The fear of your client’s expectations is the beginning of wisdom

Don’t. Just don’t underestimate.

I can’t decide if I want to write more about personal experiences, or more about technical stuff. Sometimes I feel I’ll eventually separate the different subjects of writing. One thing I can decide on though, is to write when I’m distressed.

Tomorrow is the globally celebrated day of love, but right now I’m empty, overwhelmed with pressure from a simple life mistake — taking a paid software gig from a Nigerian client. I have no will to be distracted from work because the pressure mounts. On the other hand, I want to be distracted from the pressure so I decided not to go see a movie, but instead to write this then go for a run.

We have never had a good experience with a Nigerian client on a paid gig, ever

For the past few years, Helloworld (by Timi and I) has been run to create interesting software for Nigerians. We’ve had regular gigs over time, and I full time run product for Paystack now, but the need to create interesting stuff in this part of the world always had us running our side gigs. We’ve done discovery sites, a finance tool, a restaurant discovery bot and currently are working on co-working space software — which has me writing this article.

In all these years we have never had a good experience with a Nigerian client on a paid gig, ever. We’ve freelanced all over the world and written pro-bono software without wahala, but every time we’ve had a paid Nigerian gig it has ended up being a frustrating experience.

When arguments about scope came up, it easily devolved into subjective wars of what the other person thought

Nigerian clients can be frequently rude, frustrating, and demanding beyond what they’ve paid, especially when you’re young and not a corporate body. They tend to be so haughty about little money once they’ve paid it to you — similar to the average Nigerian father. Beyond these facts, I’ve tried to take an introspective look into why these different people have ended up being terrible clients for us.

In my perspective, these projects have soured because

  1. We frequently underestimated how much clients don’t know about software. They don’t understand why you can’t just change your architecture so that billing can now be flexible instead of monthly.
  2. When we scoped out projects, we never went deep into detail. So when arguments about scope came up, it easily devolved into subjective wars of what the other person thought. For example, “user can message” means simple messaging to us, but they expect Slack.
  3. We never involved fully in the inner workings of their business. This can make a simple thing many more times more complex. We always think about features from the software point of view, but they expect software to answer questions for their business. Many times, what we’re thinking != what they’re thinking.
  4. Many clients don’t immediately know what they want completely, so the longer the project takes, the more complicated it becomes as their expectations fully unfold.
  5. I personally allowed a lot of extra things fly in a bid to satisfy the business requirements. I should never have done this because these extra features add up the complications.
  6. Nigerian clients like to be cheap and don’t know the value of software.

I’m currently stuck piecing together work on the last side project we’ve taken — which is now about six months behind schedule. It’s going to be the last paid side project we’re taking for a long, long time. I’m working under pressure and without constant dev support. My partner has duly walked away from it for the client being ridiculously rude.

I’m going to try to finish this project the best I can, but I truly am drained right now. It’s so bad that I feel inadequate on my full time job, even when I’m delivering my work. To appease my wrong decision making, I’ve convinced myself I’m writing this for anyone who wants to take a software project from a Nigerian client.

Please, pay attention.

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