Constant barrage of emails and requests from client

Greetings all;

I have been working with a very nice client for the past several months. But, now, the contract is coming to a close. Just two more weeks. However, every day they are barraging me with dozens of emails and new requests. Now, they want a rubric for the course. Of course that would be helpful, but it was never part of the original contract, and never mentioned until now. Would you do the work anyway if you weren't paid? They also want other new work done such as a syllabus, and revisions they won't pay for. 

What would you do? What would you say? 

I don't think they do it out of malice, but out of genuine need, and I would like to work with them again. Unsure what to do.



14 Replies
Christy Tucker

What about something like this?

"I'd be happy to help you with these additional requests! The cost would be $xxx. If that sounds good to you, I'll write up a change order. I can get started as soon as I get your approval. I estimate that the work would be completed x weeks after receiving the signed agreement."

Depending on your payment terms, you could alter this to "I estimate that the work would be completed x weeks after receiving the signed agreement and a 50% downpayment for the additional work."

For additional out of scope work, I try to use this general approach. It lets me stay professional (no matter how annoyed I am in reality), and it maintains the relationship. It also lets me get paid when it's extra work.

That approach should work for the additional items like a rubric and syllabus. Whether the revisions are really out of scope or not depends on how your contract was written. If your agreement was very clear about the number of rounds of review and amount of revision in scope, then additional revisions require a change order.

If your contract was vague about revisions, and it's hard to objectively pin down, then you probably need to do that work regardless of the pay. You can work on creating better wording for revisions in your future agreements if you work with them again.

Would you be willing to share the wording from your contract on what revisions you identified as being included in the scope? If you don't want to share the publicly, I'd be happy to take a look privately and tell you what I think.

Ulises Musseb

I agree with Ms. Tucker. There's no need for things to get unsavory, and you can still say no, or communicate additional charges for the additional work.

The fact that they are waiting for the last minute and also inquiring for things that they didn't include in the contract tells me that either they aren't the best planners, or they want you to do their work (and for free). Many times these type of things come from them not being completely clear as to what the contract includes.

Contracts do exist for a reason, and some time clients (and sometimes not the clients) push boundaries to see if they can get away with freebies.

If your contract is clear about the deliverables, you can point that the responsibilities within the contract have been satisfied. If it's not that clear, there have to be a simple definition of what the scope of your project is and include, which (hopefully) get you out of delivering additional items that were not defined, especially in a tight deadline.

Personally I don't believe in giving concessions on free services or deliverables outside of the contract, unless there's something for me in it (such as another contract or project).

It's not ok to do work for free.

Ilanna Mandel

The thing is, I've already done many things for free. The client decided to use the text to speech feature in Storyline. We chose a voice weeks ago. I inserted the voice and it's a lot of work to put the text in there and space it out, etc. Suddenly, this week they changed their mind and said they wanted a different voice. To be fair to them, I did it. I didn't want to, but I did. 

Then, they asked for an outline in Word and pdf. I did that too. 

There have been tons of little additions here and there that were clearly outside the scope of the contract which is very clear. I did them anyways, and sometimes worked on nights and weekends. 

I've hit my limit. Does that make sense? 

Christy Tucker

So, realistically, you're going to have a hard time ever working with them again because you have established that you don't care about the contract and that you're willing to put in inordinate effort for free. You have repeatedly communicated through your actions that the scope doesn't matter.

You have two choices now.

  1. Keep working for free. Take it as a lesson learned and establish better boundaries with your next client.
  2. Send a message like the one I suggested to establish a boundary now.

There's no reason you can't send that message even though you've already worked for free. The only difference is that they will probably balk because, after all, you have trained them to expect you to do it for free. They will keep pushing until you tell them no.

The worst thing that happens is that they tell you no and stop working with you. Frankly, that's not a terrible outcome in the long run, as it will free up your time to work with clients who appreciate you and the value of your work.

Christy Tucker

So we're clear: you're not a bad person for enforcing the terms of the contract. It can feel like you're the bad guy. You want to be nice and helpful, and that's why you do extra work. I get that, but I also want you to be respected as the professional you are. You deserve to be paid for your work. Respect yourself as a professional, and ask to be paid.

Julie Stelter

Hi Ilanna,

Christy and Ulises give very good advice. One approach you can take in regard to already have done out of scope work for free is to say..."I was willing to do [these items] to make an investment in our relationship. However, the change orders are out of the scope of the contract and I need to...[continue with Christy's language]. 

Good luck!


Phil Mayor

I think Christy give very sound advice, I would have approached it the same way.

I suspect most of us do some work for free as a mark of goodwill, there is a limit (mine is 1 day per client per year, but I do not advertise that). The skill is in setting the boundaries, I would let the client know early on they have reached the limit of the scope of work and then if I got additional requests I would then give them informal quotes on the cost of thees works.

If they are playing hardball, then they are not a client that you want, ensure you get payment and move on.

Phil Mayor

This is really an issue with crowdsourcing sites where the buyer does not have any value for the work you are doing.

I may be very wrong here about this specific client. However, it sounds like they were aware that the work was out of scope, but were happy to ask you to do the work as it would not cost them anything. The moment you set your boundaries the client cancels future work. I am not sure you can mend a relationship like that, you could offer to continue the free work, but would put you in a very weak position for future negotiations and I suspect the client will not reopen the work opportunities.

I would put this down as a learning experience and move on, might be hard in the short term, but not really the type of client you need.