I've been working on the ecommerce website from hell for over a year now. I should have heard the alarm bells when the studio who were running the project took a month to pay my deposit but still expected me to start working, but I explained that I wouldn't start without some form of security and they were cool with it, so I carried on.

It started off as a simple build with simple products, no product variations etc and a few links on the designs which appeared to lead to external links, and checkout and cart pages were nowhere to be seen. It wasn't a big money job so I just build them in as plain and straightforward as I could, in line with how the rest of the site looked. They then changed their mind about how they wanted these to look, and added loads of functionality to the site throughout the build, so by the end of the line, the scope of work had completely changed. I also had loads of disagreements in terms of design and useability, as their designs straight-up weren't going to function otherwise, plus every round of changes meant that I had to prolong the job further and fit it around work for other clients.

Fastforward a few more months and I get sent a really angry email with some of the client's complaints, including one that raised an issue with the user journey, and the finger of blame was pointed at me. The user journey had been a part of the designs from the start, and this was never raised as an issue for A WHOLE YEAR. They then said that it had to go live on Monday (three days after they sent email with these huge new structural changes). I told them I could no longer work on the project but was happy to waive the rest of my fee (3/4 of the total fee, when I had essentially completed the site, minus 2 minor bugs), so they could find another developer in the limited time they had. At first they refused to hire another developer, claiming that it would be too expensive, which made no sense, as for a few minor fixes and out of scope additions he could get paid a wage that would have otherwise paid for the majority of the work I had done on the site. I stood my ground and finally they found someone, so I sent over all of the files and database to their new developer and asked him to give me a heads up when I could remove the staging site from my server. The next day, I received an email from the studio asking me to fix some bugs the developer was requesting I fix so he could carry on with the site. They were basically asking me to work more, for free, to enable him to walk off with the majority of the money and do less work. They also forwarded a suuuuuper shitty, condescending email from him, listing all the things he thought was wrong with the site (he even listed 'no favicon' although they'd never supplied a graphic for this). He also wrote a paragraph at the bottom EXPLAINING MY JOB TO ME and telling me:

I get the feeling you like to write Javascript, while being one of the easiest languages to learn, it can also be one of the hardest to master. While I applaud you for writing Vanilla JS, it looks like you have a general problem with structuring your application.

Not sure if I'm being oversensitive here but it felt so patronising, and i couldn't even go for an angry walk to get it out my system because of social distancing lol.

Let a girl quarantine in peace!!!!!!

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    Kind of are. As a completely detached analysis, the responsibility in this situation is all yours if you leave yourself in a position where you have no recourse. Two things come to mind:

    1. The need for better client relationship skills. This is a great foundation when managing a direct to client relationship:

    2. CYA needs to be job one. User journey is a great start. The next step is better contract handling:

    - Milestones, with accepted sign off at each before payment, and beyond continuing
    - T&M contracts, no fixed bid for items that aren't finite and replication of work that is already done
    - Mutual terminability clause. If you're the path of least resistance, shit will roll downhill
    - In situations like these, propose new milestones and a plan of action that can be signed off on as a rider statement of work. If they don't want it, mutual terminability clause.
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    @SortOfTested thanks, this is super useful! I'm going to have a look at that book.

    The frustrating thing is that I know I could have handled all of the contracting a lot better at the start, and in the year since it started I've gained enough freelance experience to handle projects better from the outset, whereas when the project started I hadn't previously done much freelance work so was a bit blind to potential pitfalls.

    I think in essence, some of what they're saying is right and I'm definitely not the most talented dev. However their new developer left me feeling completely trampled on—he's basically criticising my entire approach and then asking me to re-do it using his preferred workflow to make his job easier, while absorbing the cost myself. Big red flag vibes from him.
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