When clients delay the project

So I get too many of my projects delayed by the client. Miss a deadline here and there and it adds up to a simple brochureware site (or more) to be extended by a few more weeks. In some cases, months on end.

What can I do to ensure clients don’t keep delaying? This is happening way too much. I’ve set milestones for them. I follow up a day or two after the milestone. I call. I follow up again. Sometimes they manage to get it to me once I bug them. Othertimes they just choose to move at their own snail’s pace.


Basically, you can’t. It sounds like you’re doing the right stuff. Just make sure that

A. The initial agreement states that they need to meet their deadlines if you are expected to meet your deadline. They’re deadlines should be just as clear as yours. It a partnership.

B. You should get paid for your work on a timely basis. If you’re half done but have been waiting for weeks for the client’s feedback/deliverables, make sure you get paid for the half you’ve done.


Yes to both.

Regarding A, I am upfront with them that I move as fast as they move or as slow as they move and they understand that it is a partnership.

With regards to B, I’ve built that into my agreement for some time.

Curious to hear from others. Are your experiences similar with clients or are the majority of your clients very timely. I would easily say that more than 70% end up delaying these projects.

Many clients are slow, and if you are looking for a way to ‘fix’ that you’ll be disappointed.

It’s better to simply reduce your exposure to that risk. You can send progress billing to clients who stall, and write into your contract that you cannot maintain schedules for clients who are late on deliverables. Then, you can work on other clients/jobs when a project stalls.

There is no better way to handle slow/late clients than to simply not care too much about it. If you have other clients/projects to work on and you get paid for the work that you have completed, who really cares if a project takes forever?

I agree, it’s not worth simply dropping or hassling them for content or materials they clearly haven’t bothered to-do at that stage, if you have the requirements on their behalf in the contract your best bet is simply to state (in the agreement) that you won’t be held responsible when the client fails to uphold their end of the agreement and when such events occur, delays may result in the speed of which you can uphold your end of the agreement (due to commitments with other customers). It’s just about reducing the risk and allowing yourself the space that if the client doesn’t meet the deadlines laid out, your other clients won’t suffer as a result. Thereby if they do delay for months at a time, you’re free to simply put things on the back-burner until such a time where they give you what you need to do your job or you’ve met your other deadlines (to which the delays were effectively as a result of their lack of commitment, not yours). :slight_smile:

You both make good points. Well, though I haven’t learned nothing new per se, it’s good to know that I have done all the things you both have pointed out.

Might be interesting to run a poll to see the percentage of clients we all have that delay projects past the designated deadline…

Probably not that interesting :slight_smile:
Clients have frequent delays, that’s business.

I think you are probably doing it right for the most part. To paraphrase an old movie line (Cool Hand Luke) What you have is a failure to communicate.

As web providers, we often forget that our clients’ #1 priorities are not their websites. Their priority is running their businesses. For many clients, websites are just a very small part of the total picture.

On the other hand, our clients often seem to believe that there is no real hurry for us until they are in a hurry to get their job done. That is where we must help them understand the importance of deadlines on our end.

One solution that I have found that sometimes works (not all the time by far) is to let them know that I will invoice them for completed work on the deadline date of their project and that any uncompleted work will be tabled and need to be rescheduled on a future date.

I also make it clear in my proposals that I will do my best to accommodate any changes in scope or time line that they need before they commit to the project agreement.

There really is no way to effectively prod clients to be prompt. However, if you set the record straight at the beginning, you can move on with a clear conscience when you need to.

Excellent thread and responses! Currently I am dealing with a very slow client! I got a down payment for the job. The rest will be paid upon completion of the website. My client is waiting on her client who I am building the website for. Her client is taking forever to get back to her on approving specs. It’ very frustrating.

What if you don’t have other clients/projects at the moment?

Rather than worry about a slow client, worry why you have no other projects! If you spend too much time worrying about things you can’t control, you’ll not have enough time to work on the important things like marketing and sales.

Try to get to the stage where you have 2 or 3 projects on the go simultaneously.

Yes, definitely, that’s where I want to go!

And what if you have - its even worse.

I have a clause in my contract that I can terminate a project if a specific question is not decided upon within 30 days. Terminate with fully charged project and immediate delivery stop. Never had to use it.

HTH, Jochen

It might also be helpful to communicate urgency to them in terms that they understand: business and money. If you know that one of the goals for a website is, say, lead generation, and you know the current website gets X visits a month, and you think your redesign will increase the conversion rate by X%, then you can more or less give them a rough estimate of how much they’re losing in potential new clients and sales by delaying the launch.

For a lot of clients that will hit home a lot more than just saying “we’re late, the deadline was two weeks ago”.

I have found the problem with our place is that we get folks behind on a site and since we are backlogged we just let them float. Last week we took a site live that had been commissioned -10mos- ago. But the client kept wanting revisions, and kept not getting back to us.

People will be delay on all kinds of things, and if they are the client, it is their business, not mine.

The way our business is currently functioning it doesn’t matter, as we get all payment upfront. But if I had some kind of program where I was waiting to get partial payment contingent on finishing the site, I think that there would have to be some kind of clause where if the client causes massive delays, then at some point after the last milestone the payment is due in full.

You can send progress billing to clients who stall, and write into your contract that you cannot maintain schedules for clients who are late on deliverables. Then, you can work on other clients/jobs when a project stalls…


We tend to take the line that if someone has taken ages to reply and they are then demanding things happen immediately, we say sorry - our time has been allocated elsewhere for the moment, their slot has been and gone because of the slow response. Then we schedule them in where we can fit them which may be a couple of weeks down the line.

I get lots of people turn slow… especially when it is time for them to come up with content. Usually i just let them float but it is annoying to have sites in my “work” file for months.

It does really piss me off when people don’t respond for weeks then all the sudden they need it done fast. Then I usually do like Stormrider was saying and tell them I have other stuff going on and they missed the window of time that was set aside for them, so… relax, and it will get done Now that I have the rest of the ______ .

It is really annoying when I build Wordpress sites that sit so long half built that I need to update to the latest version to finish it.

I have a late deadline clause in my T&C that enables to me to charge clients further fees above the stated quote if they are late on deadlines to supply content. I have never used it.
I also have a contract termination clause that enables me to drop the development of their site and bill them as if it is completed if they have failed to respond to me and/or supply the requested copy after having made several attempts to contact them/chase them up by email and phone. Then, if and when they come back to me they have to pay for me to re-start work on their site as it is a ‘new’ contract. Again. I have never had to use it.

I always put into my contracts that if for every day a client is late, the date when I deliver will also be delayed. That along with a very clear and detailed time table has worked well so far.