A Difficult Client

I had to walk away from a project for the first time ever, folks. That’s right, I jumped in the escape pod and plotted a course directly back to Planet Limux. I just couldn’t handle it.

Considering I deal with crabby, IT challenged people on a daily basis, not being able to handle one client will tell you something about the way this guy acted. I am always telling friends that if programming ever feels like it is becoming a chore, I will quit doing it in a second. And honestly, up til this guy, it really hasn’t. Sometimes things can be frustrating or tedious, but it is my passion and even the boring bits aren’t so bad. At least not to me.

Then I met this client.

He contacted me through my website, asking for a simple modification to an open source program that I am very familiar with. I gave him a quote and a timeframe, and he agreed to my terms. I turned it in on schedule, customization made and bug free. I expected the client to be satisfied, as I had completed the work successfully and promptly. Instead, I got an angry email that requested a bunch more work, which would take at least another day or two to complete. I chose my words carefully when I replied so that I would maintain my professional demeanor, but I clearly stated in my response that I did all the work I was hired to do and that any changes made at this point would be an additional project with an additional cost.

All of a sudden, my work was acceptable.

I tried to let that one go and not worry about it again, but the client contacted me again two weeks later for something else. Things were kind of slow and I had a gift I needed to purchase for a friend’s birthday, so I figured what would the harm be in accepting one more assignment? I could use the money and I thought it meant something that the client came back, that maybe they were happy with my work after all. I asked the client even more questions about what he wanted to try and avoid the same situation. We discussed what functionality he was looking for in the specific program he chose. I talked to him about small details and thought we were on the same page. I didn’t think there was any way we couldn’t be after all that back and forth.

Once again, however, after everything was completed, he found a bunch of things he wanted to change.

I went back through every discussion we had and saw that some of it was even stuff I had brought up and he had glossed over. It seemed that this was the way the client operated: he would ask for something small so that I would charge him something small, and then would try to get me to do more extensive coding free of charge by making it look like I didn’t complete the assignment to his specifications. However, everything was written down in our email exchange, so I knew I was not at fault. At that point, I felt ill just sitting down at my computer. I knew that no matter what I did, the client would find fault so that he could try and manipulate me into putting in more work for free.

I just wanted to be rid of this terrible feeling.

So I emailed him back and very politely said that I did not feel that I was the right programmer for him and that although I had tried my best, clearly we had communication problems and he would likely be happier with someone else. I wished him the best of luck and then blocked his email and IP address so that he can’t contact me anymore. It instantly made me feel a million times better.

What about you? Have you ever had a client like this? What did you do in the situation?