Clients Coming From Another Developer

If a potential client came to you complaining of another developer in the community, what would you do?  I’ve had a few referrals happen like this and if I personally know the developer I usually send the developer a quick note asking for any details they’d be willing to share about the client.  I’ve only done this for developers that I consider friends but I’m wondering if I’m breaking some sort of protocol.

I look at this way, if a potential client comes to me and is mad at another developer (and names them) I think I should do my due diligence and find out as much as I can about the client.  Should this be a warning flag?  Not all clients are made equal and some are downright bad and not worth the time and effort to court and some you should run away from as quickly as possible.  Ours is a small enough community where a bad client can go through many developers in a short amount of time causing nothing but heartache and financial ruin along way.  I know I’d appreciate a heads up if I was next on the list.

I’ve turned down potential clients because of various issues (mainly just gut instinct but some over contractual issues) only to have other developers contact me later asking if an why I had turned down the project to begin with.  I can hear the dismay in their voice (you know that old style communication thing called voice?) when I give them the answer.  I almost wish they had contacted me up front because sometimes these projects cost people hundreds of dollars (at a minimum) and tens of thousands for a really big project.  We all deserve better than that.

So what do you do if you’ve been contacted by a client unhappy by another developers work?  Have you contacted that developer asking for information?

Happy Coding!


4 thoughts on “Clients Coming From Another Developer

  1. Developers swapping information on clients may run into issues of data protection and non-disclosure agreements, restricting what details can be given. Exactly the same applies to lawyers, with the added difficulty of client-lawyer privilege means that another lawyer may not be permitted to tell you what the problem with the client is, even though they would like to.

    A client may be dissatisfied with another service provider (be it lawyer or developer) because (a) they have been given a poor service, (b) personality clash, or (c) the client is the type of person who will never be satisfied with any service given.

    The first gives one the option of gaining a loyal customer by proving your service is so much better; they will then be reluctant to go elsewhere having experienced a worse service already.

    The second depends to a degree on chance – does you personality fit with the client better than the previous supplier.

    The third will cost you dearly if you take them on, in time, lost fees, and on your reputation when they loudly & publicly complain about you. Don’t touch them with a bargepole.

    So yes, you need to do some form of “due diligence” and possibly just listen to your gut instinct. If you know the previous supplier, you may be able to guess which category applies, and if you are on speaking terms with them, a small chat might be in order. This is one area where phone rather than written communication may stand you in better legal stead…

    And always, always, ensure you have got written specification and contractual terms arranged before you confirm you will take the job.

  2. @S-Copinger
    Thanks for the reminder about potential NDA issues. As I said, though, the potential client named the other developer, who I happen to know. So I don’t believe there’s any problem as long as we don’t talk about the project. At that point I feel like I’m free to talk about the client in broad general terms.

    One thing I do with potential clients that come to me out of the blue is ask them how they found me. If it’s a referral from another developer I try to contact them and say thanks for the referral which usually gives me some form of feedback.

  3. If the client contacts another developer this particular client is clearly lost for the first developer. Playing with open cards will always pay even if it takes a long time. If it helps to avoid a potential disaster (and a lost client also counts as one) I don’t think that there is much to worry about when talking about a client. Talking about already made mistakes can help to avoid possible problems in the future and this helps the customer (and the developer as well).

  4. Well, it can be difficult with difficult clients. It’s always a good idea to final working product only after client paid some money (more than 50% of total) or keep source code until last payment is received. Simply making sure you don’t invest too much upfront.

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