189 FS Clients From Hell with Bryce Bladon

00:00 4662
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02:40 - Bryce Bladon Introduction

03:07 - Clients From Hell

04:27 - Favorite Stories

08:16 - Client Patterns and Red Flags

18:50 - Qualifying Clients

  • Expectations
  • Project Communication

26:26 - Billing and Estimates

55:35 - Scope

57:43 - Firing a Client From Hell


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[This episode is sponsored by Hired.com. Hired.com is offering a new freelancing and contracting offering. They have multiple companies that will provide you with contract opportunities. They cover all the tracking, reporting and billing for you, they handle all the collections and prefund your paycheck, they offer legal and accounting and tax support, and they’ll give you a $2,000 when you’ve been on a contract for 90 days. But with this link, they’ll double it to $4,000 instead. Go sign up at Hired.com/freelancersshow.]**[If you're someone who runs your own service-based business, then spending less time on pesky admin tasks means having more time to focus on your clients’ work which is why you need to give FreshBooks a try. FreshBooks is the invoicing solution that makes it incredibly simple to create and send invoices, track your time and manage your expenses. It allows you to quickly see and track the status of your invoice expenses and projects, and allows you to keep track of your expense sheets in FreshBooks. For your free 30-day trial, go to Freshbooks.com/freelancers and enter the Freelancers’ Show in the ‘How did you hear about us’ section when signing up.]**[This episode is sponsored by Nird.us. Do you wish that somebody else would handle all of those operation details when it comes to hosting your client’s web applications? Nird.us is a Ruby on Rails managed hosting designed to make your life easy. They migrate everything for you, and new sign ups referrals come with a $100 discount or referral fee. To sign up, go to freelancersshow.com/nird, and enter ‘freelancer’ into the contact form for a discount.]**[This week’s episode of the Freelancers’ Show is brought to you by Earth Class Mail. Earth Class Mail moves your snail mail into the cloud giving you instant access 24/7 and integrates with the tools and services you use everyday. It’s crazy that we’ve moved everything we do for the business over to the digital world but still need to pick up, sort and manage physical mail. With earth class mail, you can get all your mails scanned and accessible online 24/7. You can search your mail, send invoices over to your accounting software, sync important documents into cloud storage, deposits checks and really just make running your business a whole lot easier. You also get real professional address to share publicly with customers, business partners and investors, and you’ll never need to worry about someone showing up at your door if you run your business from home. Visit freelancersshow.com/mail and you’ll get your first month of service free when you sign up.] **CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 189 of The Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel we have Jonathan Stark. JONATHAN: Hello. CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv. We've got a special guest this week. That’s Bryce – I should’ve asked how to say his last name – Bladon? BRYCE: You did it right. CHUCK: You want to introduce yourself real quick? CHUCK: For sure. My name’s Bryce Bladon. I’m a writer at Creative Communications Consultant, and most people know me for a website I run called clientsfromhell.net. CHUCK: Now, none of us have had clients from hell, so you're just going to have to run the whole show. BRYCE: Oh yeah? Never once? Oh, you lucky, you lucky people. CHUCK: [Chuckles] And I know none of our listeners had clients from hell either. BRYCE: Oh no, I’m not ever sure there are bad clients out there. CHUCK: Oh no, none at all. So how did you get around to starting a site called Clients from Hell? BRYCE: Well, the truth of the matter is I didn’t actually start it. I just started running it. Sometime ago, a friend of mine who, I should say a colleague, worked as a designer at an agency over in Victoria, DC, started it with his brothers, and really blew up from there to the point where they simply didn’t have time to keep running it. So I got on there in the first year of its inception, and the site’s gone through a few hands, a few different people running it, but now it’s a safely in mine. CHUCK: Cool. So the idea is that you got these stories, basically, for Clients from Hell. BRYCE: Yes, absolutely. It’s basically twice a day, we publish a story. Somebody anonymously submitted about a crappy client experience they had ranging from like “oh, what a comical misunderstanding” to “that is racist. That is just straight up racist” [chuckles]. CHUCK: Really? BRYCE: Yeah, yeah. The funny thing is the site’s been around since, I want to say 2008, and we haven’t missed a day of updates. That’s how many submissions we get on such a regular basis. I have somebody helping me with them now, but up until about 4 months ago, I was doing that all on my own, and my god, my god, do people have a lot of crappy clients out there. I [inaudible] earlier in the show if you couldn’t tell. It’s bad out there. It’s bad out there. CHUCK: Oh man. Yeah, I know I've had a few, but I’m really curious, what is the – what is your favorite story? BRYCE: My favorite story – ok, so I have two. One is just one of those comical misunderstandings from before. And this was somebody had a new German client, and as they were closing off their introductory email to this person, this long-winded – I shouldn’t say long-winded – long email; they sent the whole thing. I just included the last part for this story; but they ended the story with a “fill me in further”, and then they signed their name. Unfortunately, what that got changed to was “mein fuhrer” and then they signed their name with this brand new German client. So really, the client was in the one from hell there. And it all worked out in the end, but that was probably one of the best – just like “ooh, that could’ve gone better in almost any way you [inaudible] it”. [Laughter] JONATHAN: Awkward. BRYCE: Yeah. CHUCK: Yeah. BRYCE: The other one, and you know what, I’m going to break the anonymity rule; this one’s one of mine. And this is one of the few crappy clients I ever had. And it was – so way back when I was living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, I was thinking of moving to Vancouver, BC, which pretty uninitiated is about a thousand to 1,400 kilometers, it’s like 700 miles, I think – sorry, Imperial System is weird, guys – but anyway, I was working in film at the time, and they wanted me on set for some stuff. And I was like “great, I will make the trip out”. It’s a 14 hour drive, but I did it. And then showed up at the set, and nobody was there. There was no set. I was like “what’s going on?” and he was just like “ooh, sorry, it got moved to tomorrow. Can you still do it?” and I was like “alright”. So I stayed at a friend’s place, and then I went to the address they’ve given me before. And I'm sitting there and nobody has shown up yet so I got in touch with the friend of a friend who is also working on this thing, and apparently, the times have changed too. And so I’m like – I've been trying to call the producer this entire time, by the way. I’m sitting here for about an hour’. And I’m sitting on the side of a street in my car, and I get rear-ended. CHUCK: Oh gosh. BRYCE: Yeah. So I’m just like “oh, thing on top of thing”. I’m 1,400 kilometers from home. I've wasted at least 36 hours so far, and I've just – I’m tired, I’m confused, I’m annoyed, and the car starts to drive off, and I swear to god it was my client. No joke, the start time for this shoot have been moved up 4 hours, so while I was early in the process of waiting, he had shown up early, rear-ended me, and then tried to leave [laughter]. And the cherry on top of this was he had replaced me the night before and just didn’t tell me. I guess he didn’t expect me to show up. So that was just like – that wasn’t great. That was not a fun experience. CHUCK: [Laughter] JONATHAN: Wow. BRYCE: Yeah. CHUCK: Oh man. Yeah. My minor complaint seemed pretty minor [laughter] compared to some of that. BRYCE: Yeah. In my – I was going to say in my client’s defense – no, no defense for him. But I do have the good fortune of not having a lot of crappy clients. That’s one of my few just “how could you do this” stories [chuckles], like “how could you be that bad”. It’s truly astounding. JONATHAN: Yeah. I can’t top that; not even close. BRYCE: [Chuckles] I’m sure you could try. JONATHAN: I hardly ever – I’m hardly ever in the same – never mind zip code – time zone with any of my clients, so it would be very difficult for them to rear-end me or physically assault me in any way [chuckles]. BRYCE: It would take a certain amount of dedication, wouldn’t it? JONATHAN: At least a plane ticket. BRYCE: [Chuckles] Yeah. Well, I had to put myself in that – I was safely far away, but I made the mistake of meeting up to them. So let that be a lesson to all of you. Never go anywhere to try anything. CHUCK: [Chuckles] JONATHAN: I’m curious if you see patterns. You must, after – what is it – 6, 8 years of doing this, there must be some patterns like – it seems like all my designer friends have seemed to attract clients that would maybe show up on your website. I wonder if that’s true or if there are other [inaudible] or do you cover a whole range of clients even for – I don’t know – like you just said, like you're an actor or you're some other kind of freelancer. BRYCE: Absolutely. I feel like the creative fields in particular have a lot of these crappy clients. And that’s because if a client is hiring you, it’s a – well, rarely does a client set out to be bad. Rarely is it just a matter of like “oh, this guy is just a jerk, so he’s going to be a crappy person to work with”. Usually, it’s a matter of miscommunication or unclear expectations, because when you hire designers, most