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When I talked with the client for the first time, we didn't set well stablished limits for the project. The project is a mobile app. The agreement was that I was going to copy a Web App he was finishing. At that point, the project didn't seem too big and we settled a price and a deadline.

During the development, he continued adding features and making changes to the Web App. At the beginning it was little, but then the project became larger and larger. The deadline came, but they agreed to add one month in order for me to finish. Then he continued adding features and every time I told him it wasn't the agreement, he found a different way to evade it.

Now, I'm at a point where the extra month ended and he and his partners are furious because it isn't finished (Which is obvious because he just ended the app one week ago and I'm still adding that features). I haven't received last month payment and we don't have any contract. My client is calling me every 2 hours and writing every 15 minutes to see how is the project going and forces me to stay awake at night, threatening me if I don't.

Each time I'm presenting the App, he still finds a difference from the Web App. This is no longer business. ¿What can I do in order to end with this situation?

PS: My client resides in another city and wants to come to my place.

Ending (Edit)

Thanks for all your answers.

After a week I couldn't avoid my client to come to my city, but I saw him just to negotiate. We agreed to finish a couple of things in order to get the full payment. After that, they went back to their city and I stopped working.

Back in their city, the client tried to continue with the development again (without paying) so I didn't continue. I tried to call him for a week to get paid but he didn't answer. I wrote him telling I wouldn't deliver any of the latest code and I blocked him.

Next day, his boss called me. He told me he removed the person who hired me, from the project. He was going to continue with this. After a long negotiation, we agreed he would pay me the half of the last payment, for the development at the point it was.

Comments

Thanks for all your answers. Sorry I didn't updated this for long time, but I read all your suggestions and all of them where useful. I'm working on every point you told me to avoid falling into this again.

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Your situation demonstrates the difference between 'fixed price' and 'pay by the hour'.

When the rate is fixed, the client will always attempt to extort additional work; no details are ever too minor. From the client's view point, they have already borne the cost and will naturally try to get the most out of their investment.

However, when time is money - the client has more incentive to evaluate whether a feature is 'nice to have' or 'need to have'.

To improve your situation, you will need to insist on a contract and prompt payment. Do not let the client talk you out of it, saying "We're almost done; let's get it done and then sort things out". They still need you now - so at this very moment YOU have leverage which you MUST use.

I suggest you stop further work and do the following:

  1. Insist on payment for all work until now before proceeding further

  2. Set future expectations by writing an agreement stating an hourly rate and defining what constitutes a bug and a change request. You need not involve lawyers; my agreements were typically less than a page. The important thing is that the relationship becomes more 'professional' when the parties have negotiated and signed an agreement.

Even if your client becomes furious, don't back down; insist that an agreement is in their best interest as well, as setting an hourly rate will force them to prioritize which in the end will lead to a faster time to market - which both parties want!

Be aware that the client may very well threaten legal action - but since you have no contract it seems there is literally nothing to build a case on.

The above is not easy - especially if this will be your first 'client confrontation' - but it is necessary and a good learning experience.

  • Good answer. Even if there was a contract, nothing could the client do. Anything not in the contract shouldn't be part of delivery. – SmallChess Aug 11 '17 at 9:47
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Why do you allow being treated like this? "Calling me every 2h and messaging every 15min + threatening" - WFT bro???? I would never, NEVER, N E V E R allow being treated like this.

Now, aside of this, the client obviously wanted a lot of free work and he found fertile ground to impose his requests for free. At this point, you only have 2 options: break the contract and deliver all work after being paid the last month or continue work like a human being.

If you decide to continue work, I would immediately tell the client that you do not accept any meeting since you are not a company and you do not meet with other clients in person (you may change this in 1 year if you have good relations by then). After this, I would make a detailed email about what they wanted and how they changed requests which is treated as an extra work, but they paid nothing. So it is their blame because the project is not finished, not yours.

After that, ask them to pay the last month so you can continue working. Stop work until they pay you. And for the future, set with the fixed monthly rate which includes X number of work hours that you will spend on all requests they have. Anything after that is paid as an extra.

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You must establish a base line for the features included in the app. You will have to negociate with your client what concrete features of the web app will be included in the app. And make clear that additional "new" features will have an extra cost. Have account of all the features included since the beggining of the proyect or since the first deadline and use it to show the extra work done.

Without the base line you can go forever with this proyect.

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EDIT

Please don't meet your client face-to-face and allow your client to come to your place. This is dangerous, and unnecessary. Make an excuse and say NO.

I agree with Carlos. Every single fixed-term project I worked with took advantage of adding new features without adjusting the payment. I had never seen anybody stricly obey to the contract (if there is one...).

It's fine to do minor extra works, but it's not okay to exhaust yourself forever. If your client is calling you every like 2-hours, you have very good reason to fire your client.

You said you have been paid but the last month, this is greats news! Reject and stop working. I repeat, reject and stop working. Start negotiation, don't work until more money come. Withhold the source code if the last payment is not received.

Stop now, the worse you lose is just a one-month part-time money.

Example

This is a real example from me. I agreed to work with someone for a mobile app without a contract. It was not a complicated app, I asked for only $1400 fixed USD. The expected delivery was about two weeks.

But my client repeately disappeared then appeared. The project eventually dragged for two years... The relationship was also tense as he wanted me to work on the app forever (he mentioned the 2018, 2019 version etc...) without any more payment. I had to work very hard to make myself paid.

My client refused to pay for the final instalment and tried to use it for bargaining power:

Client doesn't want to pay the final instalment and tries to negotiate for new conditions

I had no choice but to terminate further communication. No, he never paid for the remaining amount.

  • For hundreds of years people have met face to face. There's no more danger in that today, especially in business, than there has been for hundreds of years. It's a misnomer to think you must hide behind technology to communicate and "be safe". And often face-to-face meetings garner better clients that are more willing to respect you, your time, and your payment demands. I would meet at a public location not my home, but being afraid to meet people just means your'e afraid of finding great clients. – Scott Nov 8 '17 at 19:48
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This is probably one of your first projects, because you do not have ANY idea of how things are working. You are a freelancer and not f*ckin bond-slave of your clients. I can tell you something. Software projects without exact specification and boundaries very often end up like this.

And guess what? Clients will dislike you EVEN if you made an large amount of extra work as they do not see the work, but only unprofessionality and bad service.

For your future projects the process must be like this:

  1. Requirements analysis
  2. Set an offer (and exactly describe the time plan, contents, technologies and boundaries of the project)
  3. Acceptance / Denial of the offer
  4. Start of work
  5. If finishing after the deadline accept to be a bit cheaper
  6. If you exceed the deadline of the exactly defined project by weeks or months then it is your fault and you may not get paid. But remember YOU made the offer. So just do not promise things you can not keep.

Note: Some companies / freelancers are even setting a bill for the first two steps in case of denial.

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