Difficult Client - Can/Should I Fire?
October 17, 2012 6:58 AM Subscribe
I started a design project with a new client and the whole process has turned out to be very difficult due to communication problems. What can I do to resolve this situation?
I'm a one-man design studio and initiated a pretty small, straightforward project with a new client a few months ago. During the project, my two main problems have been:
1. It is difficult for the client to articulate feedback. I think I cleverly elicit feedback in a phone conversation and then I send a follow-up email saying, "OK, great, here are the changes based on our conversation! I'll do A, B and C based on these notes." I don't receive a response or correction from the client, so I proceed based on my notes. And then I send the revised and the client's response (often weeks later) is, "Oh, I thought I said we'd do X, Y and Z." (which was never discussed).
2. The client doesn't communicate in a timely manner. I set an original timeline in the contract at the outset that would allow for a speedy delivery of the project, but I'll often not hear from the client for weeks after sending revised materials. I'll send multiple emails and call and the response (if I get one) usually is, "I'll get that to you tonight!" But then, I don't hear from them again for another week. So far, the project has taken almost 4x as long as it normally does. Based on our progress, I'm concerned that the project will never end and I won't get paid, or I'll get paid very late. And I can't imagine going through this client-chase thing for another several months.
I've been putting in a ton of hours on other projects lately and I'm finding it difficult to carve out time in my schedule for running after the client and these multiple emails and calls have really ballooned the time I thought I'd be devoting to this, outside the scope of the project. I've tactfully voiced concerns about the timeline and the communication pattern to the client, very professionally, and that seems to improve response time a bit, but then it tapers off again to non-existence.
In my ideal world, I would like to send an email that states that our contract is terminated — and I would not charge for time worked — but I'm concerned 1) whether this is the "right" thing to do, as a professional designer and 2) that the client will sue me. This particular contract we signed doesn't include a kill clause, which I normally do now. And anyway, can the designer be the one to kill the project? Technically, I signed something that said I'd get a job done for someone and I'm concerned about not delivering on that.
I know there have been one million difficult clients, so this is nothing new, but this is definitely new for me, to this extent. How should I proceed?