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Can you share some experience on how to deal with frequent changes / additions during a project? Here are some common experiences I've had in my not so long freelancing career, (edit) primarily building websites.

  1. I always start off with a legal contract with a clearly stated statement of work.

  2. But of course, there are 100 changes during the actual project. Most are very small, e.g., color; some are not so small, some are outright additions.

  3. I'd LOVE to pin these changes into legal contracts every time they come up, but it's simply not realistic. 3a) There are too many of them and I don't have time to do it 3b) The client isn't gonna be happy constantly signing contracts for very "small" things, and I do want to make sure the client is happy.

  4. Inevitably there are confusions / disputes. I haven't run into outright scams but I think honestly with so many little things flying around, there will be confusion & disagreements. Once again, it's not something that will completely tank the project or anything, but the sheer amount of time (which = money) it takes to resolve these things is getting ridiculous. "Wait you did what? Did we agree on this? I don't remember seeing that text / email..." etc. etc. I mean it's not like I can get the client to put in a JIRA ticket everytime....

So here are my questions.

A. I'm not alone in seeing this right? You guys run into this too? B. How do you deal with the confusion / disputes? Once again I haven't met outright people trying to scam me just that it's super annoying to deal with but at the same time understandable that it happens?

Thank you!

  • Just a thought.. not everyone here may do what you do for a living. There's no real description of what "project" means. I can assume some sort of web/app dev.. but who knows. Freelancing is not only about web/app development. In my field, design, changes are expected and anticipated and price quotes relayed accordingly. Additions are always priced above any quote/estimate. – Scott Aug 31 at 22:18
  • Yes sorry about that, this is software development, primarily helping clients build websites. – reedvoid Sep 1 at 16:46
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Changes are unavoidable; to handle them, I find using an hourly rate works better than a fixed-price project.

Fixed price has the potential to seriously sour the relationship, as the client naturally will want everything fixed; nothing is too small. Using a fixed hourly rate will lead to the client evaluating whether a change is 'worth it'.

With a hourly rate, the contract can concentrate on how to avoid, minimize and resolve disputes rather than painstakingly stating exactly what is in scope and what isn't.

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  • Hi morsor, this would be a great solution (I've heard from others that they're transitioning into a more agile development as a freelancer), but seems like the clients I run into still want fixed price. Perhaps I need to find better clients.... – reedvoid Sep 1 at 16:48
  • I have successfully used as an argument that a fixed price quote could be many times more expensive, as I will need to take on financial risk - which the client must pay for. On the other hand, with the pay-as-you-go hourly rate, I promise the client I will keep the code in a well-documented state so they can end our relationship anytime and find another partner. – morsor Sep 2 at 6:52
  • So almost all clients I see just have a budget, like "I have allocated $5000 for this." Without knowing exactly what will happen in the project (no one can predict the future), how do you make the case that, yes, with an agile development method, we will stay under budget? Or perhaps I should just ditch clients who operate on strict budgets..? – reedvoid Sep 3 at 16:48
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I share your pain, even though I am in a different field - doing scientific R&D, mainly developing systems for analyzing data from measurements made by scientific equipment or in medical studies. I always start with a detailed description of the project, the steps I am planning to do, expected number of hours, etc. But it is just the nature of scientific research/R&D that one cannot predict what will be the outcome, and how the direction may change depending on the intermediate results.

Therefore, contrary to @morsor, I now prefer working on fixed-price contracts, split into many milestones, with each milestone corresponding to a well-defined task. This way, after completion of one milestone, one can always re-discuss and adjust the content of the next one.

Working with hourly or weekly rate on a long-term project didn't work for me, precisely because the client and I were losing the track of what was the original assignment, and which parts were added later. I suspect though that this could be overcome using project management tools, like Kanban boards - but that requires some discipline and always looks like a waste of time (at least from the point of view of a client).

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    That's a super interesting field you're in! Yes you're completely right that if my clients just agree to use a Trello or a Jira then 99.9% of these confusion problems will go away... but they don't, and I can't blame them, it does take a lot of effort to use these tools. I myself have more abandoned Trello boards than I can count. – reedvoid Sep 3 at 16:50
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What we do for our company is give a fixed price and state that in the contact with their specific needs like you do. Then, also have in the contract that any additions are a charge of $$ per hour and clearly explain this when reviewing the contract with them.

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