Who am I?

Head Grunt, David “NfoCipher” Bunt - I'm a programmer..
Experience: With over 14 years professional experience both in corporate and small business environments. I'm a Linux junkie, have a healthy respect for macs, but cannot tolerate anything microsoft related. Been there, done that, never again.

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Crazy Customers and How to Spot them..

2009-01-19 @ 03:48 in Business

They're out there lurking in the dark waiting to ruin your day. All businesses encounter at least one but they really hurt smaller businesses as they eat up time and resources. There is one basic rule a small business needs to follow - work on whoever is paying you the most right now. The crazy customer will monopolize your time, make unreasonable request, complain about complaining and then not pay you. I made a fundamental mistake - I started working before writing up a scope of work contract. It was a referral of a friend, so I didn't think much of it. He needed work done yesterday, I told him my rate and I went to work. So while I got screwed out of money, here's a list of how to spot the crazies and stop them before they do real damage:

Sending more than 15 emails a day.
Thinks 3 days is 2 weeks.
Calls you "bro".
Thinks a mysql backend is a magical thing only special people can understand.
Wants no scroll bars on IE maximized in a 1024x768 screen while in xp theme mode. (cause that is what *everyone* uses)
Thinks you can use a webcrawler to recover PHP code.
Wants you to work on 3 things at once and wonders why nothing is being accomplished.
Tells you he wants to start a social network for God called hisspace.com
Informs you what is easy and should cost money.
Tells you CEOs don't even make the kind of money you're charging.
And my favorite - Tells you that you are padding hours.

As soon as the customer starts telling you how to do your job - stop. When I take my car to get a tune up (and yes, all Linux people use car metaphors), I don't email my mechanic and inform him how to set the spark plug gap. People are good at different things, that's why I don't cut my own hair. Just because I own a pair of scissors doesn't mean I'm good at or even remotely qualified to instruct someone else at cutting hair.  Some people spend a bunch of time behind a keyboard, but that doesn't mean you're a programmer or even a "computer guy". Owning a computer doesn't make you qualified to tell me how to do my job.

How can you avoid problems? It really depends on the scope of the project. If you write a little throw away application that takes you a couple of hours then it's not worth the trouble of writing up a contract. If they don't pay up, you're only out a couple hours and you move on. Anything more than that, take the time and do it right.

Contracts - do them. Write up a scope of work contract and make them sign it before you do anything.

Educate the customer - maybe they don't know all this computer stuff costs money. Software is expensive, custom software even more so. The bill can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Delays happen - this happens mostly when the customer starts asking for more than the original scope of work ie: the sugar buzz effect. Amend the contract.

Good luck with your crazy customer, I sure had a blast with mine.