A client hired me to research and develop a signal processing algorithm which would eventually be used in a final product.

A couple of months in, I realise that the client's specifications are almost impossible to achieve. I put together a document detailing why, but the client continues to insist on paying for myself and a team of people to continue to research this particular idea.

It's been getting to the point where myself and the team I manage are becoming very discouraged because we all can see that this isn't going to work.

I really want to fire this client, but he is relying on me to manage his team and lead this project, so he's not going to be very happy with me at all. He's absolutely convinced that this is the Best Idea Ever. How do I get myself out of this without ruining my oDesk rating?

  • 3
    youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg -- It happens all the time :)
    – Scott
    Apr 16, 2014 at 20:38
  • Are the specifications theoretically impossible, or just difficult to implement?
    – daaxix
    Apr 24, 2014 at 4:18
  • The theory indicates that there a very significant issue with signal interference, due to the client's specifications. While some peer-review papers do offer ways of dealing with the signal interference issues, none of the papers we have found so far are able to successfully deal with it anywhere near the scale that we are looking at. After researching papers for 3 months, I'm feeling like either there is no solution or I'm not clever enough to find it.
    – user152
    Apr 24, 2014 at 15:46

2 Answers 2


You need to remember that you are the expert, not him.

As an expert, you should provide your client with a document explaining the technical limitations and, if possible, cite authoritative sources that explain why it's impossible with { current technology | current hardware | current man=power | current laws }.

I would try to meet with him one more time, and simply explain to him one last time, "Hey, this isn't going to work because of reasons A, B and C. We cannot accept anymore money, as money is not going to fix the issues preventing this from happening. It's not us, it's {insert reason here}."

If he doesn't listen this second (or third) time, you'll just need to walk away.

It's harsh, but freelancers should not be walked all over.

I have found that impossible problems kept me up at night, and it messed with my health because of that. Learn to say no, and stick to your guns. Your subordinates will thank you.


From what I understand, you would like to fire your client and in the same time keep your good reputation.

There are many approaches to this situation:

  1. Assure yourself that the client asks for what he/she really wants. Sometimes, they keep asking for improved standards or better quality just because they want to make sure they receive the maximum return on their investment and that the product can't get any better.
  2. Increase your fee and/or ask for some perquisites (perks). It may sound an odd idea but actually it can be the only way of closing the relationship by accepting client demands and in the same time making it impossible for him/her to afford your services.
  3. Ask for some external assessment (analysis) of the project. See if you can get some third party to enforce your believe that the specifications of the project can't get any better.
  • 1
    #3 is probably one of the best ideas I've read, here. Giving the client a second opinion from a third party is an excellent strategy. Unless the third party you get to provide that opinion actually figures out how to do it >.<
    – Thomas
    Apr 18, 2014 at 18:09
  • I like #2, it's easy and fast.
    – SmallChess
    Mar 18, 2017 at 9:36

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