people hire a designer for a logo or a website or whatever, basically, stuff they don’t understand, a craft they don’t understand. So in my experience, and this isn't to say when I said I don’t have a lot of crappy client experiences, it’s because I've learned to see them coming from a mile away now. And that is 98% of it is learning how to avoid those situations altogether and see the client coming. In fact, I think one of the first helpful articles we wrote for the Clients from Hell community was called Mark of the Beast. It’s like “what do clients from hell look like?” [laughter]. So there's a lot of commonalities, and there's a lot of things, if we’re being perfectly honest, are submitters, freelancers, that they can do to basically avoid the situation altogether. And most of them are cautionary tips, like stuff to avoid before you get in bed with a bad client. It’s like any crappy relationship; it’s easier to avoid before it really gets started. But what to watch out for? If a client has ambiguous expectations; like a client will often come to a web designer and say “I want a website” and you said “great. What do you want on this website?” Now, the classic mistake a designer would make is asking how many pages and things of that effect, whereas what they should be asking is “what do you need this website to do” because that’s really what the client cares about. JONATHAN: Preach. BRYCE: Yeah. CHUCK: [Chuckles] I've had that bite me, but keep talking. I’ll tell my story in a minute. BRYCE: Oh, please do. Please do. These aren’t foolproof tips, but if you follow enough, oh man, you should avoid the worst of it. But if a client just has really ambiguous expectations for what they’re looking for, like they just want a website because the businesses need websites. And then you make them a website and it’s like “whoa, I was hoping it would be shinier”. It’s like “Oh, well yeah” [chuckles]. It’s the things like that where a client has an idea in their head and they don’t communicate it to you, and you don’t know what questions to ask to get your idea of what their idea is. And as a result, your expectations don’t align for this working relationship and it all just starts to fall apart. I think we've all had clients like that, but you know what, tell us your story. CHUCK: So, I had a client – in fact, I think this is the last client that I actually completed a project for. I picked up a couple of others, and then I finally came back and said ‘I don’t have time’. But with this one in particular, they basically came to me and said “we want a social network and we want it to look like this. And we want it to be able to do these things”. And they were pretty specific about what they wanted it to do, but when I went in and started saying “ok, so on this particular part of the page, what exactly are you looking for?” They said “we want it to look like Facebook”, and I said “ok”. And so I went through Facebook with them and I’m like “do you want this feature or this feature” – every button on the freaking page. So I get through it and I put together the proposal, and I sent it to them, and I say “this is my proposal for round 1 of this project”. And they're like “oh, it looks great”. And I've got screenshots of Facebook and everything circled and marked in arrows and the whole nine yards. So I get it done, and I go and I send it to them, and the one guy that’s like super in charge, he’s delighted. And everybody else underneath including the project manager who is actually my client, they were all devastated. And even after getting all of that clarification, I got the “we’re really disappointed, and we don’t know if we want to continue in phase 2, and we might even – we might not even pay you” except that I made him pay me upfront for my time. And they were talking about how they could get their money back and the whole nine yards, and I’m like “look, I built exactly what you asked for, and I went through and I clarified everything”. So even then, a lot of times, they just have no idea what they want. BRYCE: Did they at all outline why they were disappointed? CHUCK: Not really. Apparently, it was just “not what they wanted”. BRYCE: Ah yes. Yeah. There are so many things you can do, like if a client has lack of clarity on an idea on what the final project should be, the direction, what's going to be required for it, what the goals are going to be –. CHUCK: I probably shouldn’t say this, but it really felt like they were trying to shake me down to get some money back. BRYCE: I was going to say that’s not going to stop the kind of person who’s just going to use the two-year old defense, which is “I don’t want it anymore”. CHUCK: Yeah. BRYCE: Like something changed and it probably had nothing to do with you, or they just wanted to get out of paying full price, which you definitely do see. And that actually brings me to yet another really, really good red flag. And this has been, in my personal experience, the best one. And that’s if you ever have a client who’s unappreciative. You don’t need necessarily to have clients who pat you on the head after each project, but if a client expects time and behavior and discounts, in this case, for no other reason than because they're the client, well then you shouldn’t work with them because it’s just the worst. A client who goes out of the way to say thank you is – maybe it’s just because I’m Canadian and it’s like a kink, but they go out of their way to show how appreciative they are to me, like “I want to go out of my way to do more for them”, and it turns into a much better relationship when both parties are appreciating what the other party is bringing to it. Most of your client relationships shouldn’t be – some of them can be, but they shouldn’t always be “this guy’s paying me, so I work for this guy”. A lot of the time, you should see them as almost partnerships. You're giving them your time and expertise, they're giving you money; yes, it’s very similar to a business transaction, but you're going to be working together through a lot of these projects, especially as you become a more renowned or experience freelancer. What you bring to the table is going to become more and more intangible. And a client who appreciates that aspect of it, especially if you're able to communicate it to them, ooh, they're going to be wonderful down the line. And anyone who doesn’t is not going to get better any way you split it. CHUCK: I just want to pile on this one, too. BRYCE: Please do. CHUCK: One of the red flags that comes up here; we’re talking about appreciation and asking for favors just because they're the client. And one of my big red flags is “so, do you negotiate on your rate?” You can ask me that once, and I’ll be thinking “ok, maybe somebody told them that they should ask me that”. But as soon as I tell you no, because I’ll tell you no and definitively no – if you ask me again, I’m done talking to you. Because I know that I’m going to be dickered over for every little bit of any invoice I send. BRYCE: Sorry. I've never heard the term “dickered over”, but I immediately love it. But no, that’s very true. That’s very true. I don’t think it’s bad for a client to ask once. I feel like that’s – CHUCK: Oh, fair enough. BRYCE: That’s like an aspect of business that I don’t personally like to indulge in, but you should ask. But yeah, it’s funny you should say that, and I’m going to use this as a total moment of self-promotion, but I just wrote a new book about money called Hell to Pay, and one of the very most important lessons is never ever negotiate on your rate. Your rate is your rate. It’s your livelihood, it’s your income; you can’t budge on that. You can budge on things like hours or deliverables or features or things or whatever, but I just want to underline how right you were not to negotiate on your rate. I’m sure you are far more experienced freelancer than I am, actually, not that I –. [Inaudible] let me take a step back and stop talking about what I've written recently. So I don’t need to be patting you on the head for that, but way to go, way to go. CHUCK: I don’t because it’s bit me in the butt. Literally – well, not literally bit me in the butt [chuckles], but it has to the point where I go ahead and I say “yeah, you know what, I like you. I’ll give you a $20 [inaudible] discount or something”, which is like a 10% discount on my going rate at the time. And inevitably, they come in and they think that it means that they can negotiate on invoices, they can negotiate on due dates, they can negotiate on everything else. It’s just “no, no I don’t do that”. BRYCE: Absolutely. It’s the classic give a mouse a cookie, he’ll expect a 20% discount on his next invoice for reasons that are super unclear, usually. I’m trying to think of a situation where giving a discount worked out, and I’m – it’s really only been with the long-term clients that I trust not to take advantage of it, like the kind of clients who have established a relationship with. Because once you start negotiating on rate or discounts or any of that effect, and it’s particularly early in the relationship, you're setting a standard. It’s the same reason why I very strongly encourage people not to work for free for clients. You can do your own work for free, and I encourage you do it; it’s a wonderful way to stay sane and stay sharp. But if you start working for free with a client, that’s where the bar has been set. So anytime they have to pay you, it is immediately compared to that. Same goes for if you are working with a client and you give him a discount pretty upfront. Then why would they ever want to pay your full amount? The argument you’d hear is like “well, now you got them hooked”. You got them hooked at a much lower rate. It’s a give and take and it rarely works out, in my opinion. It’s a very good litmus test you came up with if they ask for a discount more than once and they refuse to just appreciate that that’s how you do business. CHUCK: I also need to point out that your accent makes me really miss Curtis McHale who used to be on the show. BRYCE: Oh. I keep getting told I have an accent. CHUCK: Only by