Sooner or later, ever designer or developer runs into a problem that plagues pretty much every aspect of humanity: the free lunch. It may start in a seemingly small or even insignificant way. Maybe a long-time client needs a tiny tweak to a project. It’s just one line of CSS, so why not? Two minutes isn’t worth much anyway, right? Wrong.
Recently, a company I have worked with for several years has recently discovered this in a fairly big way. Over a year ago, they agreed to build out a ‘sample’ site for a potential client. It was only supposed to be a one-page micro-site with sample content. Nothing more than a glorified mockup. Over time, the parameters of the project changed; just a little at a time. Given the changes were small and spread out throughout a year, the company never really considered the cumulative loss of time that was going into the development of what ended up being a full-scale build. Finally, the potential client submitted what equated to a reasonably significant change request: migration of the site to a different domain name, complete re-branding of the website, a substantial amount of custom development; the list goes on. And the best part? They seemed to think they were entitled to it for free!
So how did such a small project get so far out of hand? Simple; small changes add up. All told, the client already had thousands of dollars worth of development that they hadn’t paid for, and now they were looking for yet another handout!
Now… I’ve always had a fairly informal policy against doing something for nothing. In effect, paying clients get a limited number of minor revisions to a project over a pre-determined time frame. Once that time frame is up, the number of allowed revisions has been reached, or modification outside of the allowed scope is required, another contract must be negotiated.
Despite that, I’ve decided that enactment of a better-established policy is in order. In other words, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Period. My time is too valuable to throw it away on a client who may or may not be worth anything to me in the long run. As such, here’s the new policy…
Don’t like my policy? Find someone else to do your project for you. I’ve wasted enough of my time on projects that aren’t going to go anywhere, and if you think you’re entitled to free work, you’re probably not the kind of client I want to work with anyway.
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