that's the gist of the response to my most recent invoice to him
he's saying that there wasn't a much work done
it's the accumulation of 3 simple updates to his website
I never discussed my hourly rates with him. In the past he had not complained.
Do I back down and lower the price?
How do I respond?
well here you go, Dave. Here's a couple of "less crude definitions" and the etymology:
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin contractus, from contrahere to draw together, make a contract, reduce in size, from com- + trahere to draw
Date: 14th century
1 a : a binding agreement between two or more persons or parties; especially : one legally enforceable b : a business arrangement for the supply of goods or services at a fixed price <make parts on contract>
2 : a document describing the terms of a contract
"contract." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010.
Merriam-Webster Online. 14 July 2010
In case you have a problem with Merriam-Webster being too "crude" for your taste, that definition is also used here: http://research.lawyers.com/glossary/contract.html
What is the actual amount of time that you invoiced for? You have to know some more on the invoices or research some more on it.
This is a communication problem, not a contract problem. You will get your money when you politely explain how the invoice was calculated.
You don't need to wave a contract at somebody to resolve a problem like this. In fact the moment you start waving contracts at people they get even angrier even faster and the chances of an amicable solution slip away rapidly. It's just not appropriate as a first response.
If he was happy with similar work and similar prices in the past then he can be happy with it again - just as you were expecting. Can you just phone him up (not email) and explain what the work entailed? We all know that clients often think you press a button and the update magically happens. When you explain in detail all the steps required it starts to sound more significant.
Yes. Every time something is requested document what it's going to take, even if it's informally. If he knows the rate from your contract and you respond with "this will be between 2 and 4 hours, ok?" and the client responds that it's ok you've got something to stick too. If they say "change this" and you come back and say it took 22 hours and they think it should have been 22 minutes with nothing said you'll be lucky to get paid and certainly lose the client.
As someone who has been employing php devs recently I can say that the concept of an hourly rate depends on the person doing the work. In my experience junior devs should never be paid by the hour otherwise you are paying them to learn (hey nothing against that but I would rather that happens on a salary basis!)
So you should always quote per job. Much easier. There are always other factors that come in- server info, dbs ssh connections this is where you can quickly get into hot water as clients don't have a clue what you are talking about and invariably the hosting/server company take ages to reply that means that everyone gets stressed. The client says why are you taking so long to do x,y or z and the dev starts getting angry because they are spending time on trying to work out how ssh works.
What normally happens in the softwsare/dev world by accident or on purpose (normally actually the reason is scope creep when the requirements of the client change mid development asking for a new button here or there!) is that people charge too little to get the contract and then the final bill is a lot more.
So to summarize always put at least a 20% tolerance margin in any quote so that you don't feel ripped off and the client can make the odd change without you having a nervous breakdown!!
This problem arises because of lack of trust and confidence. You should clearly tell him what or how many hours you normally spend in a given task so he won't be surprised on how much you charge him. I hope this things get settled to your advantage.
Actually, from what I read, contracts are binding but they aren't always enforceable. Go figure.
Sorry if you found my post to be abrasive, but writing down a contract doesn't automatically make it binding.
Well, excuse my crude faux pas. I shouldn't have used the word 'binding'. So sorry. I bow to the Guru of the Business & Legal forum.
I'm not sure what your point is, there is a difference between the word 'contract' and the legal definition. The definition uses the word 'binding' but doesn't define that, so if you are defining a 'binding contract' you'd better define both of those.
The second definition refers to the UCC and makes mention of some of the frequently required criteria that makes a contract binding, like a 'meeting of the minds'.
So, while you have defined the word 'contract' that doesn't mean that you are correctly explaining what it takes to make a legal agreement binding. For an agreement to be binding, there are other criteria.
Words like 'contract' aren't ambiguous in a court of law. There is a huge amount of case law and millions of pages of briefs that describe exactly what a contract is and isn't, when it's binding, etc. and all the differing jurisdictions, etc.
That definition of a contract is a little crude - legally there are specific criteria that must be met before an agreement is valid. Always be sure that your agreement has met the legal criteria to be a binding, enforceable contract.
Putting a contract in writing is popular because it's an effective way of documenting an agreement for future reference. It does not, however, have anything to do with whether it's binding - a contract need not be written to be binding.
First try to establish the conditions, talk to him; if he isn't receptive you should find more serious people, employers.
I wasn't implying (or trying to) that a contract or an estimate BEFORE performing any work, isn't beneficial. My point was simply that you don't need a contract for the customer to be liable for the work performed.
