Any of you who have been doing professional (or at least "for-fee") web design for any length of time can probably relate to this.
I have a small business customer who contacted me 10 months ago about helping him "do something" about their website. It had been created by a coder who was contracted by the business owner's wife and brother-in-law (also an employee) and had been online for a few years. The owner didn't like the colors, the content, or the photos. The coder had moved out of state and still had his info all over the .com registrations.
I told the owner the first priority was to archive the site (they hadn't paid for it in a couple of years and didn't have a copy) and get the domain name. They got me the current contact info and I arranged a transfer after I used capture software to download the entire site.
Then I met with them and told them what I would recommend for the new site. Simple, five pages with contact form. They had a low budget, and I'm a part-timer, so I felt I could get into their range. I gave them a package price, got the deposit and a signed contract. Their obligations in the contract include writing down what they want to say on the pages (I'll handle grammatical issues, but I can't write about their business) and they provide digital photos for the site. The owner's nephew was tasked with collecting that info for me.
I provided them with a full-color 1024 X 768 PNG of the proposed layout, which they apporved. Since then it has been an uncomfortable dance. The nephew asks what we need, I tell him, he doesn't send it, and a few weeks later, the owner asks for a status. I tell him we haven't received anything we require to complete the site, and he asks for another meeting.
On package jobs of this size, I typically estimate 5 hours for the first page, and then 1 hour for the other pages, plus a couple of hours for incidentals. This was quoted as a 13 hour job at $45/hour. To date, I have spent 3.5 in their offices answering and re-answering the same questions, at least 2 hours on the phone, and 3 hours on the template. In exchange, they have sent me five small paragraphs of text and a single photo. We are 5 months past the estimated completion date and no closer to completion than we were two weeks into the project.
This week, after another request for a status update, I sent the owner a lengthy message documenting what I had received and reminding him of the contract terms. Those terms include our ability (though not our desire) to cancel the contract if we don't have the text and photos 3 days after the contract was signed, billing them for actual time spent and our option to add a 10% extension fee per month if we agree to stay on the project. I received a "you need to call us" reply.
I know that is no other web designer in our (rural) county. The bigger towns have some shops that charge much more per hour for HTML work. I don't rely on this business to keep us in food and shelter, but I can't give work away for free, and the economy makes my time more valuable to me.
I need some counsel on this one. How would you proceed, and how would you have done it differently?