When you should not take on a web site design client?

Over the years I’ve had my share of bad clients. Here are some horror stories and what you should look out for when taking on a new client.

I had one client whom I created an e-commerce website and he expected me to go through his entire store and catalog and enter all the products for him. Mind you, it clearly said on the proposal you are responsible for the data entry. But there was no talking to this person. He just wouldn’t hear of it and it’s like he just shut out the rest of the world. I should have picked up on the warning signs when he kept asking me to repeat myself.

I’ve had many clients over the years that start out by saying that they don’t want to pay but I should become a partner. I tell them I have too many partners. People have just some nerve they expect you to do all the work and say I’ll give you a partnership. We all know what happened with the dot com bust and all those promised shares.

I had another client who paid me to build an ecommerce website. All the features were listed in the proposal and it was a really nice site. The first problem was he said he didn’t know anything about websites so, I should deal with this person. That person left and then he said I should deal with another person who had his own ideas and project costs went up since he didn’t agree with the first person. Then it happened again and he got another person to take charge and the same thing happened. This happened four times. I should have picked up on the cues when the person said I could not find a good programmer to create a system for me. I guess no one can stay with the client long enough because he is just never happy. So, just as we were done he found another programmer and decided to go with something off the shelf. Now, the client is boxed in to their software when he had complete control over the source code. The kicker is he hired someone to configure the off the shelf package and paid more for the configuration then he paid us to build the entire website.

Another thing that gets me are the people or clients who don’t know what they want and they just say give me something like craigslist or a popular site. They don’t know what features and it ends up being an overrun and grey area project.

I have also had my share of procrastinators. They are all gung ho in the beginning and then after the work is done. I can be waiting months or even years for them to get back to me. Until they then decide then longer have interest.

Another, annoying thing is when they call up to get a proposal and when you tell them a price but they say I see I can get it elsewhere for $99 dollars. Don’t even start! If their cheap now just wait until you get moving on development.

Another great story: I had a client who said that I should guarantee that he will get customers. I said are you crazy. I told him if he hired a contractor to renovate his store. Does he expect that guy to get him customers.

The other thing I hate is the know-it-alls. I love it when they either claim they know programming or design. Stay away from those there is nothing worst then the client who thinks he knows. They will annoy and keep second guessing everything you do.

So, here are some pointers

1) List somewhere in the proposal of what will be covered and anything outside this list is an extra charge

2) Put a clause in that states there is a specific time limit for them to get back to you or report bugs. I’ve had people expect me to fix a bug 4 years later because they never bothered to look at the site.

3) Put clear payment instructions on how you should get paid

4) State obvious things that you won’t do if you don’t do them. As an example: If you don’t do data entry or logos but just do websites.

Post your horror stories or advice!