Americans. BRYCE: Yeah, yeah. The funny part is I’m half American, so – [chuckles]. Although I haven’t really lived in the States, if we’re being perfectly honest, so I have no excuse for it. All I can do is just add some Southern tang to my voice and hope that passes, but apparently I get outed every time I’m talking to some, I guess, fellow Americans. JONATHAN: Those Yanks. CHUCK: Yeah. BRYCE: You Yanks and your delightful podcast. JONATHAN: As I’m listening to your examples, I am recognizing even more strongly that I've oriented my entire consulting business around avoiding all of these problems; not totally accidentally, but from a different angle. It’s like I didn’t set out to avoid clients from hell; I'm more set out to be able to charge clients a lot of money, and I knew if I was going to do that, I was going to have to add tons of value to the business in order to make me seem like a good deal; expensive, but worth it. And it’s like you're writing down a list of all the things that I see people dealing with that are – none of these stuff ever happens to me because I only work with clients who I’d want to have drinks with, so it’s automatically people I like. I make sure to be attracting enough clients that I can be picky by who I work with, which means I’m not desperate and have to take on people who have red flags. In order to attract all those clients, you have to make yourself the go-to person for some specialty, so that you're like the go-to expert or like an authority in your field on whatever it is – securing WordPress sites or whatever – and attract clients who come to you instead of you reaching out to them. Usually, they come to you and they're like “geez, can we get on your calendar?” They're more – the power frame is reversed. It’s not like a client than the relationship; it’s more like you said earlier, a partnership, and they're just hoping to get on your calendar and it’s – oftentimes, they’ll pay in advance, like “oh yeah, I've got a spot in 3 months. If you want to put on a deposit now and then pay the rest before we get started”. That’s another thing I do; ask for money a hundred percent upfront so there's no dickering later about that stuff. So it’s wild. I can see that having a focus on attracting the ideal clients for me, the ones who I can deliver the highest value to has had this flipside, the farther down the chain, if you think of it like that; it’s had this other effective insulating me from anything like this. I've never – I've got a couple of sways from way back that are nowhere near as bad as getting rear-ended. But I can think of one time that somebody contacted me and we did the – we said “ok, we’re going to do this”, and they sent me a check for 10 grand, and the following day, the kickoff meeting was going to be with the whole management team, and my project contact wasn’t the top dog on the food chain. So we get in this meeting the next day, and her boss gets on the phone and was just instantaneously all of the things that you just described, is red flags. And I recognized it a mile away, and I didn’t – I knew that it was never going to be worth 10 grand and I was going to end up regretting it if I went forward. So as soon as that call was over, I called back my contact and I was like “yeah, I’m sending your check back. I’m not working with you guys. That lady is insane”. And she was like “no, no, no. I’ll keep it under control. She is nuts, but don’t worry about it. I can deal with this. She is carried away [inaudible] [chuckles]. She sounds meaner than she is” and stuff like that. And I was like “yeah, whatever. Thanks anyway”. BRYCE: I’m shocked you guys even bothered to have me on the show because that was a fairly good summation of how to – how you only need one bad experience to know what to look for [chuckles]. And when I said it’s like a rite of passage having a bad client, I kind of do believe that. I am in no way encouraging people to just go seek out a terrible relationship with a client, but it’s just you only need to have it once to realize like “yeah, never. Never doing that again”. And so much – you know what, it’s really funny, but one thing I've really noticed, especially working on the site and reading the comments to each story, and it’s “ah, working with clients, if there's any relationship parallel, it’s almost like a romantic relationship”. When you were talking about how now that your clients are the ones who [inaudible], how that power dynamic is a little bit different, and how it’s more about partnership as opposed to what the client bend the relationship, these are all true of any good romantic relationship as well, aren’t they? And when you treat it like a partnership, when you work together, when expectations are clear, when you communicate, you'll see it through to the end. All these little affirmations I’m throwing at you could easily be on a Dr. Phil episode. But that’s just it. Once you start getting some experience, you really do learn how to qualify your clients, like you know what you work well with and what to avoid. You know what kind of rate is worth your time, and that your time is worth your rate, and you don’t budge on that. And a client who really is pushy trying to do that, it’s like it’s the same if they are pushy about the minutia of your invoices, like your hourly rate or whatever, like ‘”I don’t know, I see you spent 15 minutes doing admin work before” – it’s like “why don’t you go into the specifics of that?” That kind of client is going to spend more of your time going over your invoice than whatever you're probably invoicing for, and that’s not going to be worth it. But once you do know what kind of projects and services you're qualified for, what kind of people you work well with, and if you brought your career to the point where you have more people wanting to work with you, then work your [inaudible] to do, oh you're in a golden position and you should never lose sight of that, and you should never lose appreciation for those good clients. One thing I did mention was expectations, and I do want to underline that point because that is, as far as I can tell, the keystone most important catalyst for good or bad client relationships. So this means like the scope of work, the fees, the budget, the timeline, the milestones, the deadlines; these all need to be understood, clarified, and written out ideally in the contract before you start to work. And equally important is whatever the client is responsible for and what they need to deliver. I have one client who I still work with and we've since gotten past this together through beautiful communication; like I said, relationships, they're important. But he was really bad at getting me stuff when I needed it in order to get his work done on time. He would take 3 weeks to deliver like this absolutely essential image for a book that’s going out or what's supposed to go out 2 weeks ago. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the kind of client who’s like “ah, alright, well here’s that image you needed. Will you still able to deliver it for its deadline in 2 hours?” It’s like “well, yeah”. So a client who appreciates what they need to bring to the table, what you bring to the table, and each of you are clear on that, it’s going to be so much better in the long run. JONATHAN: Yeah. Michael Port says unstated expectations are resentments waiting to happen. BRYCE: [Inaudible] JONATHAN: Very true. Very true. It comes up often on the show that the solution to lots of problems is lots of project communication. BRYCE: Absolutely. JONATHAN: The more intense the project is, the more high risk or long term or whatever it is you're getting to crunch time. I've seen it happen a bunch of times when I managed to have [inaudible] climb into their cave and just tried and crawled their way out of a problem instead of saying “hey, there's a problem here. I just want to let you know I think I can [inaudible] my way out of it, but FYI”. And instead of doing that, they burn the midnight oil, they try to make it work, and then they get punchy, and then they ruin the codebase, and then they need to start from scratch, and then everything’s farther behind, and then there's nothing the manager can do about it – ah man. CHUCK: Oh, Jonathan. [Crosstalk] I've never ever done that, ever, to any of my clients, so I don’t know what you're talking about. JONATHAN: That’s great. That’s good to know. CHUCK: [Chuckles] JONATHAN: I've got a funny story that just occurred to me. I've been a client from hell. And I recommend people, in fact, especially people who charge by the hour, to hire someone by the hour to do creative work for you; not at your specialty, but at a different specialty. And it is so eye-opening what it feels like to not know if this person that you hired who’s working remotely in their code cave, you don’t know if at the end of the week you're going to get an invoice for 80 hours at a hundred bucks an hour or 2 hours at a hundred bucks an hour. Then what does that do to you? That turns you to a micromanaging freak because you don’t know if the clock is running or not. If the person is not communicating with you, all of a sudden you're that guy; you're that needy boyfriend. “Hey, where are you? I just want to see what's going on. I wasn’t getting any updates. [Inaudible] get together, maybe talk about the project”. And it’s hilarious how – what it does to you if you are – frankly, it has a lot to do with paying – offering services by the hour or paying for things by the hour where a person’s not in front of you working. It creates this weird like – there are a lot of hours in a week. It’s a lot more then 40. And if you’re paying somebody American rates for any kind of creative work, it’s at least 60 bucks. So somebody could sort of spin their wheels – basically do that thing that I just described; they go to the basement and they make a bunch of bad decisions, and then they come out and they want to bill you for 120 hours of work that had zero beneficial outcome; or maybe achieved the goals, but due to their poor judgment, it was 3 times more time consuming than it should have