You know the “forever” projects I’m talking about – those that are three months behind schedule yet your client wants to see “just one more” color scheme or isn’t sure about the copy.
When once you were thrilled about landing a great project, now you’re just hoping they’ll make up their minds and put money in your pocket.
If you’re stuck in this nasty situation, follow these steps to find that light at the end of the tunnel (and then use my tips below so you never get in this situation again!):
Step 1: Create your exit strategy
First things first: figure out how to get yourself out of this mess!
Let’s take a look at some scenarios:
Can you provide a finished product?
If you have an otherwise functional, finished design (but your client is wrestling with the details), consider breaking the project up into two projects: version 1.0 and version 1.5.
By doing this, you can invoice for the bulk of the work – creating the project – and start a new invoice for these endless revisions.
However, if you’re sitting on a half-built website or a brochure with no text, things get stickier. Priority one needs to be a list of items you need to finish the project. Then, when you meet with your client in step 2, you can provide them with your needs and a time frame for when they need to deliver these items to you.
Can you separate the project into smaller projects?
Maybe you can break up this project into smaller, more attainable projects that you can sequence out over a period of time.
Example: You’ve agreed on a huge marketing scheme that encompasses a new website, social media, and an email campaign, but your client can’t decide which social media arenas she wants to use and this is holding up the website and email template designs. Break up these projects into smaller pieces – the website, the email template, and social media – and add the social media components later.
Whatever your plan is, write it down like a brand new contract.
Step 2: Discuss your strategy with your client
Once you have a plan of attack, you need to get your client on board. (If all goes well and your client agrees to the new plan, make sure you get it signed!)
Chances are, your client is also unhappy being saddled with a forever project. They might be feeling the exact same emotions you are – fatigued, overburdened, and stressed.
Follow these tips to help foster a positive response from them:
- Approach your client as a team member. They’ll be more agreeable if you make them feel like you’re going to solve the problem together.
- Bring positive energy. Your client will feed off of your optimistic outlook and you’ve got a better chance of getting them agreeing to your exit strategy.
- Meet over the phone, in person, or via video chat. Email is too impersonal for a massive change of plans, and it’s easy to misconstrue meaning and tone.
- Ask for their input. Your client might have a solution you haven’t thought of, and you need to discuss how to avoid falling into the same dysfunction that you’re in now.
What to do if you can’t agree
So the pitch didn’t go as planned and you’re at an impasse. *sigh*
Things get uglier from this vantage point, but you still have a few options:
- Do nothing and continue on the forever project, hoping one day you’ll finish it and get paid.
- Negotiate. Take a day or two to determine your needs versus your wants. Then discuss whether you can come to a reasonable agreement to finish or end the project.
- Fire your client and bill them for the work completed (be fair). Remember, be professional even if you REALLY don’t want to be.
How to fix your contract so you never have forever projects!
Are you surprised we’re talking about contracts again? I bet not – here at GDB, contract is our middle name.
But it’s so true.
Contracts make or break your mental, emotional, and financial health as a freelancer, so don’t neglect them. (Don’t use a cookie cutter approach, either.)
Here’s how to fix your contract so you never worry about forever projects again!
Establish communication avenues.
Phone number, email, Skype number. How to contact your client, and how you prefer them to contact you, belongs in your contract so that they can’t come back later and say something like, “I never check that email. You should have contacted me at…”
Stipulate time frame.
Always reserve the right to consider a project inactive and bill for work if your client refuses to communicate with you or puts the project on hold. This is what my contract states:
Designer reserves right to consider project inactive and bill for work completed after four weeks of client unresponsiveness via contact information listed above. Projects put on client hold for more than four weeks will be considered inactive and billed for work completed.
Require a deposit/down payment.
It is amazing how much more invested in a project a client is when they’ve already put money into it.
My contract states that work will begin when I receive the deposit. This prevents any dragging feet if they have a time-sensitive project. (I will bend this rule for excellent long-term clients, though.)
Add your two cents
Have you ever had a ‘forever project?’ How did you finally finish it? Leave a comment on this post and join the discussion!Written by April Greer April creates brilliant graphic and web design through her freelance design business: Greer Genius. She specializes in information presentation and engaging content with a splash of marketing prowess where needed. April is available for speaking engagements and mentorships - visit her website for her contact information.