I have severly misquoted a web design project

I really don’t know what to do right now as I have really painted myself in a corner. I originally took the project on to help out another company in major need and now I have taken this horrendous responsibility on. A year later and only $4000 I am finding myself trying to find resolution. Plainly, this site is extremely complex in terms of functionality and overall usability and it is now killing my productivity. The client has also been difficult to deal with right from the start and now the difficulty level has raised significantly. I feel mostly responsible since I did promise a working site so my integrity keeps me driving on.

Any suggestions as how I should handle this? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

If you signed a contract everything should be up there: like what happens if you dont have a possibility to continue working on it.
Tell them the truth: working for a year (even partially) and only getting $4000 is something you are not interesting in.

Big projects should be charge on $ per hour imo. You are not the first one to run into this problem, in fact many projects ran out of budgets and closed because
a) people couldnt correctly estimate amount of work needed to launch it
b) client couldnt stop going and added feature when project wasnt even launched.
I like 37 signals aproach on the subject: start with very basic features but make sure you launch a project in nearest future.

This is a big learning curve for me as the project is a lot bigger than I anticipated. Really appreciate your take on it Lieto and your time to share it with me…

Do you have a signed contract? What are the terms in there? Dealing with difficult clients does not get easier with time. Reach a milestone and get out if the client is unreasonable.

Yes, ideally the initial agreement made clear what you envisioned the job to involve, so that if its scope “creeps”, as they say, you can adjust the agreement.

[FONT=verdana]In any situation like this, the very first thing you should do is to talk to the client. You need to have a frank discussion, and, if necessary, admit that you got it wrong. This is not to apportion blame in any way, but rather to work out with the client the best way to resolve the problem. Keep in mind that the client also has a lot to lose, so try to focus on a solution that would work best for both of you.

If you can’t agree a way that will enable the work to be done, with a reasonable remuneration for yourself, you might have to fall back on trying to negotiate some way in which you can walk away from the project. If absolutely necessary, you might have to agree to write off everything you’ve earned so far. I know that’s a tough thing to do. But, if it was me, I’d rather be out of pocket but clear of the obligation, rather than having a drag on my future work.

Whatever you decide, good luck.


I would sit down with the client, show him that I have put in far more hours than normal for the price (providing I could show that) and that it is in neither party’s interest to stick to an agreement that creates a loss for me, even though it is my responsibility for misjudging the project.

These are all very sensible options and super appreciated. I feel validated here so I can move forward with discussing it with him. Thank you all very much…

Ask for more money or fire the client.

No business owner is that naive to expect 12 months worth of effort for $4,000.

I bet the issue is scope creep and you keep agreeing to it, yes?

This is exactly right ramone_johnny. Scope creep is whats going on here and it is really frustrating. The equation of me living on a small island and him being a fairly big fish here doesn’t help my case. I have since discussed this with him and he is now willing to pay additional (not much) so it’s not a total loss and he was cool about it after his initial freak out on my suggestion.

Be firm mate.

Its YOUR business, YOU dictate the terms.

If the customer doesn’t like them, get rid of them.

To prevent further scope creep, set DEFINITIVE goals.

Once they are achieved, then have the client sign a handover document that CLOSES the project.

You MUST work towards COMPLETION!


Its YOUR business, YOU dictate the terms.

That is totally the wrong attitude. If you try to dictate to your customers, you could end up with no customers, and no business. You should always start out with the aim of meeting the customer’s needs, and accommodating their desires. That doesn’t mean that you should accept unrealistic demands or agree to work for an unacceptable fee. But you should always aim to find a solution that works best for both parties. You don’t dictate to your client any more than your client dictates to you.

If the customer doesn’t like them, get rid of them

How many customers can you afford to get rid of before you go broke?

To prevent further scope creep, set DEFINITIVE goals.

Once they are achieved, then have the client sign a handover document that CLOSES the project.

You MUST work towards COMPLETION

Yes, this is all sensible advice. It works both for you and for the client. But you can adopt these principles without the heavy-handed dictatorial approach that is suggested above.



I think as with most of these situations, it’s rarely so black and white. I agree that it’s your business so you have to set the ground rules, but equally you have to be flexible and sometimes adjust some of these rules for each client. In his situation you need to see if the client is willing to reconsider the terms you are currently working to as clearly they are not ideal for you. As others have said, if they are unwilling to budge, you need to get out of the relationship. But if you can renegotiate the terms of the project, with a structured spec, specific completion dates, payment plans and hourly rates to abolish any financial issues with scope creep, would you be willing to continue working with them, or do you feel you simply want to get out as they are frankly a terrible client to work with?

Ultimately, the choice is yours - you cannot be forced to work for anyone, but you may find it hard to collect on any owed money if you pull out of the project.

I think there’s enough info in this part of the forum to get you on the right track, you should spend a couple of days reading through it, and check out John Tabita’s articles here on sitepoint

As many as I need to in order to work with the ones that matter.

Once a project is circling the drain it’s hard to save it, but scope creep is a disease that is easily cured. I agree that a dictatorial or all-caps approach isn’t necessary, this is something many people have to learn the hard way.

The time to manage scope on this project is already gone, so maybe cut your losses on this one and exit as gracefully as possible. But, on the next engagement you can be absolutely sure to put together a good project structure that accounts for scope changes, and that protects both you and the client from gaps in expectations and understanding.