been. And the [inaudible] of the problem there is that the person who’s doing the work is billing based on their time and not the desired outcome. And that leads to this exact problem, and it’s hilarious. If you bill by the hour, dear listener, I urge you to hire someone to do something by the hour for you, and you will realize how torturous – it’s torturous to be on that end of the equation because you don’t know what's going on, you don’t know if you're going to get what you want; when you do formally get something, it might not be what you wanted because maybe you didn’t do a good job saying what you wanted. Man, it’s a total nightmare. And I've done this with designers in my own website where somebody’s “oh yeah, the design is already here. Here it is”, and they upload it, and I hate it, and it’s my fault because I didn’t give them a good direction. And then they hit me with a bill for like 2,000 bucks for CSS I’m going to throw away. And I’m like “argh”, you know? It’s brutal. It’s brutal. BRYCE: And it’s very easy for that to kind of cut both ways, but that is a part of it. I know that it sounds funny coming from a guy who runs a site called Clients from Hell, but a lot of people do not appreciate how difficult it can be to be a client and to need a quality freelancer, be that a designer, a coder, a writer, and to find that person, lock them down, continuously produce good work with them. I had a client, great client; and in fact, they were giving me too much work. So it got to the point where I had to drop some of their projects. So I really want to transition them as well as possible. So I reached out to some of my colleagues and I set up some referrals. Now, my personal mistake in this situation was I hadn’t worked with a couple of these colleagues. And they were the ones who were hungriest for the work. And one of them was mostly full time. They did some freelancing on the side, but they were looking to go pure freelance. And I was like “great. I got your first client for you; great guy. I worked with him for years; always paid on time, very communicative. You'll have to” – laying out the pros and cons, the flables and the –. Anyways, this client ended up paying this person I referred, I think, 8 hours at their hourly rate, so a few hundred dollars. And this person I referred just had basically decided not to finish the project. They decided to go a different way with what they were going to do in their career, take some time off. And that 8 hours was purely just the courting period, essentially, like figuring out if they work well together, figuring out exactly what this client needed and really just trying to get them up to speed in all these projects. And yeah, so my client got burned for several hundred dollars. And apparently, that can just be the fact of life for some clients is trying to find the right person for the job. We talk about how the power dynamics of a relationship. It’s very easy for a client to dangle the paycheck as the cheese at the end of a stick. I’m not sure if that’s how the metaphor works, but it’s very easy for us to see the client as the one with all the power, but it’s very easy for freelancers to screw over clients. And if you at least appreciate that, you might appreciate why a client would be cagey, why a client might ask after your rate, why a client might be concerned about how you're spending your time. As much as I like micromanaging clients that are worst and they are, I do appreciate where they're coming from. And in fact, the fact that I understand where they're coming from, they usually, as long as I communicate that to them, they appreciate it. They feel more at ease knowing that I understand why they're not at ease, necessarily. I had another guy design a website for me once. I can’t remember what the deal was; something about his laptop, so he wanted to work at my office, and it was like “oh, ok. Yeah, I wouldn’t mind actually being there for some of your questions”. It took 4 times as long as it was supposed to. Not a great experience for either of us. I don’t think it was a great way for him to work, and it wasn’t a – anyways, it took him 4 months to give me all my FTP login details and all that. And not because he was holding them because I hadn’t paid or anything, just he’d lost them, mismanaged them. And so this website, it was like a side project I wanted to work on, but just that 4 months of waiting and all the time and money – more than anything, the time I had wasted on this guy, just completely soured the project. And he just – he killed it and cost me, I mean, not a huge amount of money, like $800, but it was, my god, it was just so easy for him to completely break that project down to nothing. And he didn’t even mean to. He was just like “oh right, here's an email from that guy asking for the password for this thing. Eh”. And that was it. I was sending him like three emails a week. It was infuriating. CHUCK: I do want to jump in here and just say that yeah, I've been on both ends of that. I've been the bad freelancer. I've been the client that got messed over. And it’s really tough, especially when you can really kind of smell that they really are going to be that micromanaging person just to deal with their own insecurity. That’s not really your fault, but it sucks working for those guys. JONATHAN: Oh, for sure. CHUCK: So sometimes, or a friend of mine, and I know that I can talk him around that tendency to want to micromanage everything, but if it even smells like – because at this point, I don’t have to take clients. And so I do it sometimes just because I want to work on a project. And so, yeah, if it feels like it’s not going to be fun because they're – they have those insecurities, then again, I just walk away from them because you have to basically re-educate them on the fact that it doesn’t have to be that way. And some of those folks will just never get over it. BRYCE: Absolutely. Absolutely. And to keep just nailing home this point, but it really does – I always just use expectations as my rationale for anything I do for a client and any time I try to coach their behavior away from a certain way. It’s one of the reasons why a lot of freelancers are encouraged not to work hourly as soon as they're able to get away from it, I don’t think, because when you start working towards a goal, you can justify every minute of time as time spent working towards that goal. But if you're not measuring – if you're delivering on value as opposed to time, that sidesteps that issue altogether, but it – hitting on yet another point we've brought up several times, and that’s the communication one. If you're like “yeah, expect this to take 10 hours”, you're both like “ok, 10 hours sounds reasonable” and then you're working on it, and then maybe at around hour 8, you're like “oh, this is going to take more than 10 hours”. That’s when you get in touch with your client and let them know that “yup, this is what we thought it would take. This is what it’s actually taking before I reach that milestone, and possibly even the entire budget for this project. Let’s re-evaluate. Let’s figure out if it’s worth 20 hours of my pay at your –” whatever. And yeah, so that’s just it. Yeah. If expectations do become misaligned, if it’s just the nature of the project or whatever you're working on changes, as long as you guys are touching base, communicating, and being clear on red flags where they're like the client is micromanaging you, or you are – you underestimated how long it was going to take you, educating both parties can be really necessary, and it can make both of your lives a lot better in the long run. JONATHAN: Eric Davis who was sometimes panelist on the show has an interesting approach that, I think, is super super solid for people who are still billing in the time unit. So if you're billing by the hour for some kind of development work, or by the week or whatever, and when he’ll do an estimate, he will additionally for each feature, he’ll say “I estimate this is going to take 20 hours”, and then he has a confidence indicator about how sure he is that it’s only going to take that long. And what that ends up doing is when the client gets that, they can say “ok, he think he’s going to take 20, but he could” – but there are some risk factors where maybe a third party API is involved he’s not familiar with, so he might – it might turn out that that API is terrible or difficult to work with and misleading, so there's a 50% chance that this number is wrong. It’s what the client wants to do. When you're billing by the hour, by some time unit instead of by the outcome, what the client wants to do is prioritize the things. And they can’t prioritize the things without knowing how much they cost, and you're the person who’s in control of that number. So if you're going to insist on not getting a fixed price for the feature or for the project and you're going to say “well, we’ll going to do time and materials here. It’s going to – a week is $2,000 or $5,000”, or “an hour is $200”, or whatever, you have to give them some indication as to how solid your estimate – how solid you think your estimate is, because that can change the way they prioritize how they want to spend their money and how they want to manage their risk, which is something that people don’t think about. Typically, it’s not just money and it’s not just time, it’s also risk. So if they see – if you have a client who sees that “oh ok, the calendar widget feature is going to be beneficial for my business. I’m going to be able to roll that out to a bunch of clients. They're going to be very excited about that. I can do webinars about it. Everybody is going to be jazzed”, but – this is a weird gut instinct thing because pricing is so psychological, but they’ll be like “in all of that wonderfulness is worth about $2,000 to me”. And so if they see an estimate that says $2,000 and only 50% certainty, then they're going to be like “uhh, maybe we can cut scope on that a little bit to get us into a range that’s more comfortable, less risky, less – more likely to give good ROI, or maybe we de-prioritize it and