Time of death? 10:36 Central Standard on May 20th... I hope you never have to experience that sinking feeling when you realize that a project that you have cared about and helped limp along for over 7 months (when it was scheduled to have been done in 2) finally rears it head to take it's last breath. It sucks. You build relationships and care about folks on the client side. You want to help them succeed. You become their cheerleader. And then, the project takes a weird turn and you find yourself wondering what happened. I've only had to end a few client relationships over the last 8 years of running Blue Fish so I count myself as fortunate. But those few have taught me a few things.
The first was one of my very first clients. Over the course of the project she became more and more demanding but would not budge on price. My desire to provide her with a solution was strong but finally at some point she became almost abusive and I had to call it. The lesson learned with that project was to use a contract because up to that point I had not had a need to.
The second client that I had to end a relationship with was a church. We had an agreement that one very senior person on staff was going to be the point person and that he had the authority to make the decisions needed. We worked all the way to the end and then the Senior Pastor got involved at the last minute and said that he didn't like the site and wanted to start over. Things got heated and we just could not come together as he wanted me to redo the site for free and I just could not work for free (I have a family to feed and time is my commodity). The lesson learned with this project is to make sure that even when a leader says they do not want to be involved you keep them updated anyway so that there are no surprises at the end of the project.
This most recent one hurts a bit as the person I was working with on the client side is a really good person. The project has been on life support for 4+ months though, and instead of calling it when we missed the first deadline due to the company redirecting her efforts I stuck with it and said we would try and get the project completed. Fast forward a couple of months and the contact's boss has gotten impatient and, out of the blue, is giving her (and us by default) a month to get the site done. No discussion with us about timeline, level of effort, availability or anything. At this point in time we just do not have that kind of bandwidth so I had to decline. Lesson learned with this project is that if a client has issues meeting deadlines you can only help them so much, especially if their focus is elsewhere.
My hope for you is that you never have to go through these pains. My hope for you is that all of your client relationships are golden and filled with love. Statistically speaking though, chances are good that you are going to have to end a relationship with a client at some point in time. So learn this, when it becomes obvious that the project is unsalvageable make the break up quick.