In a world where every executive and their mother thinks they need a company app developed, you may find that landing development projects after building up a basic foundation of skills isn’t all that difficult.
In fact, many reports in recent years have indicated that the demand for mobile apps, especially within the skyrocketing enterprise sector, will continue to vastly outpace the number of skilled mobile developers available.
So, at some point, it’s plausible that you will need to be able to pick and choose the best gigs from those available. And while it may not be ideal to ever leave money on the table, actively avoiding the ‘wrong’ projects can be a blessing in disguise.
As you start taking on more and more potential client contact, here are a few strong indicators that a project might be more trouble than it’s worth.
1. Clients who don’t have a clear idea of what they want, but still want to micromanage
It’s quite common for ideas to not be fully formed when a client is at the shopping around stage, and that’s ok. While it’s ideal to have a customer roll up with a fully formed app wireframe and list of explicit functionality expectations, it’s not the end of the world to put some time into developing expectations alongside a client, rather than having them given to you pre-made.
That said, you can run into trouble when a potential customer is both unprepared and over-controlling.
Anyone who has ever worked in design or similar freelance roles will know this struggle:
Designer: What would you like?
Client: I don’t know, can’t you just make it ‘pop’?
Designer: Ummm, okay. Like this?
Client: No… I just want it to be like… you know.. uh, you know…?
I remember going in similar loops back when I used to write freelance content for people’s blogs and websites, and the last thing you want is to have a client who has you chasing an app “feeling” or “look” that they can’t actually describe or guide you toward.
Clear expectations and planning from the beginning are best and, barring those, second place goes to a client that you can tell will trust your decisions and executions when it comes to the things they aren’t sure of themselves.
Here’s a handy chart to sum it up:
2. Clients who shouldn’t be making an app in the first place
It’s common practice in business to have the “money is money” mindset that often drives forward interactions with customers even in cases where you may not agree with their ideas, motivations, or chances of eventual success.
One thing app developers should be aware of, however, is that an exceptionally small percentage of apps actually succeed from a financial standpoint for their owners.
While their are plenty of reasons for this, a major factor is the fact that people like to make apps out of things that really have no business being an app in the first place, or which they will execute poorly in any case.
Apps should serve some sort of utility or purpose to their end users, or they will quickly be abandoned and then uninstalled. Unfortunately, this reality doesn’t stop people from simply turning their other properties into apps “just to have one.”
Successful apps can do wonders for your portfolio and access to larger, more profitable clients, so it’s a good idea to be discerning when it comes to the projects you take on.
In the worst case scenario, you may even get a customer who blames the commercial failure of the app on you. You could build the smoothest, most beautiful app in the world, but that won’t save it from crumby post-launch marketing, etc. from the client.
If it’s clear a client is setting themselves up for failure (let alone clear that they might blame you for it), take this as a red flag, be on your way, and be thankful that you caught the warning signs early enough.
3. Clients who are clearly trying to squeeze premium functionality out of a budget price
Everybody loves a deal, but everybody also knows that app development is a relatively expensive service, and a client that’s trying to pinch pennies in the very first phone call might end up more trouble than they’re worth.
That’s not to say budget won’t be important to every client (it will), but if your estimates are met with too much surprise, or a lot of haggling up front, you might want to walk away.
Customers whose main concern is budget can sometimes end up breathing down your neck and pressuring you to complete things in a time or budget that you know deep down isn’t realistic.
An issue that comes into play here is also your billing structure. Client expectations are handled quite differently if you’re quoting for a complete project, or for a set amount of hours within which you hope to complete a certain project percentage.
Both methods place different amounts of risk on you and the client, and have their merits.
Either way, it’s important that both parties have crystal clear expectations of the work to be done from the beginning, and that the agreement sounds reasonable to you as the developer — if a client is pushing you to have certain things done in a timeframe that is too much of a stretch for you, it’s better to be realistic and disappoint upfront, rather than 100 hours into a project.
Ultimately, the jobs you take on are up to your own discretion, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have some guidelines early on in your app dev career — hope this helps!
What are YOUR warning signs of a nightmade client?
Did we leave something out? Have ‘nightmare client’ story to share? Leave a comment/response below!
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