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I have been hired as a freelancer to build a video splitting utility that's supposed to split video clips at certain points as indicated by the user. I am using ffmpeg as a library and it produces files that play OK in all the players I have. However, when my client tries to import the files in Final Cut Pro (which is an essential part of my client's workflow) the files do not play as intended, they have some kind of visual distortion.

I do not have access to FCP and even if I did I don't think I could fix ffmpeg bugs, if they're bugs in ffmpeg at all and not bugs in Final Cut Pro. I also don't know of any other video manipulation library that could get the job done with any kind of video file, and we are already way past the time estimate I gave my client.

This is a fixed bid project, I have been working for nearly a month (more than expected) fixing bugs and trying to solve my client's needs (which weren't well specified at the beginning), and I don't know what to do now. How do I handle this situation?

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Everyone here will ask you this as the first thing: What does the contract say?

Or if you two are using some freelancing platform: What did you agree on?

Clients usually say "I want something fixed" and it is up to you (and your experience) to form fixed-price bid like this: "I will do X, Y and Z for the $$$". Later on, if the project goes out of the scope, you can refer to your bid and explain what was your price about.

Bad side of freelancing sites is that clients can leave you bad feedback. And if the client is an as****e, he can even try to blackmail you threatening with bad feedback.

But you probably knew all of this. So what can you do? Be honest and write a good tone explanatory email about what you were hire for. Explain to him that you are expert for X library and the code you write yourself, and that the bug he has is either a product of library inner features or bug in the tool he is using. Explain to him that you cannot fix bugs in the tool he is using, and how you do not have such level of knowledge to fix bugs inside the library. You can tell him that he is free to consult any other contractor about this matter and that he will repeat your words.

If the client is reasonable, he will accept this.

If the client is unreasonable, then you will have hard time in this project. You will probably have to contact the freelancing service to step in and resolve your issues. But be warned, if I am right, clients can leave bad comment after the resolution process.

So it all comes back to your ability to get yourself out of bad situation. Write good explanatory email, even find Internet proofs about your claims. The best thing is to resolve it all with the client.

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    Be warned, with non-technical clients, just cause you are right doesn't mean they believe you are right. Ensure the tone is not "I'm right, fix your sh*t", and don't use lots of technical jargon. – Canadian Luke REINSTATE MONICA Jun 22 '17 at 16:58
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I think there is a serious chance you won't see the money / will be asked to pay back, if you don't deliver.

That's the thing with fixed price projects: you agree on a deliverable, a specific outcome for a specific amount. If you can't deliver, you don't get paid unless your contract says otherwise.

So it seems you have two options:

  1. Tell your client you won't be able to deliver, and start arguing over how much of the project you can still invoice
  2. Find someone else who can finish the job, and hopefully the super hero that bails you out isn't too expensive as he saves the day.

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