Should You Guarantee Your Work?

I had a nice Q&A session with one of my mailing list readers regarding the guarantee I use in some of my proposals. 

Here’s my line:

My work is guaranteed. In the event that you feel that I am not meeting the standards described herein, or based on our mutual conversations and agreements, I will refund your entire fee upon such notification.

Here’s the Q&A that ensued:

READER: Doesn’t that open you up to a lot of risk?

It’s only a lot of risk if you’re engaging in large projects with clients who you don’t trust (which is risky whether or not you offer a guarantee). 

READER: Has an unreasonable client ever asked for a refund halfway through a project?

No, never. Not once. I’ve voluntarily refunded a few though - just because it was the right thing to do. I think the biggest refund I’ve given was $10,000.00 USD.

READER: I definitely believe in the quality of my work, but I’ve also had clients who go Hulk-like and turn into a pushy, unreasonable version of themselves halfway through a project. I’d imagine they could ask for a refund, then they could take our strategy from the roadmapping (which they’ve already gotten) to another developer.

I have three responses to this:

  1. When a reasonable client pulls a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” on you mid-project, it could very well be your fault. Is the project over estimate? Are you asking for feedback on things that you shouldn’t be? Did you fail to agree on the desired outcomes and progress metrics prior to kickoff? Any of these things will completely freak out an otherwise reasonable business person.
  2. Assuming I was not at fault, I’d fire a client who turned into an unreasonable pushy monster. Life is too short to put up with unprofessional behavior. Of course, the luxury of being picky about who you work with requires that you have lots of clients to choose from, or the financial wherewithal to wait for the ideal client to come along.
  3. If you’re worried about clients taking the strategy from your roadmapping to another developer, you’re not charging enough for the roadmapping. Charge more for it and you won’t care if they take the implementation work elsewhere. 

NEXT: Types of Guarantees