Impossible clients are always looking to make life impossible for others. Even those who call themselves Coaches.
She found me on Guru – a freelancing website where I have a profile and portfolio, but rarely ever use. I had only a few months prior worked with Margo on her project through the platform after being invited to bid, and before that, the last time was with Harry in May of 2007.
It was the last day of April 2020, when the world was still reeling from getting used to the new digitized way of life. I remember that I was working on PSN Salesforce Opportunities, and listening to Casting Crowns on my Echo Show from the comfort of my living room chair when I got a notification in my email that I had been invited to work on a project.
As stated above, I do not really use that platform because I do not seek out projects to bid on – anyone who knows me the last thing I need is to SEEK out projects to work on! Anyway, I clicked on the invite and proceeded to Guru to see what it was.
The invitation said:
We have awarded this project twice – each time some work was done to move the project forward but the overall experience and communication was not good from a client perspective and the design efforts did nothing to support my new health coaching business. I am trying again. and wonder if you and your partner are interested. I prefer to work with an individual or small team onshore. Those first two efforts put a large hole in my budget.
STOP: You see that bold set of wording. I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO MY SPIDEY SENSE! … carry on.
FYI: the first hire which was a small group in Florida that, after a week, appeared to give the project to an incompetent programmer with little command of English and, perhaps not surprisingly, a lack of availability for phone calls (probably in Bangladesh). The second hire was a single state-side practitioner who must have been doing five projects at once because the iterations did not reflect any of my notes or corrections – we had a heart-to-heart, I agreed to one more go round and the same thing happened again. So I said, this is not productive for either of us…. I need to get my site up!
A little about me – you will read my bio as part of the content, but from your standpoint, the key points are: I am not a Luddite, I have a doctorate in technology, managed an asp.net/sql site for a decade (with offshore developers which I will never do again) and have had a small, mostly inactive WordPress blog for many years. The development of that little site was totally painless but that designer/developer no longer freelances. I am now a health & wellness coach and this site is designed to support & promote that business as well as provide tools and information for both the general public and my clients. I will hold back some of the content in the attached proposal to post in the future and will also turn some of it (i.e. The Diets) into ebooks as bait to capture email addresses.
So, in the event, you are interested, I am providing log-in information for your review: The site is (removed). It is hosted on Bluehost under the umbrella account (removed) (which I will dissolve when the new site is up).
Master ACCount: (removed)
ID: admin Password – (removed) (changed 3-25-2020) Security Pin (removed) (good, CONFIRMED 3-18-20)
I hope that will be sufficient for you to log in and see what has been done to date. Most important is the design which is clumsy and uninviting. Then, next, the layout of the content – which has been honed already and is very specific.
Also under that same umbrella is the other site (removed). I will be moving a lot of that content to (removed) and then may dissolve that site as well.
Thanks! Beth* removed access information, website name, and links to site
She then sent a second message attaching a word document that was her “outline” for the website that she wanted. Again, those spidey senses should have kicked me in the knee, especially after I looked at what she had written out in detail, including how she wanted main navigation items to point to boxes which would point to pages with boxes that pointed to blog posts… Horrible UX/UI, extremely confusing method of content layout, and I could tell it was written by someone who thought they knew what they were doing. It was written with HER in mind and not the user.
I responded to her message stating that I would look it over and I went back on about my day.
I was pinged again on May 4th, asking me if I would be submitting a bid to work on the project, and that she was going to be making a decision at day’s end. I proceeded to look over the WP Admin, and doc (again) and replied with several messages:
Good morning Beth! I hope you had a great weekend. I took the entire weekend away from the computer and worked on my garden, and spent time with my family. It was so pleasant to not look at a screen for a few days. I hope yours was as pleasant.
Before the weekend I did take a brief peek into the WP Admin, and current setup/plugins and at first glance note that whoever has worked on this in the past has chosen DIVI as the theme to build with. Are you wanting to keep that? I ask, because one of the first things I do when I come to work with a client that has that theme installed and in use is I get rid of it! It is bloated and difficult for clients to work with… well, maybe not for you since you stated you have programming in your wheelhouse. Please let me know.MESSAGE #1 – May 4, 2020
I am on the site now… these colors are offputting, the call to action is unclear, the header is awful, plain, and well – ugly. It looks like a man designed this LOL!!! I have NOTHING against men web professionals at all, but their aesthetic when it comes to health and wellness is not all that great. LOLMESSAGE #2 – May 4, 2020
Alright… Visited (removed) and read all of your accomplishments, and background… health, wellness, and travel. Sounds like we have a great deal in common – as well as you being in Rye, where my aunt Laura lives. Beautiful area (though I have not been up there in years).
