The client thinks the team is staying on permanently. We're not. How do we break the news without blindsiding him?

I'm not going to get into the details, because you'll think you're reading the transcripts to a Real Trainwr...I mean Real Housewives episode. So I'll, lightly, tickle you with the TL;DR:

  • A team of people were brought onto a project.
  • It was supposed to be a shorty, 3-month project.
  • It got dragged out for 4 months with us barely creating anything because of the Team Lead/Client constantly tweaking the idea.
  • The Team Lead got fired.
  • We're moving forward with the project and it will be done mid-November. Right before "why the fuck are we eating dry ass turkey, when we ALL want ham"! - day.

Is everyone getting paid? Of course.

Is everyone exhausted from the drama that incurred within this project up until this point? You have no idea...

Is everyone planning their "frexit" (freelancer exit)? You bet your Mrs. Smith's sweet potato pie, we are!

The ONLY reason everyone is sticking around?

We want to leave in good conscience.

After ALL THESE MONTHS, not to mention the money he's spent on our services, we just want to build something for this guy. Hand the full monty over to him with some bonuses (perhaps a Channing Tatum cuddle). Raise up the peace sign (and perhaps release a dove holding that twig, you know for the effect), & be OUT!

But NO ONE on the team knows how to break the news.

We know he's going to be hurt, but not surprised.

We know it might affect his confidence afterwards.

We know it's going to be awkward.

Like sitting next to a couple, in a restaurant, who are having an all out war at their table.

So you don't look, and you pretend you don't hear her call him a "rat bastard" and her a "garage sale Barbie".

Yeah, that kind of awkward. Though good burns...

PLEASE lay down your guidance!

What should we do????

And give it to us verbatim, ladies! There is an excellent chance that this "So You Thought We We're Gonna be Long-Term" conversation (perhaps a Slack message if I cop out), will be a copy & paste situation.

Hey Anon, first a question -- why does he think you're staying on permanently, after the project is finished in November?
Why does he think we're staying on? We have NO clue. I think he believes, that WE believe, this project is so great that we'll stay on. Haha! No excitement we had for the project, in the beginning, was smothered to death by the USA Network-esque drama.Between that, and the meetings ABOUT meetings, and our lack of producing a product - everyone is done. Again, the only reason we didn't leave and end it when the Project Lead was canned, was out of guilt. So we just want to produce this one thing, so we can be free and clear of it all. We need to tell him that - but in a less heartless way. Haha!
The least heartless way would be to have a face to face honest conversation about project post-mortem and why you won't continue, get his perspective and respectfully leave. Saying XYZ went wrong, you are not getting enough value and we don't want to take your money because ABC won't work is totally fine. He will probably counter with what he'd change to keep you going or will just agree.
Yup, you're right. And I LOVE that you said post mortem. That's what I call them as well. He'll definitely counter because, but it's something I'm just going to have to deal with. Now - do you think each team member should talk to him individually, or do you think one of us (probably me) should talk to him for the collective?
I'm here for the replies, but this write-up is hilarious!And yes, I'm stealing "garage sale Barbie". That may come in useful some day. LOL!
EDIT: Missed some replies while writing this lol +1 to @anayanakieva comment too! This write-up is gold. Love it. And oomph, I've been there! There are a couple of different approaches I've taken to this situation (and ones like it) in the past. Ultimately it's just business, and you want to leave the client better off than when you started the project! First, I find that just keeping the convo out in the open, and not quite as "top of mind" but getting the client mentally prepped for November. "When we handoff in November" or "As we're getting close to wrapping up in November". Sometimes it works, sometimes it's just white noise. :) Then of course the expected blow-back. "What do you mean, let's talk about this" ... this is better handled with a clear conversation on the timeline of the project. So a gentle "yep, we can talk about this as we get closer to wrapping up, right now the team is focused on the handoff and we want to make sure you're ready to go." Finally, creating a clear agenda (GSlides works best as visuals are easier to digest, approx 5 points per slide) and recap what was done, what you think may be needed and some solutions for the client to take to another team (if they need to). This gives the client the power to make informed decisions, from the wealth of knowledge you are sharing with them and helps them feel comfortable as you get into the homestretch. I usually break it down into 2-3 options (if that's possible for them) and links to referrals if any are available. When we've been asked to stay on after a deadline, we also say "unfortunately our planning was done for the team until XYZ date and our calendar is full for the foreseeable future" ... I hope this helps a bit! Again each situation (and client) is different, sorry this isn't a copy/paste solution (I dream of those!) Keep us posted on how it goes!
No, this is superb!I can present this to the team, they'll most likely agree that this is spectacular (since there is no other plan other than a "dine & ditch" method. HA!) And those suckas will probably push ME to the forefront, to present it to the client... to be beheaded.I just have to remember, it'll go worse in my head than it will in actual conversation. And if it DOES go that bad in real life, well - I'll bitch about it on a Reddit thread & add another notch to my "Awkward Client Moments from a Frazzled Freelancer" dossier.
hahah YESSS I'm looking forward to seeing the Reddit thread and Leo DiCap pointing at my phone screen. Best of luck!
Just shared your information with one of the members of the team and they LOVE your advice! We're most likely going to go forward with that. And it's either gonna me solo, or me and the online business manager who approach the client - clasping the others sweaty hand as we walk into the unknown...So dramatic! LMAO!This will most likely be a 10-minute, somewhat awkward, conversation. The end. Lol!
Happy to help! Go forth into the unknown and conquer!
Is the contract slated for till November only or is it an ongoing contract (until either party quits)? If it already has an end date, then I don't think you really have to do anything. There would be conversations closer to renewal time about renewing, and at that point you guys can kindly bow out. Otherwise, perhaps you or someone on your team can ask for a meeting to discuss "next steps" after the immediate deliverables, and you can start off by asking that person what he expects.Side question -- do you think the team lead was actually bad, or was it the nature of the project? I'm actually looking for a team lead / PM of sorts. And my platform/project is complicated enough that it actually would benefit to have it right, unlike the conventional wisdom of getting a quick and dirty MVP out fast. We already have a product out there, so this really is a refresh product that needs to be done properly with time + care. So I'd be interested in talking to this person, if you don't mind sharing their contact info. If that's alright with you, please send an email to [email protected] with elpha as the subject line. Thank you much in advance!
No, the Team Lead was bad. She's brilliant at allocating talent, 1-on-1s with the client (she'll talk to them for months if she has to), and being a visionary of the project (she'll take your idea and amplify it 5 fold. It's AH-MAZING to watch).Though, her biggest downfall is execution. After all the meetings, there needs to be an action plan on how we get from A to F. Switching from Visionary to a Project Manager. To put it shortly, she can't make the switch. And she doesn't seem to have the self awareness that she was the bottleneck on the project.Though, if you still want to talk to her about all the avenues you can take your "refreshed product" and maybe get a Roadmap from her, it would be a GREAT investment! And I'll introduce you two.But once you get that roadmap from her, her part is done. Hand it over to your PM and let them, and their team, execute on the idea.Trust me on this.
Cool thanks for being so honest and yea I'd still love to meet her! I'll reveal my identity after you email me at [email protected] Thank you in advance!