Re: Client from Hell redux

Subject: Re: Client from Hell redux
From: "Elna Tymes" <etymes -at- lts -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 06 Jun 2000 09:24:24 -0700

Ron Sering wrote:

> Hello whirlers! I've agreed to perform a contract for a client who has begun
> ignoring contract agreements almost from the git-go. This isn't due to
> unscrupulousness, but to poor (nonexistent) processes in place in their
> business, and a fragmented decision-making structure. The upshot of this is
> that their failure to provide me things like software for research and an
> approved outline jeopardizes the success of the project. In addition,
> decisions made on one day are ignored or countermanded a day or two later,
> forcing me to lose time in changing direction.

Been there, done that, got the tee shirt. Many, in fact. What you're
experiencing is far more common in the contracting world than most of us would
like. The only way I've found to protect ourselves is to:

1. Write time-and-materials contracts, no fixed price contracts. This way the
client pays for its own screwups.
2. Have an "assumptions" section in your contract so that the client know going
in that you're assuming he meets certain conditions and milestones. Cover the
assumptions with language like "any failure to meet the above assumptions will
result in delays in interim deliverables" etc.
3. Document, document, document. If you haven't started keeping a daily diary
of your work and what happened, start now. If the client failed to deliver
software you need to start your project, document it. If the client decided to
do X, document it - so that next day when he denies it was X and says Y is the
rule, you know when that happened and when. And (most common in my experience)
when the client says they'll finish a review by such and such a date and they
don't, document it. And (second most common) when they say they'll pay by a
certain date and they don't, and the contract specifies payment terms, document
when it was due, allow a grace period, then get on the phone.
4. As a contractor, you're in a business. Operate the providing of your
services like a business. When things start to get out of control, have an
honest chat with the managers involved, pointing out that you keep a work diary
but that you're providing services for pay, and you need to be paid like the
electric bill. If all else fails, we've withheld work product until a late
payment was made. That doesn't make you popular but if the client is routinely
stiffing its vendors, it won't be in business much longer anyway.

Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems





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