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The Right to Demand Satisfaction

I recently had a good sense to add this new boilerplate section to my standard project contracts:


Acceptance of this agreement includes the right to demand satisfaction for all described features, no more, no less.  I’m on the hook to complete all the described features to the point that you love it, and you get to demand satisfaction to that extent.  So do it.  If you’re not happy, and you haven’t exercised this clause, you’re technically in breach of this agreement.  Just sayin’.

In my years of experience I have never been burned putting myself on the hook called “my work is not done until you love it” , so I realized that I may as well get the benefit of advertising as much up front.

I don’t know that this sort of clause exists anywhere else in my industry.  Flippant language aside (which in my estimation is rad: if that sort of playfulness backed up solid performance turns you off, you’re not my client anyway), I think there’s a general fear about having to appease some fictional, nightmare client who is endlessly demanding.  In my experience, when it comes to my world of web programming, they don’t exist1.  Oh sure, there’s always room to want more features, or a cheaper price, but that’s not what what’s on the table here.

This here is a promise to do great with all of the [meticulously outlined] features within the scope of work at hand.  Software development is generally a complex endeavor so I think the average bear understandably shies away from such a tall promise.  Fair enough.  I embrace it.  It keeps me honest and fosters a healthy pride in my craft, and if I just bring my art to it using my full facility with leading edge technologies and tricks, I don’t have to worry about falling short.

So I don’t fall short.  If my first attempt isn’t loved by my client, they tell me and I tweak accordingly.  No fuss, no muss2.

That’s the second beauty of stating up front the right to demand satisfaction: it creates a conversational dynamic between my client and I that deliberately CALLS FOR that kind of feedback.  We become partners in the endeavor to create software that perfectly suits, and they have a role to play called “speak up if you don’t love it.”  When the invitation to do that is clear and on the table it is easy and fun to exercise, and moreover doesn’t get compromised by a desire to be polite.


  1. This is assuming a contractor is only taking on work that is within their ability to deliver, which is, it turns out, not to be overlooked nor taken for granted.
  2. If I think it’s easy to build software to be loved on the first pass, it’s really easy to do armed with feedback from looking at a real, tangible first attempt


This is Programmer for Hire, a series of essays and explorations on the art of being a great programmer doing on-demand custom software development.

  1. April 19th, 2012 at 16:08 | #1

    What about the case where client has asked for something you know will look rough?

    More specifically I had a case where the client needed an app done in a couple hours. I knew I could do it in that time, but it wouldn’t look pretty, and told them as much. They wanted to go ahead with the job

    On delivery, it was 100% functional, but as I predicted and despite my 2 minutes of hooking up Bootstrap to a couple of classes, it wouldn’t win any design awards.

    What do you do in that situation? Remove that clause before commencing work, refuse the project, maybe do a few hours work for free to make it look good? Make an exception for this project?

  2. John
    April 19th, 2012 at 16:21 | #2

    @Alastair McDermott
    That doesn’t sound like it need be a problem, actually.

    You knew for the price and time involved that it wouldn’t be a work of art. So you (wisely) told them as much. That’s what they agreed to and ultimately got. Did they love what they got for the value of it? Were you proud to say “Bam–I was able to make that in just a few hours.”?

    The real measure of workability of this clause (in particular, “all described features, no more, no less”) is setting clear expectations. Sounds like you did, and by meeting those expectations you’re apt to have a happy client.

    It’s like how I can be utterly delighted by a $1.50 street taco: it ain’t a fancy steak, but I didn’t bargain for a fancy steak. Indeed, it would be bat-shit crazy for me to complain to the vendor that it wasn’t a fancy steak.

  1. March 17th, 2012 at 17:01 | #1