9

Lately, a couple of clients have been taking way too much of my time, in tasks such as:

  • extensive, totally pointless meetings
  • endless discussions about assets sizing (basically they aren't sure about how to provide assets, and I'm just used to have a professional designer working on that, so I don't know a lot about it either)
  • deliberately pay invoices late, etc

Besides changing my personality and stop being so "polite" to them, I see that, specifically in the second point, it is kind of my fault for not being clear enough about what my work will specifically be -and what other tasks will be client's responsibility.

So I figured that there has to be way to be very clear about that, the same way I only sign their contracts (non-disclosure and payment contract), is there a way to be really specific about how I will work? Something like a contract for saying that I won't spend more than whatever time on meetings, and that I won't be responsible for any other thing that the programming I do, so assets and everything else besides programming will be client's responsibility.

Or is there another way to manage clients that just don't realize that my paid work is for programming only?

  • Do you charge for these meetings ? If not, it is high time to do it, at the same rate as for programming. – Harry Cover Jan 2 '17 at 17:52
  • @HarryCover Well, I do think SOME meetings may be needed, that's why I was asking how do others manage that. But no, I don't charge for the meetings. Since I barely have 3 clients and 1 year of freelancing, charging for meetings may be counterproductive. On top of that, I'm from Latin America so people expect programmers here to be cheaper overall. – RominaV Jan 2 '17 at 18:08
  • I didn't say that you should charge all customers. I meant them. – Harry Cover Jan 2 '17 at 18:27
5

It takes just one bad client to make you think about this... So true!

I'm hoping you are far enough in your career that you have other clients and other projects to work on as well. If not, read the next part; if you do, great!

If you have other work to do, then you need to explain to your clients what takes priority, what the due dates are, and that work does not continue without payment / escrow. As a freelancer, your time is valuable, and usually the only way you are making money. So, treat anyone who does not respect your time / life as someone who does not respect YOU / YOUR COMPANY.

If you have a large project you are working on for this client, it needs to have milestones setup that are definable, and have a clear indication of what is considered "complete" for that step. It will be included with the Scope of Work. The client should sign off on various stages, and money should be paid once work has been shown to have been completed, before additional work happens.

As for billing, make sure your bills go out on time and to the right address / recipient. Once the bill is sent in the mail or email, I set a reminder on my calendar for 30 days. If I have not received payment for that invoice by the 30 days, I send a reminder invoice, and a statement explaining that late fees apply unless the money is in my account in 14 days. If it's for a project, work would have already stopped while I wait, and the statement would reflect this. After that 14 days, a new invoice is made, including a late fee, and sent to the client explaining that they are past due. No work has been done otherwise with this client for the past 14 days, so not much is lost.

If the meetings are not being productive, then require them to send a meeting agenda ahead of time to all expected participants. If there is no use in you being there, explain politely that you have other projects to work on during that time, or that you are only available for xx minutes at yy:zz time. Set the limit, and stick to it! We've all wasted lots of time in meetings that could have been better spent elsewhere. You're the expect on your time and craft, so make it known!

If you do not have other clients, you can still use a lot of the advice above - remember, you need to spend time working on yourself / your business, and that also includes finding NEW clients as well. If you are stuck having just one client, then you are essentially an employee without benefits. Explain that you are busy during the meetings that you could do without, and use the time to expand your business, in any way you can.

3

taking way too much of my time

The client hasn't been taking too much of your time. No, you've been allowing it. If your client wants the privilege of having you sit through meetings while the staff gets all their ducks in a row, and you can't control how long these meetings take, then you need to be charging by the hour and not for a fixed price. A fixed price situation is only good where the requirements for the work are also fixed.

Even all-you-can-eat restaurants have reasonable boundaries as to how much you're allowed to consume! It appears the scope of your involvement in the project has changed materially, and you need to SPEAK UP, and get paid for the variance.

3

In addition to the good advices that was given already by others, I want just to say that after encountering a few clients exacly as you described, I made it very simple and added in the contract the following (in a nutshell):

For the development of project "A" (as described in attached specs module "B"):

  • $$$$ (fixed price)
  • $$ / hourly for all the extras not explicitly mentioned in the specs such as for example but not limited to: graphic elaboration, text typing, catalogues scans, photo retouch, extra meetings, software configuration, etc, etc.

Then in my contract I have section (the above said module "B" that is almost always the same that I personalize for each job) where I describe exactly the project in details, the specs for the assets and materials that they will give me (example: texts in standard DOC or ODT, pictures in high res JPG, data in XLS, SQL..., etc), and the last line says that it is included up to 3 meetings one hour each.

Now, for the 99.9% of the cases that is never necessary, and most of the times I do only 1 or 2 meetings (at begin and end) but it helps your client to understand that your time is precious as theirs and you have no time to lose, also when you encounter that painful client once in a while, you will be able to show him the contract that he signed, so if he wants to stay 4 hours a day to talk about pointless things, he will know that he will pay your hourly rate x n hours to you.

Also, this is for the average of my jobs. For particular, big or long term works we enstablish each time different personalized conditions.

Other times I do more than 3 meetings or make free favours to the clients to keep good relationships.

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