Hi all,

Indulge me if you will - any advice is always greatly appreciated. I know somebody out there, if not all of you have delt with 'this guy' before

I'm a small time web designer, with a handful of clients who are happy with my work. They are happy, I am happy - we're all happy.
Until one day, a very non-committal client comes along proclaiming to know 'nothing about this sort of thing', and requesting that I 'hold his hand' and 'babystep' him through the whole process.
Since then it has been a nightmare. We had our initial meeting in which I rattled off my 13 page questionnaire that covers everything. I fired off a quote that I couldn't get to him fast enough, only to wait for 6 weeks for him to want to move on it.
Fine, I say - I had room in my schedule, we met again, sketched a little site outline, discussed content/ideas, and off I went to design.
He loved the mockup 'I'm impressed' he says - so on we went to html.
Now he has a beautiful frame, but has no idea what to put in it, which is entirely contrary to everything we had discussed in our first 2 meetings. In person, he seemed to know exactly what he wanted - I could see the bubble over his head with his idea in it. Now, he's not sure how it's all going to 'tie together', and he needs to see it 'in action' before he can decide whether or not he likes it.
Here's an example - I actually did acquire a collection of photos to be displayed. He asked me to start placing them on the website leaving room for him to write a text description underneath. I asked him for a little more direction (how many pictures of each category would you like to display?) He says that until he sees it active he cannot decide if he wants 3 or 6 or 12 on a page. So I respond that I will be placing three pictures, because, as the designer - I provide the suggestion that I think will work the best. In some cases, I did not even have 3 pictures for that category, so I used repeated pictures. I'm sure you can guess that after he saw the layout he asked how he was going to display more than 3 pictures. It turns out that after he saw it with 3 pictures, he realized he would need to display many many more. I, of course, responded in a way that required him to pay more money for adding more pages to display more pictures (as our agreement does indicate a page limit), unless he wants his users to scroll on forever. I do not even have the 'many more' pictures yet.
And finally, after increasingly large intervals of silence between our communication, and his assurance that he will not 'rush' me, he suddenly needs to have it complete in one month, and I still don't have all of the content yet.
When I ask for it, he suggests another 'meeting' - I can't continue to have meetings to brainstorm - I can do that over the phone (It is over an hour for me to drive to his location and back, and I absolutely refuse to have clients to my private residence - which is where I work).
I have never worked with a client who can't figure out what they want on their web pages. I repeatedly suggest times that I am available for a call, but he makes no attempt to contact me during those times. (I did let him know up front that I had a limited availability).
Anyway - whether its deliberate or not - it's very difficult. I've found a way to respond to change requests, but how can I get him to figure out what he wants, when he won't communicate with me over the phone, and it is very inconvenient for me to travel to his location every time he has trouble visualizing.
DOME CAMERA Hazard Insurance

Sorry to hear about your problem, but most of us have dealt with 'this guy'. I have had even worse experiences, where a prospective client called me up for a meeting (he set the date and time), made me wait for almost 2 hrs, and then said, "We will decide on the design and let u know". A single statement that he could have made over the phone instead of making me waste 5+ hrs in commuting and waiting. Anyway, enough griping.
My usual strategy is these cases (after identifying 'oh that guy again') is to insist on an advance (usually 20% of the total project estimate). And then when these problems start coming, I make it clear that since his changes are resulting in more work, more money is needed. And no more work till that money is paid. In most cases, that stops the barrage of 'suggestions' and I can finish off the work. In certain cases, the client balks at the extra payment and I drop the project (the advance is not returned). In a few cases, where the client is not really tech-savvy (usually they are not), I resort to a barrage of tough sounding technical jargon (usually meaningless) that really intimidates him and stops further changes. Not nice or professional, admittedly, but tough problems sometimes need tough remedies.

Yes we have all faced this problem. I used to have this problem constantly in the beginning with clients. Charging a deposit at the begining of project certainly helps. Another method is to provide some default content for the pages yourself and try and getthe project live. You can agree with the client that the text on pages can be changed in future when they are ready.


The same guy must hire ghostwriters because I've dealt with similar situations and it drives me up the wall. I usually turn down most non-specific jobs now because I have been burned too many times. It usually involves wanting several articles written on one broad topic with the titles and keywords used being "whatever I choose". Then once they are written, he decides that he doesn't like some of them so could I come up with more? I now stick with clients who do their own keyword research and know what they want.