I think I have a workflow problem, and a client problem.

Once a client is happy with a mockup, I typically put the whole site together, as much as possible, then show it to them - of course you get a list of changes, etc...then you make changes, go-live (always a little back and forth with changes). Post go-live, changes come under maintenance and the client is billed for this.

I think I made a critical mistake with one client allowing them to view the site as it's being developed. We are several months past go-live, because they keep wanting changes, and pretty much ignore any professional advice I give them. At this point, we are making changes to the changes, and I see no end in sight.

I finally emailed my client and explained that I will need "sign-off" on each page as the changes are completed for each page, and changes past that will either fall under maintenance, or be billed hourly, even if we are not "live" yet.

I've never had a client like this to deal with, and not sure how to handle them. They are very happy with my work, but just want more and more, and everything for free, even if it wasn't in the proposal or contract. Little freebies add up. The changes to the changes are what's really killing me.

Can anyone offer advice on the following:

1) What is their typical web design/client workflow?

2) How should I handle this client?

Thank you in advance!

I think that in any IT project, you want to have a statement of work (SOW) agreed on and signed prior to the start of the project. The SOW is basically the contract that describes the job, in-scope, out-of-scope, costs, etc. It goes over the roles and responsibilities of you and the customer. For example, in your SOW, you'll state that you are responsible for developing the x number of web pages, but the client must provide the web server, just as an example.

The SOW will also list the all of the deliverables (10 pages, design work, etc...) and who will be delivering (in the event there are multiple players in this project).

Without the SOW, its expected that the client is going to try to take advantage and get as much as they can for free. That's called business.

Of course, if you are just starting off, or afraid of loosing future business, your tendancy is to give in, but all you are really doing is enabling them to continue this practice.

If this customer is reasonable, you should sit down with them and go over the current state of the project. Try to come up with an agreed plan on the rest of the work. If you cannot agree, then you may want to consider not doing future business with this person. Take it as a lessons learned.

Good advice - I actually do have a contract, it goes over how many pages, who provides hosting, etc...it's the smaller issues, for instance, "hey, let's add a photo gallery to that page"...so I feel like my contract isn't granular enough to say what is included for each page, etc...

Another example - this client read a few articles, and thinks he is now an SEO expert, and wants me to rename all the images on the website - he actually sent me a list of images on each page, and what he wants the JPG file named as. Everything is to the nTH degree, and it's driving me crazy. (the files were SEO friendly to begin with, his filenames are keyword stuffed and a mile long.)

But you're right - at this point I just want to finish, and not do business in the future...the best way I can do that I believe is to just have him sign off on each page - then no more changes.

You need an in-scope section in your contract and a note that anything outside of the scope is subject to extra charges. You don't have to list the individual small stuff and you have to be confident enough not to worry if the customer isn't happy when they ask for extra stuff and you charge them. That's going to happen. No one is happy to hear its going to cost more. You have to get this message accross before the contract is signed. This is where it becomes important to have great customer skills, sales techniques, and psychology.

So how do you work with your clients during development? Do you produce the entire site (after mockup approval) or do you allow them to "watch"?

I'm not a web developer by trade so I dont work these types of projects as you may be doing. I'm more involved in other aspects in the IT industry. However, I think the advice I've given applies the same.

This is really a process/project managmenet issue you are facing, not a web development problem. if you decided to build networks tomorrow, you are going to face the same issues if you continue the same business practices.

I woud say that in your project plan (which is separate from your SOW), you have to develop milestones. You should be meeting with your customer on a routine basis, say weekly to go review the project plan and ensure that you are meeting the project dates and costs AND identifying risks that get introduced into your project that affect time, resources, and cost. Then apply whatever process you have established in your SOW to address it.

So for example, in your project meeting, your customer says, i want for you to do x,y,and z now. Its not in the project plan and its out-of-scope. Well, that becomes a risk for you to be able to complete your project on-time and within budget. If the request is required, your change procedures kick in. The project is updated accordingly and charges are billed for the changes.