I'm a newly-minted (~1yr) contractor, providing specialist technical services (Machine Learning). I am on my second job; first one was great (more on that below) and in fact they referred me on to my new client. My current client is a technology start-up, with software developers but no-one else with my expertise. I am only 5 weeks in, but the new client is micro-managing the projects they set me despite a lack of understanding of the subject matter, steering the projects towards failure. I want to avoid this situation affecting my relationship with the first client, and ideally put my current job back on track. Any advice on how I could do it?
Normally, I would perhaps consider getting out of the project amicably and looking for something else, however the client is a company that has a relationship with my first client (they recommended me), and I am hoping for repeat custom from my first client.
How can I protect my relationship with the first client? I fear that if I push back or go away from the project, or alternatively continue as-is and not deliver as a result, that would adversely affect my reputation with the first client.
Besides, I'd rather do a good job with my current client, but my expectations here as low.
Examples of the difficulties I face:
- The top-level requirements, scope or objectives of multi-month projects are changed weekly
- My projects are micro-managed: the client insists that I work only on particular parts of the project (to first test viability). The results are good, but then the approach is canned because the client doesn't like the 'feel' of the approach (purely non-technical or non-business reasons), or it isn't a complete solution (as expressly desired by the client in the first place).
- I am lectured on fine details of stochastic gradient descent or random forests and how they cannot possibly perform better than something my contact (a historian) thought up on his way to work. I then end up spending time resolving such queries, instead of furthering the project.
- My work is discussed without me being present, and from what I gather, it is usually mis-represented, not out of malice, but out of lack of understanding. This affects the way the projects go, and ultimately my reputation as a problem-solver.
- My suggestions of how to make more progress with more structure are heard with kindness, but not put into action.
Perhaps fault lies with me? Maybe I should behave differently in this environment? I don't have much experience of being a contractor, suggestions very welcome!