September 28, 2011

Assume a good client, end up with a bad client.

The adage goes that when you assume, you make an "ass" of "u" and "me." But I'm here to confess that when I assume, I only make an "ass" of, or "uuuuu" "me"...hillbilly inflection implied.

I recently learned how flawed my assumptions are from someone I met at church.

After befriending a gentleman at a regular men's meeting, we discussed the prospects of me redoing his website. I learned about his love of music, his successes in the industry and his desires for the website. After further discussions, this gentleman and I came to a verbal agreement that I would rehaul it for $500, which covered roughly 10 hours worth of work. I didn't require this gentleman to sign any form of contract because he's generally a nice guy, relatively well known and I met him at church. But making assumptions based on those things were a huge mistake on my part.

Here's why.

I began the work by taking photographs of him, creating mp3s of his music, writing code, integrating the site with Paypal, creating graphics, and of course emailing him the progress as often as necessary. His role during this time was to contact his current web administrator and provide me with access to his domain.

I completed 90% of the work required by October of 2010 and waited on him to fulfill his part to complete the rest. Then, for the next 11 months, there's nothing but silence or hem-hawing. I send emails, and questions, and invoices...still nothing. We finally met after all this time and again he said he'd get me the information, but the last 3 weeks have been exactly like the previous 11 months...nothing.

After agreeing to a $500 redo of his website, after 40 hours of work(not 10 as I first assessed), after 11 months of hem-hawing, after many emails, after still offering to finish this site....this gentleman continues to take advantage of my time and doesn't fulfill his promises. Only now do I get this.

So, what have I learned? What do I want others to learn from my experiences?

1. First and most importantly, don't assume you'll be treated fairly by a person you meet in church. Enough said. 

2. Value your own time and protect yourself against time lost. This means protecting yourself against those who don't value your time. One way of weeding out clients like these is to ask for money up front...not all of the money, ask for part of it. By asking for any of their money, you're asking for sacrifice on their part and sacrifice is hard. If you need to issue a contract to your clients, make sure you specify a payment schedule as well. "This amount of work is done" and "then this will be charged." 

3. If you allow a situation like this, business or otherwise, to go on for months...don't expect things to change.

So that's what I've learned.  Let me know your experiences and how you were able to weed out good clients from bad.  Share your comments here or on my facebook post.


  1. I hear you loud and clear! Especially the part about people from church. I got completely ripped off by a worship leader who did roofing once. Also have been there with the whole agreements thing with web sites. Keep your head high and keep being awesome. I have had clients that once we began working together after the agreement I backed out before it continued too far which is a royal pain but ends up being better than dealing with what may have happened had I continued.

  2. Thanks Jonathan. One of the unfortunate aspects of any situation like this, is that we tend to change the way we approach the next person we are to deal with...and they've done nothing. Thanks for your comments.

  3. Of course such situations are frequent in our life, but we should remeber about this rule

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  5. Thanks for sharing your experience here. I am sure I will use the advice when I next order my resume from the writers group.