I have been having trouble with this for most of my clients recently.
We have a project, shouldn't take more then 2 weeks of work once I collect the content. Problem is that the client never sends it. They take their time. Request 1 item for content takes 2 weeks or more. Project is taking 4 months instead of 2 weeks.
Any ideas how to prevent this from happening in the future?
How do you guys deal with this?
TBH, 4 months for a theoretical 2 weeks project sounds pretty normal, it's rare that a client coughs up content and approvals quickly. That's why its important to work on many projects simultaneously and not rely on the revenue coming in from the one project. Simply 'file' theses ones aside and work on the others.
Consider updating your agreement so that you are not relying on projects to be 'completed' before significant money is coming in. Try some or all of the following:
- take higher deposits
- more interim payment throughout the project
- monthly billing
- insist that if a client takes longer than xx days to supply content, you'll assume the project is temporarily suspended and will bill for all outstanding work to date (plus the project goes to the bottom of the queue, so even if content arrives, other client projects will be attended to first)
You could also avoid dealing with content in the first place - give them a CMS and leave them to it.
Most important, check your communication with the client. Are they aware that you expect content and approvals back within x number of days? Is this made clear in your contract? Did you explain it to them verbally? Do you follow up when the client is dragging their heels - what do they say back?
Are you being realistic - the client may have many things to attend to, the web site may not be a top priority.
If you really can't deal with it, consider not even starting a project until the content is delivered (just get a non-refundable deposit first though).
But personally I say live with it and just make sure you are busy with other projects.
Rather than worry about why a client would a long time to provide content, just take on new clients and make more money.
Don't forget that this is YOUR main business, but it's almost never THEIRS. So, you can't expect them to prioritize things the way you do.
I love it when they take weeks and weeks to deliver an item and then make it your fire drill to have it done that day. I try to remember that every client thinks that they are my only client.
I have had a client in the past that was notoriously (2-3 months) slow to deliver, so I added an item in the contract that said a 30 day lapse to deliver on their part would signify the job as complete and full payment would be due. Thankfully, I didn't have to get into that situation since they were pretty responsive. Of course, if I took full payment in that case I would still complete the job when they did deliver the items. That was just a gentle cattle prod.
I never this! Why retire a client because they took too long? If a client disappears for a while mid-project, they'll get their usual 30-day invoice for whatever work was completed so I'm all paid up, and I'll happily wait for them to come back while I pursue other things.
Why retire a client just because they are slow? I'll take fast or slow money!
That is not retiring them at all - it is building in some protection. It is unreasonable to let a job stagnate for that long unless the client has extenuating circumstances in which case I'm more than happy to wait in the shadows.
Quite honestly, aren't we both doing the same thing? The only difference is that my payment request is for the balance due, and yours is only for what you've got into it. I've only had to do it once, and given the history with this client, it worked like a charm.
I do like idea of a mid-project invoice if they go stagnant. Does your contract spell out that you will settle up after 30 days of inactivity?
Well, they seem pretty different to me
I invoice all clients for all services and expenses every month on a Net 30, regardless the project. If a client insists on a fixed-bid I'll agree to it by adding some exorbitant margin to the already padded estimation, but I'll still invoice them monthly for a prorated amount that I calculate in my favor. I explain this to clients and tell them that if they go simple hourly rate they would probably save 50%, but some of them just won't do it.
But consider the difference:
Say that a client starts a project, then disappears for a while.
In your system, they receive a huge bill, largely for work that wasn't performed. Even if they pay it, which is questionable, they won't feel good about it. At that point, you have a check but not necessarily a happy client.
In my system, they receive their ordinary monthly invoice just as always. It's smaller, and only for worked that was already performed, so they are more likely to pay it. And now, I have a check and a still happy client who is much more likely to come back.
Now use that approach over 10 years and you have more repeat clients than ever. Why charge clients for work you didn't do just because they bailed out? It seems like much better business to allow clients to come and go as they please, focusing on making sure that you are always paid for whatever services you performed AND keep them happy.
Lately I find myself more in the market of buying services rather than selling them, since I've moved more into startups.
I can tell you, the vendors that freak out when I have to put things on hold are the ones that are hungrier, more cashpoor, less established. The more successful ones just send a bill and invite me to come back when I'm ready.
