image rotator to our website".

    Simply explain your fees and what he is charged for. If he doesn't agree, make a deal. Lower the price and set the expectations for the next time he calls you. It's not worth losing a customer over, not to mention the 10 people he tells of this bad experience to.

    Sometimes it is good to let a customer go. Where you draw that line is up to you.

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    I have had this problem as we all have. One never knows just exactly how long it will take to do most things on a website. It is really hard to give an exact estimate. All of us have lost our shirts on some work we have done. Seems to be happening more and more with clients seeing those $5.00/hour adds from India.

    One thing I don't do is charge for learning. What I learn adds value to my services but that makes it hard to 'estimate'.

    Anyone here have any thoughts on estimating? How do you estimate something that you have never done?

    Do you add a little extra to each quote for all the times you have lost money on projects? Will that put you out of the market?

    I've been designing websites for over 15 years. Here is what I would do:

    Call him - no email. Let him know why it took so long - in terms he would understand. Don't 'Tech' him to death. Then tell him you like working with him and want very much to keep him as a customer. Give him the least price you will take to settle. Loose some on this invoice. Make it up on the next estimate to him. Add a little in to future estimates to him to make up for this loss.

    The worst thing you can do is leave him with a bad taste for you. I will guarantee you it will cost you 10 times in lost revenue when he talks to other potential clients. One Bad Apple............

    Stroke him. Make him happy and then make it up later on future work with him. That is what has worked for me.

    I would still like to hear from anyone with idea's on how to estimate without loosing your shirt though.

    Any ideas?

  13. #13
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chadavan View Post
    Call a lawyer for some advice. You won't get his rates or a contract, but you will get a bill...

    The expectation of website service work is that it's easy and it's not time consuming - i.e "we just want to you add an image rotator to our website".

    Simply explain your fees and what he is charged for. If he doesn't agree, make a deal. Lower the price and set the expectations for the next time he calls you. It's not worth losing a customer over, not to mention the 10 people he tells of this bad experience to.

    Sometimes it is good to let a customer go. Where you draw that line is up to you.
    As I said above, a contract doesn't have to be four pages of legal jargon. A contract is simply an agreement between two parties. He says, "we just want you to add an image rotator to our website." You say, "To do that will cost this." He says, "Based on what?" You say, "Based on this." He says, "Okay."

    You have a contract. To make sure that it's binding you need to put it in writing. No big deal.

    My question remains. How can you do work without giving the client a clue as to the cost? Even if you have an on-going agreement to do maintenance on a site, the client should be advised of the costs of that maintenance even in its simplest state, unless you are prepared to do that maintenance for free. That way there are no surprises on either side.

    As tke posted, what may appear as a simple job to a client may be much more complex in reality.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

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    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    If you have no written agreement or contract in place, and you didn't state how much the client was expected to pay (due to keeping your hourly rates secret) before undertaking the work, quality aside you are going to have a VERY hard time convincing any lawyer or court that you can justify your costs when you didn't provide the client with enough information to make an informed decision and had no binding agreement to state that the client actually agreed to work for the rates you were trying to keep covered up. You should NEVER work without a contract if you want to keep a client to their word (that can go down to naivety) but to not explain the costs involved or inform the paying customer as to what their expected to-do in front of the work, that's probably as bad as it can get. You're the one in the wrong here and you should try and resolve the dispute by either lowering your price to an acceptable rate with the client (if you'd discussed that with him before - you could have said no if the work to price ratio didn't work) or by itemizing the bill and explaining how you came up with that magic figure (hoping he accepts it).

    My advice for the future: Do as Linda mentioned above and write yourself a proper agreement, always state your rates (giving an estimate) and to avoid future issues, I would say you're probably better to over-estimate how long it will take you. If you do that at least if you complete the work on-time it's no issue and if you take less time than expected, the client will be much happier as they will not only get their project sooner than expected but it will cost them less too. This has a very real benefit in that their more likely to work with you again if they think that you're not trying to drag them along for a ride. Hope the information is helpful.

    PS: I'm not a lawyer (just in case you were curious).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    As I said above, a contract doesn't have to be four pages of legal jargon. A contract is simply an agreement between two parties. He says, "we just want you to add an image rotator to our website." You say, "To do that will cost this." He says, "Based on what?" You say, "Based on this." He says, "Okay."

    You have a contract. To make sure that it's binding you need to put it in writing. No big deal.

    My question remains. How can you do work without giving the client a clue as to the cost? Even if you have an on-going agreement to do maintenance on a site, the client should be advised of the costs of that maintenance even in its simplest state, unless you are prepared to do that maintenance for free. That way there are no surprises on either side.

    As tke posted, what may appear as a simple job to a client may be much more complex in reality.
    I wasn't implying (or trying to) that a contract or an estimate BEFORE performing any work, isn't beneficial. My point was simply that you don't need a contract for the customer to be liable for the work performed.

    If the original poster has done work for this client before, the client is aware of his rates. The client therefore agrees to the rate when he asks for more service work.

    It seems the dispute is on how long it took to perform the work. Simply justify the hours to him. If he doesn't agree, either make a deal or force him to pay what you invoiced him at the risk of losing a customer and the business of the 10 people he bad mouths your services to.

    Certainly from here on out, have him approve x amount of hours at x rate before continuing with him.

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    First try to establish the conditions, talk to him; if he isn't receptive you should find more serious people, employers.

