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I took on a side-project as an experiment of sorts and I'm learning I grossly undercharged, in addition to providing a level of technical support I definitely did not sign up for. I'd worked up a fixed price contract and find myself rather un-inclined to complete the work. The big emotional problems I face is that she's REALLY nice -- like a grandmother -- and I think she's already struggling to make payments.

So.. what to do?

  • ask for more money for the entire project which would change the contract
  • find ways to ask to charge for my time -- ie. $X / hour for technical support (I've spent several hours already on basic computer tasks like "download and unzip into this folder")
  • avoid any and all "gold-plating" and build only the bare minimum to satisfy requirements
  • walk and give her the source code for everything I've done so far
  • suck-it-up and just do the work as "charity"
  • Do you have an existing contract? THat would limit what you can do and would most likely mean you need to suck it up and fulfill what you agreed to. – Scott Sep 7 '14 at 6:24
  • Yes, as indicated above there's a fixed price contract currently in place. Right now I'm going with the "no gold-plating" option and sticking to only what's in the contract. "oh, u wantd it 2 look pritee?" – emragins Sep 7 '14 at 16:01
  • I should add that the contract includes a 30 warranty for bug fixes, but doesn't address technical support at all, so I have some wiggle room there. – emragins Sep 7 '14 at 16:04
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Communication with the client is really important. I would speak to her and mention that you under estimated and negotiate with her if it is possible to come to a new agreement that better suits both of you. The two of you should go through the options you've mentioned and decide which option is the best. (Apart from the charity one! That's your personal choice after discussion with her about the rest.)

It is really important to define the scope of your work beforehand. Document it, agree on it, and don't deviate from it. It is also really important to define what you do in general as a professional. Even though you may be capable of doing something, does not necessarily mean you should do it for a client. While I can program in C, it is not my speciality and so I do not do that for clients. I will point them in the direction of a C programmer. This allows me time to focus on my work and spend time doing what I want to specialise in. Additionally, If I do work that is not my area of expertise, I may perform sub-optimally and the client may get a bad impression.

If a client has trouble downloading and unzipping the file I send them and it is a significant amount of work to fix, I'll mention that this is not within the scope of the work that I'm being paid to do and charge them extra. You cannot foresee all of these little things that will come up. This is why defining your work scope is so important.

The client is relying on you, as the professional, to advise her on how long these things will take. With experience you begin to get better at estimating, defining work scopes, and see problems before they arise (to some extent). However, it is impossible to predict everything, and so these kinds of situations will inevitably happen, and when they do, communicate and renegotiate.

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One of the biggest lessons I've learned is never to undervalue yourself. No matter if it's a big corporation or a "grandmotherly" like figure, your time and what you create is valuable. Chances are what you are making will make the owner more profitable which creates value for them and not you.

You also have to be careful about letting clients guilt you into feature creep which is why defining a very detailed scope of work is crucial on fixed price projects so that expectations are clear on both sides.

If it comes down to you not estimating properly then unfortunately that is usually on you unless the client originally misguided or didn't disclose certain information which caused you to give a different number.

What I've done in the past when I grossly misquoted a project before I knew what I was getting into was have a direct talk with the client and say I apologize but I originally wasn't clear on just how complex this would be. Here are a couple options: a.) we raise the project budget to XX or b.) we reduce some of the deliverables to make up for the difference. If they give a lot of push back then there's not a lot you can do and if you signed the contract, you are out of luck.

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