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I'm freelancing on a project where I'm the only programmer, and find myself at the end of a line of four middlemen, who stand between me and the actual customer, each passing my work as internal to their own company.

Communication is terrible and the requirements, made by an advertising company, are flimsy.

I've managed to communicate with people upper the ladder by keeping asking questions that made people face their ignorance, but they won't let me contact the end client since, from his end, it's pretty much a done deal.

The project will soon be over though, and I've decided it's the last time I'll be working under these conditions.

The middlemen, are pretty much useless from the perspective of shipping a product, but still necessary to me since they are the ones bringing the contracts in.

Hence I'm not thinking about crossing them altogether, which would probably end badly. Rather I'm looking for a way to make them understand I need to be part of the requirements and design process, meet the clients, and shouldn't have to go through a whole channel of clueless people each time I require some information.

Sorry for the venting :)

Any ideas ?

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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Sell the middlemen on giving some progress demos to the client then lead the client into some of the issues that you are facing during the demo.

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+1 Based my answer on yours. –  Tom Wijsman Sep 18 '10 at 21:25
    
I just had some great feedback on a quick throwup version I did, without being asked to. I redisigned a bunch of things, and the client likes it more than the initial plan. My contractor probably passed it as his own idea, but this way I'm making clear the value I can add to a project. Things will get easier once they agree to have me meet the clients in the first stages of the project, but that's a step. Cheers @TomWij too. –  julien Sep 21 '10 at 11:47
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Based on Bill's answer, accept his answer instead if you plan to accept my answer.

Prototyping the customer with demos which he should send feedback on is probably the best idea, the middlemen can't say no to a methodology that is being used in a lot of software companies. And if they still disagree with that I suggest you to give them a last chance or else move on and find something else, there is no use to developing a product that the the end-user probably doesn't want...

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This is actually what we are doing, but the product was poorly designed in the first place (by advertising sales yes-men). So I build knowing there will be some redesign once the customer tries it. Management won't recognize we started off on the wrong foot, pretexting "that's what the customer wants". So I have to stick to the plan until the client says otherwise. That's how it is for now, but I'd like to come to an agreement for future projects. The problem is, I think the middlemen would be wary they may lose their slice of the cake once the customers realize they aren't much help... –  julien Sep 18 '10 at 15:09
    
It's an annoying situation but I guess you will have to make it clear to them in one or another way: How better the contact with your customer, how better the software. How more your consumer is satisfied, how more money/mouth-to-mouth-advertisement/... –  Tom Wijsman Sep 18 '10 at 21:28
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