How to work with ignorant clients?

This will probably turn out to be a rant of some sorts, but I’ve been working on this project for a little over a month now and I knew from the start that it was going to be a big project for me to take on. Basically what they wanted was an entire website complete with a Content Management System. They had originally said that they wanted it done in a month, which I knew was never going to happen, and then they said that if I at least got the front page up then it would be all right.

To make matters worse, I’m not getting paid for this project, but there is an opportunity in the future for partial ownership if all goes well. So as you can imagine, not getting paid can sometimes suck the motivation right out of me, when I have other things I could/should be doing. My sister is one of the people who are the “managers” of this project, so you can imagine how that can complicate things even more. She sends me emails about 4 times a week asking when will this get done, we really need to get this done ASAP etc and it’s just been wearing on me.

The only time I have to work on this is when I get home from work, which at max is about 2 hours per work day, and that rarely ever happens, and most of the weekend. I made it clear from the beginning to them that this is a really complex project for a person who has never worked with Joomla, let alone create and implement a template for them to use. I guess I’m just tired of doing all this work and having the feeling that these people are just sitting around waiting for me. Anyone else have experiences like this? Sorry for the long post!

Well you made a few mistakes

  1. Working with family
  2. Taking on a job that was going to be too complex with the time you have available
  3. No money? I don’t care what the opportunity is, never do anything for free
  4. Being pissed about the fact you aren’t getting paid after you agreed to it
  5. Accepting a job when you knew you couldn’t get it done in the desired time frame

Are you having difficulty with the type of work, is that why it is taking you longer then expected?

You need to send an email or make a phone call explaining why it’s not done and explaining whatever difficulty you are having with it, even if it makes you look like a fool. Nobody likes a liar, so be upfront.

Take this as a learning experience is my only advice, you are in a bad situation and I hope it works out well for you. Best of luck.

^nicely said.

No pay sucks but for future things like this: Whenever your on a deadline thats too short its always a good idea to use wordpress. It takes less than a day to learn (2 if you want to write a plugin).


Yeah I did look at Wordpress, but I figured with some of the things they might want in the future, Joomla might have been the best bet. I also found myself past the point of no return, where I had to get something done and I had already researched Joomla, so I stuck with it.

As for the difficulty, it’s not the actual styling that is the difficult part, it’s just figuring out how Joomla calls what and where it puts it that’s most complex part for me.

I do realize that I brought this on myself when in reality I knew I would probably tank like the friggin’ Titanic lol.

^ Agreed.

I hate to make you feel worse but you are to blame in this situation, not the client.

Just trying to help btw… Not trying to kick you when you are down.

Ah, bummer of a situation man. This will be one of those ‘learning experience’ gigs, heh. Believe me, we’ve all had them. As Digi said:

• Never work for free.
• Never work for family, unless they understand that you will do this at the rate you
darn well please, and no faster. Never serious stuff for family.
• Never work without a very clear timeline that the client has approved.

For a quick answer, reference Seb’s thread on how to get rid of a wasp nest.

Working with family or friends is possibly the worse thing you could do. There’s always a lot of unsaid, a particularly unclear relation; you don’t exactly know what they expect from you, in terms of time and money. They always think “Ok, he’s a relative/friend, that means no money, a good fast work and a lot of extra changes”.
It’s like jumping straight in a wasp nest…
By the way, the rule is: always plan a clear estimate of your work. Agree with the price for the base, and a price for the changes. It saves a lot of bad, unexpected surprises.

turn up to work drunk… and tell them what you really think

Well, after the estimate-rule, the drunk-rule is the best, and usually works.

In the mean time, ignorant clients are a real pain in the a@#. Not the kind twdesignz06 is working with, I mean thos clients without any taste, you know?
Like, you do your nice, spicy, well-balanced illustration/web page/whatever…Go to the client, who doesn’t know anything about illustration, and start changing your work till it’s a hideous mess, with no harmony at all. A color and shape jeopardy…But, you know, they pay-they’re right…Sort of…

well one of the worst thing to do w/ those types of clients is post on a public forum about them, looks bad on you. you may think that you’re anonymous but you’d be surprised

■■■■, you’re right…
Er, On second thought, I’m very lucky, my clients clearly are not of the kind I described up there…

I do work for my parents a lot, and having had a rocky start we have now developed well defined boundaries and understanding of each other. It can get frustrating, but it is extra cash for a few hours a week in the evenings. If done properly and sensibly working with family is fine. I agree that in the most part it is tricky, and certainly don’t let them demand services for free. I charge my dad about half my usual rate, and this works fine for both of us.

I think digitalosophy hit the nail on the head. However, never let a bad situation get you down. There are lessons to be learned from even the worst of situations. I too was in a similar situation not long ago. Step back and look at the overall picture. Stand above it and consider every possible option, then choose the honest one. Start by making a production schedule and set deadlines for yourself. Don’t list a few numbers in a Word document, make an actual schedule using Excel. Make realistic deadlines and present it to your client. Tell them this is the best you can do and that you will deliver on those dates. An organized freelancer is the most trustworthy. Don’t forget that communication is also a major part and by making this schedule and confronting the client, you are already starting the repair process that will be needed to salvage this project.

RULE #1: Always manage your clients expectations.

That was a hard lesson learned, but I’m sure you know what it means now. Grow with it and use it as your strength when you encounter your next client. Good luck.

thanks for all the replies guys, what I finally ended up doing was suggesting to them to buy a pre-built template that I can customize, which is the cheapest and quickest way for everyone involved (me included). I figure that in 6 months time if they want a new design I’ll have the knowledge and experience with it to pick up where I left off and create a new design for them.


That’s a good suggestion, I’ve seen the thread and that seems like it might be a worthwhile and entertaining solution!

I hope you’re referring to my insightful advice about focusing your telepathic powers on objects to make them go BOOM.

^I want super Tetsuo powers.