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Perhaps everyone knows about this problem already and I’ve just been very fortunate, or maybe it’s one of those things that happens so rarely nobody really feels the need to talk about it. Or any other number of reasons why I have yet to notice a blog about why clients should have clearly defined deadlines as well as the person (or company) doing the work.

Over the past few months I’ve been working on a small side-project that was supposed to take me about two weeks of night-time work and I didn’t expect the whole thing to last any longer than a month. It was supposed to be some quick cashflow my way so I could get myself out of the startup money rut for a bit.

The first clue that something was fishy was that the deadline in the contract we signed was set up about two months later than I thought it should be. But that’s alright, from previous work with both the client and the particular client’s client I knew that these people have a sluggish turnaround rate and it takes them a bit longer than usual to send materials and so on.

Also every good project manager leaves a lot of buffer room.

I completed all of my work, even with changed specs and a little bit of bloat almost exactly on target (the deadline they set). Because of the initial delay in materials and my having started exams at college I think I missed the deadline by about three days. No biggie, getting materials a month later than anticipated will do that.

Now it’s two months later than the deadline.

The work has been done so long ago I can’t even recollect with accuracy what the project is about and what I’m supposed to do when it gets approved.

The results have yet to be approved at all.

I am still waiting for a few materials that go on the website.

And there is a big hiccup that happened in a part of the project that is mostly out of my control, but most certainly out of the budget and specs for this particular touchup project we were doing. Officially the approval is on hold because of that particular hiccup. But it’s been hanging on it for the past month and a half.

Because our initial agreement was you do X and we give you Y amount of money I’m in a bit of a pickle. It’s not that I’ve exactly done X+Z, it’s more that hey, getting a few hundred euro for two weeks of work and a month-long turnaround doesn’t sound too bad.

However a few hundred euro for a turnaround of five months is horrible!

Anyway, I’ve learned my lesson. Next time I’m doing contract work there will be a clause in the contract for the biggest gap between end-of-work and client-approval.

What do you think, should such clauses be in contracts?

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  • The problem is that contracts are like guns. Who is comfortable working if there is a gun on the table?

    Best thing is to smell that crappy situation from happening to evade it for you and your client.

    You can read some good or bad signals of the project from your interaction with the client, and consider part of your job to guide him/her on the things he/she cannot see (even if that means tell her what she doesn’t like to hear but keeps your reputation in a nicer position).

  • sebastian, yeah that’s great advice. I find that contracts are more of a set of guidelines than actual rules. They’re just there so everyone can cover their arse but nobody follows them to the letter; and honestly I would hate to work with someone who does.

    And we have otherwise a pretty good relationship with this client, I’ve worked with them a lot of times. The real problem is the client’s client 🙂

  • Chris

    I’m there too :
    First iteration of a system, i was paid 1 year late.

    for the first release , i added a clause in the contract to get paid one month after the delivery.
    the result : 4 month later, i’m still not paid, nothing has move in the last 3 month.

    Looks like there’s a lot of turnover, and priorities are changing everyday.

    Now, sure, with my nice contract, i could sue but would id be worthwile …

  • This tends to be a real problem, but at least you are working with halfway reliable clients, they paid you in the end. The worst kind are the guys that want this and that, and when you come with bill they find all sorts of “errors” (even though they were happy a moment ago) and of course since your work isn’t any good, they want a lower price. That’s the ones you should stay away from.