Business and Legal Pitfalls in Web Development: Notes from Chris Gatewood's Talk at Wordcamp Richmond

Last month I attended Wordcamp Richmond and saw a great presentation by Christopher Gatewood entitled The Seven Business Pitfalls for Wordpress and Web Professionals. The talk was informative enough that I took copious notes, and I'm publishing them in the hopes that others will benefit. I've since gotten Chris to help me draft some agreements and can tell you he's a great resource for this kind of stuff.

The Seven Pitfalls

  1. Half + Half = Half
    • Getting half of the money up front doesn't track with the work
    • Always get money up front
    • Progress payments that track with feature deliveries
  2. Scope Creep
    • Bullet point list of scope
    • Define client and dev responsibilities
      • If you don't know what's IN scope, you don't know what's OUT of scope
    • No silent accommodations
      • Don't let out of scope work creep in without speaking up
      • Even if you don't charge, let them know it's out of scope
      • "Agreement or approval in writing, for which email will suffice"
      • Inaccurate contracts or agreements that don't reflect the way you work can be worse than nothing
  3. Subcontractor Cash Squeeze
    • Decide when payment takes place up front
    • Place this decision in agreement
    • Helps to decide not just timing but whether the payment occurs at all
  4. Stay in range
    • Incremental approvals
    • Wait for an email
    • Who has authority to sign off? Get 1 or 2 people whom you can copy on all communications.
    • Due dates suck, make sure delays are not your problem
    • Iterative dates stemming from previous iterations to prevent hard-coded calendar dates
  5. No free launch
    • Control and Rights
      • don't charge for delivery
      • make iterative releases to staging that YOU control
      • hosting not transferred to them until final payment
      • IP does not transfer until final payment (DMCA)
        • Your work includes a licensing component, be clear about it
        • Client doesn't "own" it until you're paid
    • After delivery, are you a priority?
      • Late fees
      • Interest charges
      • Attorney fees
      • Costs of collection
      • You can always use the carrot of waiving the fees
  6. Work in Progress
    • It's expensive
    • Invoice the silence
      • claim the right to invoice without getting communication
      • define the calculation of what would be owed
  7. Failure to Flex
    • Give recalcitrant or hard-up client options
      • Shrink scope
      • Pay in stages over time
    • Always good to work with client when possible to deliver and get paid
    • Get more money on the front end for risky, small clients
    • You need to consider that you may not get paid so try to limit exposure

Other stuff

Written on Friday, November 05, 2010 | Tags: law, intellectual-property, contracts, business, development