Thanks for your replies, some good ideas! After reading them I think this is what would work best for my situation, keep in mind I usually take 50% upfront and 50% at the end.
- Perhaps hire people on percentage to collect the all the content, at least I won't have to worry about it and can focus on getting new contracts and doing the work as it comes in.
- Clients are given X amount of days or weeks to submit the content, there will be deadlines. Also if a request for a specific image / text is sent, they have X days to submit it. If this is breached, then project is temporarily suspended and put at the end of the queue and to continue working on it there will be a fee (maybe 5-10% of the project quote)
- Upon asking a client to sign a revision, he should have X amount of days to sign it to approve it and/or submit the changes to be made. If the deadline is passed, either the revision is considered approved automatically or project will be suspended with the same outcome as the above point.
This seems a bit harsh after reading it, but as long as a reasonable amount of time is respected then I think it is fine. It is just to prevent customers from taking years from getting back to you on the project (just passed 1 year for one of my projects that should have taken 2 weeks)
I am actually curious the way you do it as well. I am open to other ideas as well of course.
So if you get an information website, that shouldn't take more then 2 weeks, and you have to buy a template, work 2 weeks on it then finish it. What if your client doesn't pay you a cent when you invoice him at 30 days?
What is your hourly rate if I may ask?
@Sagewing: Interesting points, thank you. Generally, do you find people balk at not getting a fixed price contract? In my experience, people always wanted to know how much up front with no surprises. Granted, that never happens b/c they always add more requests on after execution of the contract. Do you provide a rough estimate prior to project execution? I can't imagine too many clients would want to dive in head first without having some sort of idea how deep the water is.
I can see why your system works well since you are invoicing every 30 to begin with. That system intrigues me. I really do not like doing fixed price work.
One point to clarify - I have never actually had to call an early payment. It was only added to one contract based on the history of this particular client. They signed the contract, provided all info faster than ever before, and thanked me for such a speedy project when we were done. Did that clause make them act quickly? We'll never know. But it went a whole lot smoother than previous work with them! Could that clause promote ill will with a different client? Absolutely.
That's usually not discussed openly, but for some thoughts on how to set your rate check out this thread.
Sure, many clients balk and the idea of hourly rates. But, you'll find that very small clients with small budgets can't tolerate the perceived risks nor can huge public sector or elaborate RFP'd type of jobs some times. The reasons are simply that small clients are to frightened to lose control of their cash flow, and many gigantic jobs come from public sector and other such industries where they won't get the money unless it's a fixed-bid.
But the reality is that in general, an hourly rate project will be much cheaper than a fixed-bid project if handled by a competent, trusted vendor.
This is simply because in a fixed-bid project the client is paying extra for risk mitigation while giving themselves less flexibility to change their mind without change orders. So, the fixed bid projects typically go up in price a bit before the end.
Meanwhile, hourly rate projects can turn on a dime with no change orders. Clients can manage their budget by changing scope along the way, or eliminating pieces that are going to be more troublesome then it's worth.
Finally, fixed-bid projects result in poorer quality in most cases. As the project progresses, the vendor sees their profit margin go DOWN when problems occur. That means that when a problem occurs and the client really needs you to do a good job, you are getting burnt out and starting to worry about losing money.
Compare that to an hourly rate job where there's an unexpected hitch - the vendor makes more money that way.
So basically, you explain this to the client and simply offer them very good estimation of the hours required for the project, with some ranges based on various risks and factors. Then, quote them a fixed-bid rate (if they want it) but show them how dramatically it increases (usually 100%) and explain to them that if they don't change scope they are better off with hourly than spending a lot extra to avoid 'risk'.
This only works for clients that understand professional services and don't want to waste money or time.
A client like that would probably be tiny, and cash poor, so I'm not sure I would extend credit to them, no
Those kinds of clients are for starting out, and building your business. After a while you can climb up and service clients that are more stable and trustworthy.
And the cash thing goes both ways. If YOU have a stockpile of cash, you are able to extend credit to clients without worrying too much if they are late payers. If you can withstand some risk to your cashflow, suddenly you can take bigger clients who insist on Net 30 without losing any sleep.
Cash = king.
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