In 1687, Sir Issac Newton developed the Three Laws of Motion, the first being that “an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” One of the forces that cause objects to stop moving is friction. Eliminating friction, therefore, is the key to keeping your web projects moving forward.
While it’s not possible to eliminate all friction, it’s in your best interest to reduce it as much as possible. And when an “unbalanced force” outside your control causes your project to come to a screeching halt, you need a “Plan B” to prevent your payment from coming to a screeching halt as well.
Here are two sources of friction that cause web projects to stall.
Too Much Client Involvement
Clients are like bowls of porridge—we’re all hoping for one that’s “just right.” Unfortunately, we often wind up with ones that are either “too hot” or “too cold.”
Interfering clients send the message that they don’t trust your judgment. In a perfect world, clients would realize they hired you because they liked your work and trust you to deliver what’s in their best interest. But in the real world, I’ve found that clients can be reasonable, picky, or micro-managing control freaks.
Solution: Limit the Number of Revisions Allowed
Regardless of the type of client, you need a clause in your contract limiting the number of revisions allowed. Otherwise, you’re on shaky ground with no legal recourse to prevent that client from requesting an infinite number of changes.
Too Little Client Involvement
According to Michael Reynolds of SpinWeb, “the number one delay of any website project is always website content. Seriously. 100% of the time.” I wholeheartedly agree.
The only thing worse than an overly-involved client is an uninvolved one that’s “too cold.” My experience in my own web business and my current position is that getting clients to provide both content and feedback is a challenge.
Solution #1: Get Paid Even if the Client Delays
I’ve said many times that you should never attach payments to production milestones. If your contract states “final payment upon completion,” and your “too cold” client’s inaction prevents you from completing that milestone (by failing to provide content or delaying approval of the design), then you may never get paid.
The solution is to create independent payment milestones, such as 30 percent upfront, 30 percent in 45 days, and 40 percent in 90 days. If at 90 days, you’re the one behind schedule, then by all means, delay asking for the final payment. But if your client has caused endless delays, it’s within your rights to collect final payment.
Solution #2: Make Sure You Have Plenty of Work
Even when you have enough work, be sure to continue prospecting for more business. If one project stalls, rather than scrambling to find more work, you have something to pay the bills. Too much work is always better than not enough. If clients realize you’re not sitting around waiting for them to do their part, the more likely they’ll be to value your time.
The Customer is Always Right—Except When He’s Not
Being in business requires not only looking after the client’s best interests, but also your own. Problems arise when those two ideals conflict with one another.
We have a client who doesn’t see any urgency in supplying us with the assets we need to complete the job. The problem with clients like this is, once their monthly billing begins, they cry “foul,” claiming you never completed the work, and refuse to pay. They completely ignore the fact that their inaction prevented the project from moving forward.
So before your client puts ink to paper, be sure they understand that they, not you, will reap the consequences of delaying—and that refusing to pay on that basis is breach of contract.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.