I have been really annoyed lately with nightmare clients. I have been getting private development work for years but seems like lately they have all been horrible from start to finish. They always pitch the website as a “simple” site but when we talk about the specifics they are shocked or outraged by the price. I am thinking about the stuff down the road where the client can’t see because I have the knowledge and experience to do so.
Look…if I came to you and asked you “Can you help me put together my entertainment center I bought at Walmart?”, wouldn’t you take a look at what they are talking about first? Same goes for if someone asked you to help them move. You would ask “How much is there to move?”. WE ALL ASK. Then your friend offers to pay you $20 and you say “Sure, sounds simple.” But what if you walked into my house after agreeing to help me build my much desired entertainment system and you saw a box sitting on the ground in the middle of a house remodel? Then your friend continues to explain “the plan”.
“The plan” is to finish the entertainment room by building the walls, put up the sheet rock, put in sound proofing and new carpet. Then you are to paint the ceiling, insert the lighting, place the theatre seating, AND THEN you will build the entertainment stand that your buddy bought at Walmart. Most of us would say this isn’t what you agreed to, but they say “I already paid you $20” and you feel like you are trapped.
Now the next time a buddy asks you to help him move or build something, you want to have it all spelled out before you agree to do anything. And now you look like a jerk or someone that is just being too OCD on your decision making. This is what it is like when someone comes to me with a website idea. It is a nightmare sometimes. Other times it goes smoothly because I have a process and have everything oulined out in a scope of work they sign. Everything is listed out on what I will do and what they are responsible for after. I even tell them how long they have to report bugs or errors after the project is finished. About 70% of all clientel stick to this format.
The other 30% however thinks that they can add stuff to the project because I am “already under the hood” and it should be easy. It like asking a mechanic to go ahead and replace the clutch in you car when he is working on your alternator. I am fine with adding stuff, but when they balk at me for telling them it will cost more, I just about lose my shit. This 30% is also the smallest and lowest paying clients I get. They usually try to haggle pricing, time, and functionality.
I had one client who asked me to build an EMR (Electronic Medical Record) system, which is what all hospitals and doctor offices use to store patient information. There are dozens out there and they took years to develop and test and cost millions of dollars to build. This client asked me to build one calling it a “simple website” that just stores a little information. Then into the project he started adding things into the project understanding the cost was going to increase based off of the time. So for each hour of work he added to the project it cost him $125. It went from a 100 hour project to over 700. Then when the project was at 90% completion I talked to him about getting the rest of the funds available and he refused to pay. He said he was promised a price, even though I have his signature on a ‘by hour’ scope of work for each addition he made, and wasn’t going to pay a dime over the original price. He still owed more than $325,000 for the project with the additions he made.
I changed the passwords to all the test site information, development server, and domain registration. I then blocked all access to the test site from all traffic. When I refused to release the code and the site he threatened to sue. I produced all the of the documents with his signatures and he dropped the suit but still have not been paid. I ended up with an EMR worth millions but no way to get it out there.