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I have been working with a client on an elaborate website for more than 12 months. The project is almost at completion, but there's some technical barriers stopping it from being finished: they have asked for extremely complicated features that, at the time (time being 8 months into the project), I said may be feasible, but now I know it is not. They expect the site to be ready now. (Update..) I would like to add that this was not communicated well to the client recently due to a whole host of personal problems, which unfortunately had serious impacts on my ability to work. They are aware it was a difficult time for me.

The problems arise with the fact that as the project has been under development, more and more requirements have been added to it. It's now at a stage where it is so complicated that I do not believe the infrastructure the business can afford is going to handle it at all. On top of all this, as the additional requirements are so demanding I have struggled to dedicate the time or resources to complete the project, leading to an angry client (I only work part-time on this, generally evenings).

To top this all off - I have completely finished my freelance career now. I enjoyed it and feel as if I have been relatively successful at it, but I'm moving onto a different career path. I'm extremely worried about this project and the client though, as they are friends (a big no no I now understand in the freelance world..!) and I do not want to harm my reputation (on both professional and personal level) nor lose a friend.

My question is... How do I get out of this situation? How can I break those kinds of facts to a client so late into a project?

I understand this may be a vague question in some ways, but I don't know where to turn. Any help would be deeply appreciated.

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Take Control.

Given that you have learned the importance of stopping project creep, what can you do now.

  1. Finish it
  2. Abandon it

The choice is yours, but you have to control this. Without further knowledge of the price and initial agreements and payments made etc it is impossible to advise properly, but here are some ideas. You need to take control of the situation, no more meetings or discussions, compromise is not going to work, just make some fair decisions and stick to them.

Finishing it.

First, get to where you should have been in the first place. Make a list of all the outstanding work. This list is final. Accept no amendments. Do not discuss it with them, write it out according to previous meetings and emails and list it out as as 'To be completed'. For each item, add a timescale. Add up all the timescales and create an estimated completion date. Email it to them, without grandstanding, and get on with it. If infrastructure cannot cope, for instance, you just email them and tell them what they need. It is not your job to get it, source it or implement it as this is not on the todo list.

Abandoning it.

Again with no numbers to talk about, this is hard to advise on. I would suggest that you spend a week getting it to a stand alone, working stage as quickly as possible. Get all the files together, document them (actually do not spend too long on that, just make the document long, technical and providing passwords, DB access etc. with some code structure breakdown). Email them with a simple handover email. The reason is that despite your best intentions the project continues to expand exponentially and has far exceeded the original concepts outlined at the outset. That despite your best efforts to communicate these issues the project continues to expand at a relentless rate and that you no longer feel able to continue. Remember that this is their fault, not yours. Do not apologize nor take any responsibility. Be polite, but you have nothing to explain other than the obvious, here is what I have done, here is the docs you need to continue, here are all the files, good luck and good bye. You MAY want to include a summary of the work and hours you have done to account for any payments pre-empting any refund claims. Then walk away, and get on with your life. Always take at least 24 hours to respond to any emails or questions. Do not get into a protracted discussion, it is over. Do not offer advice, insights or anything else. Do not attend any further meetings.

Good luck

What you do is up to you. Given the tone in your OP I would suggest you walk away. They are not going to suddenly treat you better, this is now a lose lose situation.

They have probably been abusing the friendship in this work relationship, so put that to one side completely. Sort out the work stuff, then get back to the friend stuff (if that is possible) afterwards. If this is how they make their money you can be sure they will be putting their business before you.

I hope you get a chance to let us know how this works out.

Best wishes,

Paul.

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    A the well structured answer. In the end, it was finished with infrastructure changes that were also implemented by myself. Thanks for the tips, some valuable lessons were learned! – Shakespeare Dec 18 '16 at 17:54
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You should have been more clear on the difficulties during the development of the project... now is a bit problematic...

You can ask for a quotation to other freelancers that will be able to finish the job. Then you can talk to your client and explain more clearly as possible that you will need extra payments to finish the job since the last requests are too complex and cannot be included in the original price.

If they will accept you can hire freelancers to end the work.

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Find compromise, talk with the client and tell them that you need work with them on an exit plan. Set a hard date so its not just coffee talk. Three months? Six months? Be generous, but also, be realistic. If you cannot commit to six months, don't agree.

It is not the end of the world. Yes, they might be upset, but things could be worse. Once you co-operate with the handover it will help take some of the sting your absence will bring. Make sure you are remunerated for handing the project over otherwise it will go on forever (which neither side will want). One advantage to passing the project on is your customer/friend will get a better idea on the real cost of the project and how valuable your contribution was. Agree how many hours a week you will contribute to the hand over too.

Any project, regardless if you are an employee or a freelancer should have a project plan that in its most basic form should describe what is in scope and out of scope, and it should summarise stage gates (where they review progress before you both agree that the next step should commence). It also means that as they add new features ("feature creep") they'll appreciate the impact on delivery, the risk to the project, and possible cost over runs.

Best of luck!

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