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I am the single programmer working on a website handling both frontend and backend. Recently in my task list I have to provide a social news feed (activities among friends) which should summarize activities from different modules (at least 7 modules). It has taken at least 20-25 days for me to develop that. Remember in news feed every action can be performed right on the news feed + there must be some kind of aggregation which should aggregate similar activities e.g. User A, B and C liked your item.

How can I convince my client that the task was complex and the time I took is fair?

  • Learn how to estimate and document what those estimations are based on. Every programmer is different and my estimations are not useful for how long it would take you to do it. – user40980 Feb 1 '14 at 20:09
  • @MichaelT Sorry for confusion i have updated my question. The original meaning was lost in my earlier post. – Aamir Adnan Feb 1 '14 at 20:23
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    What was your estimate of how long it would take? Did you estimate that it would take 20 days? Did the client accept that estimate initially? Or did you initially indicate that it would take much less time? – Justin Cave Feb 1 '14 at 20:26
  • @JustinCave I did told my client that this task would take at least two weeks. But then more and more complexities (not extra features added) arrives in between and task timeline keeps on stretching making me feel bad because continuously i have to keep on telling my client this task is not completed yet. – Aamir Adnan Feb 1 '14 at 20:34
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    When there is one bottleneck in order to fix that there is another complexity waiting for you and you go deep and deep and then you came back to original task at some time. No one is aware of bottlenecks and complexities in advance. – Aamir Adnan Feb 1 '14 at 20:36
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You gave an estimate, your client agreed based on it, you got it wrong, you take the hit. It's a harsh lesson, and you did have the option of attempting to renegotiate the cost and or scope, but you got into one more day mode, there's always a price for that.

Even if you succeeded in persuading your client to pay for your mistake, they are not going to be happy, and will be reluctant to do business with you again. Personally I'd visibly take this one on the chin and honestly and openly admit my error. You'll get regain some respect and get a reputation for integrity.

I know it's not what you want to hear, but put yourself in their shoes, what would persuade you to pay over 2.5 times what was originally agreed with some third party? It would have to be really convincing wouldn't it?

  • This depends on the contract. Estimates are just that, estimates and to expect them to be 100% accurate is unrealistic, especially when edge cases not previously considered arise. – Andy Feb 3 '14 at 1:24
  • Where did the multiplier of "over 2.5 times" come from? The OP had estimated the task would take "at least two weeks" and it took "20-25 days". That's a range of 1.42 to 1.78. – tcrosley Feb 3 '14 at 7:31
  • Two weeks 25/10 = 2.5 does it not? – Tony Hopkinson Feb 3 '14 at 12:04
  • 100% accurate estimate, I wish. +/- 100 to 150% I need like an extra hole in my rear.If there was a get out of jail free card in the OPs contract, they wouldn't be asking for advice would they. Feel free to point the OP in the right direction, I await to be convinced that I'm in error. – Tony Hopkinson Feb 3 '14 at 12:12
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    @TonyHopkinson - I was counting two weeks as 14 days, my mistake. I'm a freelancer and often work 50 or 60 hours a week, so I forget about about the 5 days a week thing. – tcrosley Feb 3 '14 at 20:55
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TL;DR: Establish a rapport. Do regular status updates and offer options that save money, or meet their needs better.

So accurate estimation is good. What's even better is timely communication as soon as you know that your estimation is off, as well as regular status updates on progress including challenges. You should also strive to make these updates a 2 way conversation. Explain when things start taking a long time, offer options that may takes less time. Feel free to offer options that take more time as well, but may provide the value the customer if really looking for.

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