I recently took a freelancing job (fixed price, not per hour) to develop a certain aspect of a WordPress site. I was really interested in this project and was excited to learn WordPress, brush up on my PHP and get started. I was given a specific goal to achieve.

I came up with a solution, whipped up a small proof of concept (POC), and explained it to my employer. My employer is not very technical at all and doing things over the phone (and in person) can lead to many misunderstandings. He told me that the POC was not what he wanted, and explained what he did want. So, I spent a couple of weeks learning more WordPress, until finally, I built a very basic POC for his new idea. I sent him some screenshots, and spoke to him on the phone about it. He wasn't sure if what I had was what we wanted, and needed to meet in person about it. That's fine with me... BUT, the issue is that I am studying abroad next year, and I will not be able to sit down in person with him for the next year.

I don't see myself finishing this project before I leave, especially because of all the setbacks and potential setbacks. I am an eager developer and am ready to adapt and learn but at a certain point this seems unfair. When I took the job, I had a few very clear ideas about how this would be done, and the details are changing and the project is just getting bigger and bigger every time I present my progress.

How do I express this to my employer?

  • 3
    Hi and welcome to IPS! I edited a bit to remove the primarily opinion based question - only you can know if the project is worth your time. What are you willing to do? Do you want to tell the employer you cannot work past X date, or do you want to talk to them about working out a compromise?
    – Em C
    Aug 1 '18 at 0:35
  • 3
    This really sounds like a negotiation and more suited to The Workplace than an interpersonal skilll. Aug 1 '18 at 1:23
  • the POC was not what he wanted, and explained what he did want [...] He wasn't sure if what I had was what we wanted -> This sounds like a real communication problem. One of you, or both, can't explain/understand properly. Have you tried and rephrased eveything to clarify with him? Related or helpful maybe? how-to-make-sure-i-understood-a-work-assignment-correctly
    – OldPadawan
    Aug 1 '18 at 7:35
  • I think this sort of question is routinely handled on the Freelancing Stack and would probably be better handled there than here or the Workplace.
    – brhans
    Aug 1 '18 at 12:31
  • @brhans you are right. Any way to remove this question from this exchange? Thanks.
    – gkgkgkgk
    Aug 1 '18 at 12:33

On an interpersonal level, you should treat him like a petulent child that cannot decide what to wear today.

  • Offer a very limited set of choices. In your case, no more than 3, only 2 might be better.

  • Present your progress as prototypes (screen presentation). Let your customer look at and play around with it until he has a feeling for the current prototypes. Then ask him which choice he likes best. He must choose one of the presented choices and is not allowed to throw it all out the window and demand a different solution.

  • Don't let him fiddle around with features that are not finished. Show the edges clearly in the prototype. Let there be no half finished view, but display "not implemented" instead.

  • Tell him what your next step will be (what to expect of the next prototype), but only explain the superficial idea, no technical details. Ask him for his ideas and preferences.

  • Write all agreements (of every presentation meeting) down and send them to your customer for his information. Hold him to these agreements.

That way he feels still in control, has influence on the development of "his" product, but cannot change his mind chaotically and invalidate your previous work.

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