Moving on… I know you mentioned in the original email that awarding this project twice has blasted through your budget of $500-$1k. So let’s see where we can go.
Did you show either of the two previous developers any websites (wellness related or otherwise) that you found aesthetically pleasing, with direct calls to action and ease of use? I would love to see those if you did so that I can get an idea of where you want to go, with what you already have, and then we can chat about your remaining budget to get you where you need to be.
After a bit more discussion with you, then I can submit a bid. I am a bit different than most, and really prefer to be picky about the work and clients to assure the best fit for us both VS just “pay me and I will do something”, if you know what I mean. 😀MESSAGE #3 – May 4, 2020
This looks terrible: (removed)
1. Where is the sidebar?
2. The image is HUGE and pixelated!
3. The post tags are in ALL CAPS, and misspelled.
Jeez… I hope you did not spend too much on these guys!MESSAGE #4 – May 4, 2020
I sent each message above as I reviewed the site, in the hopes of expeditious replies since she was so firm that I provide a quote immediately, so after several hours of waiting for a reply from her I sent another message through the platform:
Hello again Beth. I am wondering if there is a more efficient way to communicate with you for expeditious discussions so that we can see if we are a fit for each other to move forward… I am not sure that you are getting my messages, or if there is a lag to the delivery from Guru.
Please let me know ASAP as I want to get you planned into my schedule for continued consultation for today.MESSAGE #5 – May 4, 2020
After waiting yet another few hours on a reply, I sent her an email with detailed project specs and told her my hourly rate then with it being the end of my workday, I logged off and went on with life.
The next day I woke to this message on the platform:
I sent you a response via email a couple hours ago – after all of these posts poured into my box. It still has not posted here!!
I simply provided my email address beth at (removed) dot com for easier communication.
Also please review the document dated 4-26-20 that was attached to my post – that describes what I envision and is very close to what I provided the first two designers. Your questions were my questions and that is why I am where I am :-). I am not attached to any theme or even to having a theme. It was suggested as an easier more efficient method of development.
Yes, I have a background & even a doctorate in tech but I am no longer technical – it served me well when I was managing a team that developed/supported a large asp.net/sql site. And, yes if I wanted to spend the time to learn, I could develop in WordPress but that seems counterproductive to me when there are talented people who can bring so much more to the party :-). (I just haven’t been successful, so far, in identifying them.)
I am also participating in a 4-week SIG (as a member of the writers’ group ASJA) on SEO that is being led by Tom Gerencer who wrote “Think Like Google: Use SEO & Empathy to Rank, Convert and Profit no Matter How Much They Change the Rules” – so that will also inform some of my choices as well.
I will be fairly readily available today and also tomorrow morning. Starting a noon Tuesday, it’s non-stop zooms.
Thanks!!Sent late on May 4, 2020, Read on May 5th, 2020
I looked at my Inbox, and saw no email from her, so went on about my regular workday, which at the time was larger than usual due to the Rona. As I was getting ready to finish up with PSN for the day, I looked through all of my emails and found her aforementioned message in my SPAM folder, an issue that will come up again later in the story.
In her email she stated “My original budget was $750 and I have already spent $600 – $300 each to my first two developers/designers before I finally pulled the plug. So even at $1,000, I have only $400 left.” 400? 400? Did you read what is in your specs? Are you aware of the amount of work there is to undo what you let others do, AND you paid for it??? I did not reply. This client was NOT for me!
A few days later I get another message from the Guru platform from Beth
May I assume that you do not wish to pursue this project? I am about to award the project to another guru and I just want to be sure that I didn’t miss a response.
BethMay 8th, 2020
I knew from the start that Beth was going to be an issue client. I could feel it in my gut, but for some dumb reason, I still thought I could at least help right the wrong that had been done by others she had hired, and MAYBE convince her that her design spec was not only going to be a nightmare for users but also for her to maintain. I just wanted to help.
See, I am a fixer. I like things to be right. Work right. Function right. Even when I am certain it will cause me nothing but a headache. And that begins the second round of this story.
COMING SOON -> Read part 2 of An Impossible Client Story – Coaching Edition