If the original poster has done work for this client before, the client is aware of his rates. The client therefore agrees to the rate when he asks for more service work.
It seems the dispute is on how long it took to perform the work. Simply justify the hours to him. If he doesn't agree, either make a deal or force him to pay what you invoiced him at the risk of losing a customer and the business of the 10 people he bad mouths your services to.
Certainly from here on out, have him approve x amount of hours at x rate before continuing with him.
Contracts are only binding if they meet the legal requirements for a contract in their jurisdiction. Not all binding contracts are enforceable, but properly prepared and executed generally are.
If you have no written agreement or contract in place, and you didn't state how much the client was expected to pay (due to keeping your hourly rates secret) before undertaking the work, quality aside you are going to have a VERY hard time convincing any lawyer or court that you can justify your costs when you didn't provide the client with enough information to make an informed decision and had no binding agreement to state that the client actually agreed to work for the rates you were trying to keep covered up. You should NEVER work without a contract if you want to keep a client to their word (that can go down to naivety) but to not explain the costs involved or inform the paying customer as to what their expected to-do in front of the work, that's probably as bad as it can get. You're the one in the wrong here and you should try and resolve the dispute by either lowering your price to an acceptable rate with the client (if you'd discussed that with him before - you could have said no if the work to price ratio didn't work) or by itemizing the bill and explaining how you came up with that magic figure (hoping he accepts it).
My advice for the future: Do as Linda mentioned above and write yourself a proper agreement, always state your rates (giving an estimate) and to avoid future issues, I would say you're probably better to over-estimate how long it will take you. If you do that at least if you complete the work on-time it's no issue and if you take less time than expected, the client will be much happier as they will not only get their project sooner than expected but it will cost them less too. This has a very real benefit in that their more likely to work with you again if they think that you're not trying to drag them along for a ride. Hope the information is helpful.
PS: I'm not a lawyer (just in case you were curious).
As I said above, a contract doesn't have to be four pages of legal jargon. A contract is simply an agreement between two parties. He says, "we just want you to add an image rotator to our website." You say, "To do that will cost this." He says, "Based on what?" You say, "Based on this." He says, "Okay."
You have a contract. To make sure that it's binding you need to put it in writing. No big deal.
My question remains. How can you do work without giving the client a clue as to the cost? Even if you have an on-going agreement to do maintenance on a site, the client should be advised of the costs of that maintenance even in its simplest state, unless you are prepared to do that maintenance for free. That way there are no surprises on either side.
As tke posted, what may appear as a simple job to a client may be much more complex in reality.
Call a lawyer for some advice. You won't get his rates or a contract, but you will get a bill...
The expectation of website service work is that it's easy and it's not time consuming - i.e "we just want to you add an image rotator to our website".
Simply explain your fees and what he is charged for. If he doesn't agree, make a deal. Lower the price and set the expectations for the next time he calls you. It's not worth losing a customer over, not to mention the 10 people he tells of this bad experience to.
Sometimes it is good to let a customer go. Where you draw that line is up to you.
That's how I read the original post. I see things like this all the time where customers ask for a "little" change and don't realize how much work goes into making that "little" change work?
What do you mean it's going to take you three weeks to add one item to a report?
To add an item to the report means we need to capture it in the first place which means that we need to add it to the add widget screen, now that we've added it there we also need to add that item to the edit widget screen, add it to several database tables, and then we can look at adding it to the report.
But all I want is to add one item to a report, you must be joking.
I have had this problem as we all have. One never knows just exactly how long it will take to do most things on a website. It is really hard to give an exact estimate. All of us have lost our shirts on some work we have done. Seems to be happening more and more with clients seeing those $5.00/hour adds from India.
One thing I don't do is charge for learning. What I learn adds value to my services but that makes it hard to 'estimate'.
Anyone here have any thoughts on estimating? How do you estimate something that you have never done?
Do you add a little extra to each quote for all the times you have lost money on projects? Will that put you out of the market?
I've been designing websites for over 15 years. Here is what I would do:
Call him - no email. Let him know why it took so long - in terms he would understand. Don't 'Tech' him to death. Then tell him you like working with him and want very much to keep him as a customer. Give him the least price you will take to settle. Loose some on this invoice. Make it up on the next estimate to him. Add a little in to future estimates to him to make up for this loss.
The worst thing you can do is leave him with a bad taste for you. I will guarantee you it will cost you 10 times in lost revenue when he talks to other potential clients. One Bad Apple............
Stroke him. Make him happy and then make it up later on future work with him. That is what has worked for me.
I would still like to hear from anyone with idea's on how to estimate without loosing your shirt though.
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