  17. #17
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    As I said above, a contract doesn't have to be four pages of legal jargon. A contract is simply an agreement between two parties. He says, "we just want you to add an image rotator to our website." You say, "To do that will cost this." He says, "Based on what?" You say, "Based on this." He says, "Okay."

    You have a contract. To make sure that it's binding you need to put it in writing. No big deal.
    That definition of a contract is a little crude - legally there are specific criteria that must be met before an agreement is valid. Always be sure that your agreement has met the legal criteria to be a binding, enforceable contract.

    Putting a contract in writing is popular because it's an effective way of documenting an agreement for future reference. It does not, however, have anything to do with whether it's binding - a contract need not be written to be binding.
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    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sagewing View Post
    That definition of a contract is a little crude - legally there are specific criteria that must be met before an agreement is valid. Always be sure that your agreement has met the legal criteria to be a binding, enforceable contract.

    Putting a contract in writing is popular because it's an effective way of documenting an agreement for future reference. It does not, however, have anything to do with whether it's binding - a contract need not be written to be binding.
    well here you go, Dave. Here's a couple of "less crude definitions" and the etymology:

    Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin contractus, from contrahere to draw together, make a contract, reduce in size, from com- + trahere to draw
    Date: 14th century

    1 a : a binding agreement between two or more persons or parties; especially : one legally enforceable b : a business arrangement for the supply of goods or services at a fixed price <make parts on contract>
    2 : a document describing the terms of a contract
    "contract[1]." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010.

    Merriam-Webster Online. 14 July 2010
    <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contract[1]>

    In case you have a problem with Merriam-Webster being too "crude" for your taste, that definition is also used here: http://research.lawyers.com/glossary/contract.html
    Linda Jenkinson
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  19. #19
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    well here you go, Dave. Here's a couple of "less crude definitions" and the etymology:



    "contract[1]." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010.

    Merriam-Webster Online. 14 July 2010
    <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/contract[1]>

    In case you have a problem with Merriam-Webster being too "crude" for your taste, that definition is also used here: http://research.lawyers.com/glossary/contract.html
    I'm not sure what your point is, there is a difference between the word 'contract' and the legal definition. The definition uses the word 'binding' but doesn't define that, so if you are defining a 'binding contract' you'd better define both of those.

    The second definition refers to the UCC and makes mention of some of the frequently required criteria that makes a contract binding, like a 'meeting of the minds'.

    So, while you have defined the word 'contract' that doesn't mean that you are correctly explaining what it takes to make a legal agreement binding. For an agreement to be binding, there are other criteria.

    Words like 'contract' aren't ambiguous in a court of law. There is a huge amount of case law and millions of pages of briefs that describe exactly what a contract is and isn't, when it's binding, etc. and all the differing jurisdictions, etc.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sagewing View Post
    I'm not sure what your point is, there is a difference between the word 'contract' and the legal definition. The definition uses the word 'binding' but doesn't define that, so if you are defining a 'binding contract' you'd better define both of those.

    The second definition refers to the UCC and makes mention of some of the frequently required criteria that makes a contract binding, like a 'meeting of the minds'.

    So, while you have defined the word 'contract' that doesn't mean that you are correctly explaining what it takes to make a legal agreement binding. For an agreement to be binding, there are other criteria.

    Words like 'contract' aren't ambiguous in a court of law. There is a huge amount of case law and millions of pages of briefs that describe exactly what a contract is and isn't, when it's binding, etc. and all the differing jurisdictions, etc.

    Well, excuse my crude faux pas. I shouldn't have used the word 'binding'. So sorry. I bow to the Guru of the Business & Legal forum.
    Linda Jenkinson
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  21. #21
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Sorry if you found my post to be abrasive, but writing down a contract doesn't automatically make it binding.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  22. #22
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sagewing View Post
    Sorry if you found my post to be abrasive, but writing down a contract doesn't automatically make it binding.
    Actually, from what I read, contracts are binding but they aren't always enforceable. Go figure.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  23. #23
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    Actually, from what I read, contracts are binding but they aren't always enforceable. Go figure.
    Contracts are only binding if they meet the legal requirements for a contract in their jurisdiction. Not all binding contracts are enforceable, but properly prepared and executed generally are.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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    This problem arises because of lack of trust and confidence. You should clearly tell him what or how many hours you normally spend in a given task so he won't be surprised on how much you charge him. I hope this things get settled to your advantage.

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    As someone who has been employing php devs recently I can say that the concept of an hourly rate depends on the person doing the work. In my experience junior devs should never be paid by the hour otherwise you are paying them to learn (hey nothing against that but I would rather that happens on a salary basis!)
    So you should always quote per job. Much easier. There are always other factors that come in- server info, dbs ssh connections this is where you can quickly get into hot water as clients don't have a clue what you are talking about and invariably the hosting/server company take ages to reply that means that everyone gets stressed. The client says why are you taking so long to do x,y or z and the dev starts getting angry because they are spending time on trying to work out how ssh works.

    What normally happens in the softwsare/dev world by accident or on purpose (normally actually the reason is scope creep when the requirements of the client change mid development asking for a new button here or there!) is that people charge too little to get the contract and then the final bill is a lot more.

    So to summarize always put at least a 20&#37; tolerance margin in any quote so that you don't feel ripped off and the client can make the odd change without you having a nervous breakdown!!


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