go with something else that’s got a much higher certainty”. Maybe it’s more expensive, maybe it’s $3,000, but it’s 90% certain that it’s going to come in on budget, maybe that’s more attractive for a variety of reasons. So I always found it to be super interesting and it also, from the communication standpoint, even if you don’t bill by the week or you don’t bill by the feature, you can – even if you're billing a fixed-price project; you say it’s going to be $50,000 for this entire e-commerce site, you can say – I usually will put in a section about risks and assumptions and things that we don’t really know how it’s going to go. It could go horribly wrong. Your price won’t change, but it might affect the timeline, things like that. And then when something does blow up in your face, then it’s not like a surprise; it’s like – it still paints you as the expert even though it blow up in your face because you are fairly sure it was going to blow up in your face. So it’s like “yeah, this is a ticking time bomb. I’m willing to tackle it and commit to a fixed price for it, but FYI, this could blow up and it might require more input from your side, which is time from you guys, or it might prolong the release or whatever”. But back to the communication thing, if you – anything that you can see in advance like that, even if it’s very fuzzy and vague, it’s worth putting into the conversation whether that’s the proposal or in your project management system or whatever. CHUCK: I just want to jump in on this because I've done this before. I've always done like best case, worst case, and what I think it’s actually going to take, and every time, whatever the lowest number is, when I pass that up, I always get the “you said it was only going to take 2 days, and it’s been a week”. Every time. Every time. Every client I've done that with, every time they come back and they're just ticked off because it wasn’t the best case scenario and it’s like “look, I told you that I was going to probably have to deal with some of these other things, and that I really thought it was going to take this long, and in reality it could take up to this long”, and yeah, it’s – I don’t know; I don’t know how Eric does it because yeah, inevitably, if I give them any list of numbers, one number, two numbers, a number and a risk factor, they come back and they go “you said it was going to take you a day”, and it just –. Then there – [crosstalk]. JONATHAN: It depends on how often it’s happening. I have had the same experience. When you give somebody an estimate, they hear – it’s like “[inaudible] can be – I estimate that it’s going to be about 50 grand”, and they're like – if you go to 60 grand, they freak out. CHUCK: Yup. JONATHAN: And I've definitely seen that. I think that the trick with hourly or weekly billing, and the reason why I think Eric can get away with it is because he’s an excellent estimator, so he is rarely wrong. And if you're rarely wrong, like – so Chuck, in this scenario where you got a total of $50,000 project and you, once or twice, you go over with the $500 feature, you go to a thousand. It’s hard for me to imagine that a client – [inaudible] reasonable – it’s hard for me to imagine they're making a big deal out of that. But if people are bad at estimating, if every single estimate is wrong and they're never too high, they're always too low, then that’s the systemic problem and you're never going to get better at it. As a freelancer, you're never going to get better at estimating your hours, in my opinion, unless you’ve got skin in the game aka you lose money if you are bad at it. BRYCE: Yeah. You hit on so many great things there. I really like Eric’s rule like “here's my estimate, and here's how confident I am in that”, because it addresses something that I've never had very good advice on, and that’s how – especially the more inexperienced you are as a freelancer, the harder it is to estimate these things and the more difficult it is to predict these potential issues. It’s the reason so many people listen to wonderful shows like yours, and the one you run, Clients from Hell Podcast; check it out on iTunes. But [chuckles] it’s the same issue wherein if you're inexperienced, you don’t know what to ask. You don’t know exactly how long these things are going to take. Almost every professional freelancer I know has one of those early projects they can tell me about where they estimated like 20 hours and they ate the cost for the extra 80 hours because that was just what they estimated. And they didn’t know all these things would happen. They didn’t know to account for revisions in their contract. And to play the flipside of Eric’s upfront estimate and how ambiguous that estimate might be, one thing I find a lot of people do that drops the ball is they don’t see these client relationships through to the very end. And what I mean by that is you underline your revision and follow up policy prior to the end of the project; that’s number one. But then, after the project, try and figure out what worked and what didn’t work with this project and with this client. Ask the client difficult questions as like – I don’t know what the term would be; let’s just call it follow up procedure – but do ask like “what could I have done better”, “what was an area where I frustrated you”. Sometimes, these are things you cannot at all control, and that’s fine. If the worst thing going wrong is like “oh, you know, the economy went down”, it’s like “well, sorry about that”. Usually, you will get useful feedback on that like the client might price anchor because you're initial estimate was so low. So in their head, despite the fact that you said “yeah, 50,000”, but it could very likely be 70,000. And then when you actually quote on it, and let’s say it’s 65, they're just like “well, I had 50,000 stuck in my head”. Despite the fact that you very clearly said afterward “probably closer to 70”, yeah, it doesn’t matter because you will quickly learn that if you give a client two numbers, they're only going to hear the smaller one, assuming that’s the better one. CHUCK: Yeah. Eventually, what I wound up doing was I quit getting them the best case scenario. So then it was “here's how long I think it’s going to take, and here's how long it could conceivably take”, which was effectively what Eric does except it wasn’t a percentage; it was an out-there number. And that seemed to work better once I switched. But yeah, for a long time, it was that best case scenario. They just totaled up all the best case scenario. They saw I would have it done in 2 weeks, and they were mad when it went to 4. BRYCE: Absolutely. It’s a real Catch 22 of [inaudible]. Whenever I estimate time, money, whatever, I always just assume at least another 25% on top. Worst case scenario, you finish under budget or ahead of time, and the client couldn’t be more pleased. It’s funny. If I told two separate clients “this will take 2 weeks and cost you X amount of money”, and I told the one of these two clients that like “probably take 2 and a half weeks and it will cost you X+1”, and I deliver it exactly when I thought it would actually be done. The one that I gave the longer estimate to is almost always more appreciative for it being done. I've had clients give me bonuses on top of things just because they were so pleased that it met under time and under budget or whatever. And even – some people are like “well, aren’t you losing projects because you're not quoting competitively”, and this is sort of a roundabout lesson, but don’t quote as a – don’t quote too competitively. Don’t try to be the cheapest guy in the room; maybe second cheapest, but never the cheapest guy in the room. It’s never a good idea. It is not a great business strategy for almost any freelancer who – at least any freelancer in a really developed country. You're not going to be looking at a lot of long-term business growth, and you're not going to be running into a lot of cheap clients, which is probably the worst symptom of always trying to have the cheapest offering. JONATHAN: Insert pitch for value pricing here. CHUCK: [Chuckles] No joke. JONATHAN: Yeah. Value pricing solve all of these problems because you cannot be the lowest bid. You could be the highest bid. I usually am the highest bid. But you just change the whole game because you're willing to take the risk of your ability to estimate the scope of work. So if somebody is getting estimates for 50 grand and I committed and I say to 85 grand, but it’s not an estimate; that’s what you're going to pay, period. And do you want to represent somebody who’s willing to stand by their price, or are you going to work with a bunch of people who are maybe are just low-balling you to get the work, and then once it’s too late to really change the horse you're riding, they take you up to a hundred. And it happens all the time. I was like the reason – huge reason why I switched from hourly to value – really, it was one of the – I didn’t probably recognize it before I did it, but immediately after I switched, I suddenly realized that I could guarantee customer satisfaction. And I could never do that before. I could never guarantee customer satisfaction before because the hours are the hours; that’s how long it took me. And that’s the way I was build up on my employer, and that’s – I had to account for them. If I didn’t bill the client the hours, then my boss would be “[inaudible] hours”, and I’d be like “I did, but I had to eat them because blah blah blah”. It gets all weird because everybody’s focused on this arbitrary measurement of work output that’s totally irrelevant to the desired outcome of the project. If you actually drill in and say – instead of them saying “hey, we need you to update the MailChimp API. Ready? Go”; instead of that, you say “well, wait a second. Why do you need to update the MailChimp API?” “Well, you need to get [inaudible] blah blah blah”. And you say “well, why do you need that?” and they say “well, because we really need to up our marketing on a nation game”, and I say “well, why don’t you just use Drip instead of using MailChimp?” and they're like “well, we hadn’t thought of that. We did think of that, but we can’t do it because of X, Y, Z”. And you keep asking them why, why, why, why, why, and try to talk them out of hiring you, all of a sudden you’ve got a good idea of why they're doing the project or why they called you in the first place and you can get a sense of like “oh, I could probably price this around, let’s just say, 50 grand because they're going to get a ton of benefit out of it and I’m fairly certain that I can do this quick enough that my effective hourly rate if I wanted to check my hours and do math after the fact, would still really be high. But I’m not even going to worry about that. I’m just going to say “yeah, it’s 50 grand. I’ll stick to that come hell or high water, and you can go out and get estimates from other people if you want, but if you want to take on all that risk, you can, but I’m willing to take it on for you then we can really partner”. It sidesteps all of this stuff, but it freaks people out because like you said, when freelancers are first starting out, they don’t know their ass from their elbow. So they have no idea how do anything that I just said [chuckles]. And they're like “oh”; they get this panicky like “[inaudible] they’ll destroy me. I’ll get scope creeped to death, or they’ll take advantage of me” or all this other stuff. And the fact of the matter is most people are nice and if you let yourself be vulnerable to them, they will not take advantage of you. And if you come in to the scenario with basically a pre-nup type of scenario, then they're going to be defensive because you're being defensive. And now everybody’s defensive. So what do you do? You fight about price. You fight about hours entries. You fight about invoice amounts, blah blah blah blah blah. And everybody’s ignoring the actual goal of what they want to get done and they're fighting about administrative trivia. So it drives me crazy and I will get off my [inaudible] box. BRYCE: Before you do, let me just slow clap you off that bad boy. That was a – really, I was taking notes as you were going along like “oh, ask them about this, this, and this, and then you circle the back to it, and it’s like ok, eloquently put, eloquently addressed”. Yeah, great job. Great job. CHUCK: It’s funny because you talk about that mindset, and when we started this show, I was pretty new to freelancing. I've been doing it for a year, so yeah, listeners should go listen to episode 4 [chuckles], and then compare it to what Jonathan just said. Because that was exactly the mindset we were in was “well, but what about this, and scope creep, and all of the things, and hourly is just you get paid for your time”, and yeah. Having come back around to having listen to Jonathan for a while and having spoken with Kirk Bowman and some of these other folks who have talked about value-based pricing, and then having actually implemented it with different bids or different proposals for different projects, it’s a whole lot stressful. And I don’t have to go in and check remember to press the button when I start working, and then press the button when I stop working, and press the button when I get up to go to the bathroom, and press the button when I scratch my nose and all that stuff, because it’s not directly related to the project. JONATHAN: Am I educating myself right now, or should I be billing for this? CHUCK: Right. JONATHAN: You're like that whole thing. CHUCK: And then trying to explain to the client why you added all the time that they fought with you over the invoice to the next invoice. JONATHAN: [Chuckles] I've had to – I've done that. CHUCK: I've done that too. JONATHAN: Yeah. Call it pulling out the baseball bat. You utterly destroy the client relationship. Just over. Trust gone. I will say that Bryce bought up an interesting point earlier about how – really, how does a freelancer start doing this without just going through the [inaudible] hard knocks. And I am coming around to the thinking that more and more, it’s – value price is really hard. I'm the first person to admit that. I think people need help getting from hourly to value because it’s such a gigantic mind shift, and if they keep clenching, they clench up [inaudible] do it, it’s going to wreck it and they are just going to get killed. Because they will get scope creeped to death. You got to unclench. But it’s easier said than done, so I think the trick is, or the approach is – at least one of the approach is to go from hourly to value is to create a productized service which we talked about before, it’s a little buzz-worthy, but what you do is you come up – maybe you’ve done a job once or twice or maybe you have an idea for a job that you could do that has a fairly fixed scope that doesn’t get wildly bigger or smaller no matter who hires you to do it, and you price that publicly. So you create a sales page for this productized service; maybe it’s increasing WordPress performance, or securing WordPress, or integrating with MailChimp API or something really specific about integrating – migrating from MailChimp to Drip, something like that that’s fairly fixed-scope. And you create that as a product, and you price it at an amount, like it’s like a hamburger; say it’s a thousand bucks from my migration to MailChimp to Drip service. The value thing will still work, it’s just in reverse. So clients who hear about this thing will self-select based on the value that they will get out of it. So if some clients come along and they say “oh, I’ll never get the value. I’ll never get a thousand dollars’ worth of value out of that. I've only got 10 people in my MailChimp list. I could move that out manually”. But then someone stumbles across you that’s got a SaaS with 10,000 active monthly users, and they're printing money with a mailing list, they want to move over to Drip for some of the new features, then all of a sudden it’s worth a thousand bucks like no-brainer. So it’s still a value – it’s value priced in a sense, but I think that’s a little bit of a stretch the term. But I guess what I would say is that value concepts are at play, but you’ve just created a fixed-scope productized service where it’s going to be totally high-touched. You're going to do everything manually and there's no automation or anything like that [inaudible] for this outcome. And people who find that outcome more valuable than a thousand dollars are going to line up at your door, and then you can rate – just continually raise the price. Some of my friends will just – every time they sell one of these things, they’ll double the price – or not double it every time, but increase the price every time so that they're like “well, if it sells at a thousand, we’ll just sell it at 2,000. If it sells at 2,000, we’ll just sell it at 3,000”, and it works. It works well. So I think that’s how you play on easy mode if you are just starting out and you’ve got something that you're really good at; you try and come up with a marketing angle where you can have this fixed-scope, fixed-price service, and then market that, and then that can be a draw away into your custom services after the fact. So people are like “damn, you did a great job with that migration. What else do you do?” “Oh yeah, I can do whatever”, and you can integrate that back into your e-commerce site or I can integrate that back in your membership sites so that you can segment people based on which emails they’ve seen or whatever. But I think that’s the way to go. If I had a – if my brother was just starting out and freelancing, that’s absolutely what I would tell him to do. BRYCE: Absolutely. It’s a very smart [inaudible] absolution between charging an hourly and charging explicitly for value with every client you meet. Your clients are qualifying you for themselves. So you don’t even need to do the whole courting process; you just need to basically list your price. “If you have this problem and it’s worth this much to you, I’ll fix it. Great”. It’s that simple and it takes all the work out for you. PHILIP: This is Philip jumping in here. BRYCE: Yey Philip! PHILIP: Sorry to sneak in through the backdoor. BRYCE: Hey Philip. [Inaudible] PHILIP: I’m here. Hey Bryce. CHUCK: [Inaudible]. PHILIP: So [chuckles] yeah, [inaudible] the lock next time, Chuck. I wanted to touch on the idea that’s I think scope is not like this binary thing where the project is either done or not done. And what I mean by that is I think there's a lot of a) a lot of exceptions to this, but b) I think there's also quite a few projects where a range of scope is able to produce value. It’s not like you get over this threshold and there's no value at all. So that’s like you get another subtle way to achieve client satisfaction, is by collaborating more tightly on the scope and allowing the scope to be flexible so that the client can invest on what they want to invest, and they can get value out of that investment and no one is risking too much when you do that. I don’t know if I said that very well, but I think far too often we just think scope as this binary thing; it’s either done or it’s not done. BRYCE: Yeah. I think that’s a – I think it’s a really important note to make, now that you mention it. And that was something I did like is – the productized service versus the charging for value – is the scope is fixed. And if you do start charging the value, that’s where you need to understand the scope through and through, especially if you are using it as your wiggle room bank account, as I like to call it sometimes. Because once you start to anticipate what might need to happen, what changes, what features, what deliverables can be shifted or might need to be included, once you can anticipate that, you can deal with that. But if it’s – if it just drops on your lap, it’s much harder to come up to the client and be like “oh, surprise. Probably have to charge you for this”, and that’s why you get so many younger freelancers, or I should say more inexperienced freelancers, eating those scope creep cost as opposed to using Philip’s insights which, I think, are very worth reiterating. PHILIP: Yeah. I've had many [inaudible] of – I don’t know what to call it [chuckles] – eating hours with more hours on the side. JONATHAN: Some hours lost. CHUCK: That’s right. Feast on those unpaid hours. So I want to get in to another aspect of this topic. So let’s say that you have a client from hell. You're listening to this show and you're going “oh man”, like “rear-ended? I wish that was all I was dealing with”. And you're trying to figure out “so I want to go try Jonathan’s approach and set up some productized consulting, but I got to dump this guy now, like yesterday, because I've already passed through” – the projects that I really hated go through phases. It’s “gee, I’m kind of miserable”, and then it’s “ok, now I’m really miserable”, and then it’s “if I had known, I never would’ve taken this project in the first place”, which if you're at that point, just quit now. And then you get to the point where it’s like “ok, I absolutely can’t take this anymore. How do I get out of this? How do I quit? How do I tell these people that I just – I can’t spend another day with my eyes bleeding over their code and my ears bleeding every time I talk to them”? BRYCE: Anyone else want to take that or should I? JONATHAN: Yeah, I [inaudible] – I have to counsel to one of these constantly, and the answer is it really depends on a lot of factors because to a nuclear relationship like that is a very – it’s very delicate. It can be very delicate. In reality, I've only ever done it at the very beginning of a project, which I should talk about earlier, and you just send the money back and it’s not like you guys are 6 months into a project that’s supposed to be 3 months, but now it’s looking like 12. That’s like, oh, they haven’t even gotten started, they haven’t invested in anything, they just literally cut the check and didn’t even cash it and boom boom boom. Just pull off that bandage; it’s no big deal. They're never going to be a good client and that’s just like a –. Now, I have, at times, been on that forced march to hell at the end of a project where I value-priced it and I thought it was going to take a year, but it took 2 years, and so my effective hourly rate was half of what I was hoping. And you might get to the end of that and say – it’s happened to me, not on that particular project; that’s the worst part you could ever had in terms of scope creep or call it my bad estimation. And that really wasn’t even that bad and I would work with that client again in a second if they have a project that they needed help with. But I've had other projects where the scope creep was very – the client was definitely to blame for a lot of scope creep and doing my best to manage it; it was just tedious – it’s tedious. This is a bad fit and it ended up being a bad client relationship. I wasn’t a good fit for them and they were not a good fit for me. And whenever that’s happened, which has been fairly rare, I’ll get to the end of the project and I’ll finish it. I’ll drag the ball across the finish line kicking and screaming. And there's almost always a v2 that comes after that, and that’s when I’ll be like “look, you guys, we saw how this just went. I’m not pointing fingers at you or at me, but it was just not a good fit and I don’t think I’m the right person for you for this next phase. I’m happy to make myself available to hand it over to another developer”. Maybe I even recommend a couple of other developers that they can talk to, and that sort of thing, and just try –. I think it’s pretty important to always, at all times, no matter what, do the right thing to the extent that you can because it’s a small world, number one, and number two, anybody who wants to sue you can sue you. And probably most people would immediately get put out of business if they get sued, even if it was completely [inaudible]. So I don’t care what your contract says; if you get sued and when, you'll still probably going out of business. So it’s like – I think you want to keep people happy to the extent that you can, and a really risky thing to do would be to fire a client in the middle or near the finish line when it gets that horrible phase that everybody hates, when the launch is looming, the deadline is looming, and the To Do list just keeps getting longer, and you're burning the midnight oil, and you're watching your effective hourly rate go down, and everybody’s fighting, and it’s so tempting to want to make that go away. But at that point, even if you quit at that point and even gave back all the money that they had paid you up to that point, you're still asking for a lawsuit. That’s just going to be – that would just be a jerk move. So I think if you're up to your eyeballs in it – and I totally appreciate what Chuck is saying is like if it’s a nightmare client from hell, then fire them if you think it’s the right thing to do for both parties. I don’t think it’s always the right – I think there are situations you could be aware it’s definitely not the right thing to do for both parties, and it might just be that you have to bite the bullet and finish this particular project and then hand them off to somebody else. This is a good time to point out that this is why I don’t take on projects that are going to take 6 months. If I was going to do a software project now, it would be a maximum of a month, maybe 3, but probably not. I try to break these things down into phases that have specific outcomes and are probably only going to take 10 or 20 hours of coding, maybe charge 20 grand for it, and get in and out. So you don’t put yourself in this position that got this monolithic massive project that goes horribly wrong because I take on the risk in the projects I do because I give a fixed bid. So I don’t want them to be giant; I want them to be bite-size pieces of stabilities, is how I refer to it. So like “we’ll get you to this point of stability, and then we’ll reassess. We’ll get you to the next point of stability, and then we’ll reassess”. It’s like build a skateboard, build a scooter, build a bike, build a motorcycle, build a car, instead of building the wheels, building the frame, building the steering wheel, building the seats, building the roof, building the windshield, because you don’t have a car until you finish the windshield on that second approach. But if the first approach, at least you could stop on the skateboard or you could stop on the scooter, then get something working for the money that they spent. CHUCK: Yeah. I have to say I've only ever completely burned the bridges once. And it was just because no matter how I tried to quit, no matter how hard I tried to quit, no matter what, they wouldn’t leave me alone until I basically offended them. But yeah, I completely agree with everything that Jonathan said because for the most part, you can deal with people, and if you can find a good place to break, then yeah, you don’t have to deal with nearly as much stuff. BRYCE: For sure. For sure. I really like how Jonathan breaks his projects into phases. That’s a very easy early mistake is to take on these monolithic ones, these giant sprawling projects, and those are the ones that can so easily get away from you. And if the client relationship starts going self in the middle of that, oh man, that is more of your problem than theirs, and that is never fun. You hit a couple good points that I just want to bold. And that’s mostly because I actually wrote an article about this when a friend was just – a friend called me crying because her client was just like – she was just frustrated to no end. So I ended up writing her some advice over IM, and it turned out to be relatively good advice. But the first steps; step number one, no matter what, and that’s just to take a little bit of time. And I really want to – that’s just so important because any time you get burned or you get upset, it’s very easy to go for the nuclear option. So many people – any comments on the Clients from Hell stories immediately, they're just like “oh, murder him” [chuckles]. [Inaudible] that’s just like “yeah, no, felony. Let’s commit a felony”, and of course, internet comments. But part of any relationship, let’s just take some time to evaluate this decision: is it a good thing? And if it is a crappy relationship, and you're right at the beginning of it, it’s probably worth of your time and sanity to just refund that deposit and be like “sorry I wasted your time”, and silently to yourself “and I’m sorry you wasted mine, but let’s save us both some time and stress and anger and a variety of other unpleasant emotions down the line, and let’s just end this here”. And it’s important to have your reasons too to re-evaluate those as you take this time. It’s almost great when a bad client is just awful because it’s so easy to be like “yeah, you're the worst, and I don’t need to work with the worst”. But usually, it’s more insidious than that. It’s because you guys stopped seeing eye to eye, or worked a slip, or maybe they just can’t afford you. And you should know those reasons. You don’t necessarily need to throw them in your client’s face when your ending the relationship, but if they do question your decision, or if they start to get hostile, you should have those as backup. And you should also know the facts if you are going to be letting the client go, particularly when it comes to breach of contract. As we said, getting sued sucks; I have not personally had that happen, and I don’t think anyone on the show has, but that is like a business ender. And it’s never good, and it’s not good for anyone, typically, except the biggest of the big companies that can do this for typically spiteful reasons. But yeah, just – I guess what all this advice is coming around to is that you need to be a professional in this situation no matter how personal it feels. You should be the one who knows why this is happening. You should be prepared. You should hand your client off as well as possible; project resources, up to date status, recommendations on standby if they're not so terrible but you don’t feel bad recommending them to somebody; basically, everything you can do to help the client transition. And you should do it all at once. If you're firing a client this way, you don’t want to give them a reason to keep coming back to you. Like when I talked about that crappy client experience I had where I was the client and my freelancer had some important passwords, I’m sure they were sick of me too, but I needed those. I couldn’t leave them alone. And as a result, we kept that relationship going for a couple of months, and nobody was happy for that. And then yeah, timing is kind of everything in these things. Ideally, you would end the relationship sooner than later, but maybe it is a matter of you hit an important milestone, or you're smart like Jonathan and you broke the project into these digestible bites, whatever. But sooner is usually better than later, but if it has to be later, try and make it at the end of things. Do it, be a calm professional; you might be resentful, you might be angry, but just be concise. Don’t give any like “and another thing”. This isn't you venting. There's an entire website actually dedicated to venting about clients; that's clientsfromhell.net [chuckles], check it out. But if you are firing a client, be the calm professional because that’s what you are. That’s why they hired you in the first place. And even if they didn’t turn out to be professional, which I assume is the reason you guys aren’t working together anymore, doesn’t mean you can’t be. And you should also listen to your clients’ explanation because maybe there was something on your end. And even if there wasn’t, it’s common courtesy. And again, you're being the better person in this situation. And then just make sure you’ve done everything you can to resolve the situation; that’s why I talk about all those preparations. So you need to know what everyone’s obligated to do from here on out, like any upstanding work, any finances you're awaiting. Typically, if you're firing a client, and it’s because they're a bad client, you can say goodbye to any money they owe you. There are some decent people out there who will make sure that their debts are filled. There are quite a few – let’s call them lazy people – who if they don’t have to pay you, they're not going to. So just keep that in mind. If you're saying goodbye to somebody, do not expect them to go to their way to get you what you're owed. You have to make sure you’ve done everything you can. Yeah, sorry. That little addendum to Mr. Stark’s good advice. I really went on there, so I’m going to stop talking for a second. CHUCK: No, it’s good. I actually have some going in about 10 minutes, so I need to start wrapping up. But before we do that, if people want to find out what you're up to, Bryce, where do they go? BRYCE: I would recommend clientsfromhell.net. All these talk about value pricing and what to do with crappy clients, it almost makes me want to mention a book I just wrote called Hell to Pay, which will help you basically deal with anything financial freelancing needs to do. That. So those will be the two big ones. You can also find me on Twitter @brycebladon, but Clients from Hell is the big one. CHUCK: Alright. Let’s go ahead and get to the picks. Philip, do you want to start us off with picks? PHILIP: Yup. I've got 3 picks this week. My first pick is on being on time [chuckles]. My second pick is – I don’t know if this has been mentioned before, but they make these little pressure cookers that you can put on a countertop and plug in to the wall, and they are unbelievable. I’m talking stuff like cooking a potato in 10 minutes. It’s kind of revolutionized. It’s slow motion revolutionizing how I cook, so countertop pressure cookers. And my other pick is an alternative to CloudApp, which I've become increasingly frustrated with because that seems to have some issues on the way the latest version of OS X not pulling on the settings for some reason. So I found another one called Dropshare. Dropshare is different from CloudApp – and by the way, these are apps that lets you drag a file onto your – onto a little icon on your menu bar at the top and share a file, share a movie. You can even drag in text or mark down, and it will share a nicely formatted version of that content. So Dropshare is the one I found. It’s different because you just pay for the app and you don’t pay a monthly subscription, which is nice, and it just hooks up to an S3 – Amazon S3 bucket or a couple of other different file sharing services. So those are my picks for this week. CHUCK: Alright. Jonathan, what are your picks? JONATHAN: My first is a talk that Mike Monteiro gave at the Interaction Design Association; it was the keynote talk. If you don’t know who Mike Monteiro is, he's the author of Design Is a Job and You're My Favorite Client, and he’s a very – he’s sort of a lightning rod type of character, very punk rock mentality, and he runs a design firm called Mule Design. And he just has the best advice for designers that I could possibly imagine anyone ever giving. So if you're a designer in particular, but also in general if you're doing creative work, you should check out Mike Monteiro’s keynote at the Interaction Design Association. It’s a great hilarious fun talk with tons of great advice. CHUCK: Is that the F*** You. Pay me. talk? JONATHAN: Yeah. CHUCK: Yeah, it’s been picked on this show several times. It’s great. JONATHAN: Oh, it’s so good. Actually, you know what, there's a – that might just be one side to this. This one is fairly new; I think it’s only about 6 or 8 months old. I’m sure there's some overlap, but I think the [inaudible] of the talks is 13 things not to do in a client meeting. It’s so great. But anyway, there's that, and on the – on a similar topic, there is [inaudible], there's a website called 27b/6, I think it’s called, and it’s written by this incredibly hilarious guy who basically trolls bad clients over email; and not just clients but other people as well where he gets random email from people with ridiculous requests. He just forces them into this mile-long thread of insanity, and is laugh out loud hilarious. So you could check that out on the show notes. CHUCK: Alright. I've got a few picks. The first one is – so I’m going to be on the CodeNewbie podcast coming up in a couple of weeks, and I've had this book that I had been outlining in my head, and on paper, and a few places, and on my computer and stuff a couple of times, that would be perfect for that audience, so I've been wanting to outline it and get it out. And I ran across a video by Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income where he outlines how he gets a first draft super-duper fast. And it was really good. So I’m going to pick that. Of course, I watched it last Friday and then my wife has been sick all weekend, so I have been spending my book writing time driving kids around and doing dev stuff. So I’m hoping to get to that today or tomorrow, but anyway, I really like it. And then, I just want to do a quick shout out: Freelance Remote Conf is coming up pretty fast, so go check that out. I’m also going to be in Amsterdam the week of the 17th. I’m going to fly out on the 15th, so I’ll be there on the 16th, 17th, and 18th, and then I’m flying back on the 19th. So if you are in Europe and Amsterdam, I am perfectly happy to have dinner with you on – it’s going to be Wednesday night, the 17th. I haven’t figured out the place and time, so you probably got to want to follow me on Twitter so you know where that’s going to be. That’s @cmaxw. Or if you're on the email list to get the episodes for this show or any of the other shows, then you'll – I’m going to send an email out when I know exactly where I’m going to be. And yeah, I just figured a bunch of folks get together and we can all hang out and talk about the shows, and talk about programming, and talk about freelancing and whatever else. So anyway, going to call that out. And then finally, Ruby Remote Conf and iOS Remote Conf for the next two conferences I have coming up. The one after that is React Remote Conf. I know that some people are interested in that. So if you're a programmer in those areas, go check that out as well. You could see the full list at allremoteconfs.com, and yeah. Bryce, what are your picks? BRYCE: Well, I probably pimped my fighting book tonight enough, so I’m going to on a slightly less narcissistic direction. Since we talk so much about value pricing, David McRaney, the journalist who runs You Are Not So Smart; it’s a great book, one I recom in particular about value anchoring; the misconception, irrationally analyze all factors before making a choice or determining value; the truth, your first perception lingers in your mind affecting later perceptions and decisions. That’s anchoring. And he goes into explaining it in probably one of the most comprehensive ways I've ever seen. So you can check out that link in all those areas and Chuck just listed. Another good one is a – I always think I get this guy’s name wrong, but Dan Ariely. He gives a great TED talk about a very similar topic, value anchoring, and it’s about a survey of a hundred MIT students, and how he reacted to various pricing options. And the third one I’m going to give was both the angel and the devil on my shoulder on this one. It’s Soylent. If you guys know what Soylent is, it’s a little food replacement thing. I was running late this morning because my apartment has a lot of construction going on. My apartment is also my office right now. So long story short, running really late, just threw that together as a quick meal, fantastic. And then I’m almost certain the postman interrupted this episode to deliver more. So you guys are getting my recommendation and also my ire today. CHUCK: Alright. Well, we’ll go ahead and wrap up the show. Thanks again for coming, Bryce. It was fun to talk. Some of the stories were just classic. We’ll catch you all next week.[Hosting and bandwidth is provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at BlueBox.net.]**[Bandwidth for this segment is provided by CacheFly, the world’s fastest CDN.  Deliver your content fast with CacheFly. Visit cachefly.com to learn more.]**

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