Then, of course, he lost the disc: $20,000 worth of work gone in a flash. What did he do? What any smart consultant would do: He billed the client for the entire project, in full. And promptly received a check.
"Six months went by and I didn't hear back from the client," says Paul. "I thought that was incredible, because I expected to receive comments and changes on the draft. A year went by, and nothing."
Finally, two years after delivering the draft, the dreaded call finally came.
"'Are you going to ever finish this project?' I heard on the other end of the phone," says Paul. "I said, 'There's no way that I can stand by that original data and recommendations, since two years have gone by. None of the information is valid anymore.' Of course, I knew full well I could never provide any updated data or updated recommendations based on the original data. Fortunately, the client accepted that explanation and then proceeded to discuss what fees I'd need for some new work."
In his defense, Paul says the preliminary draft was 95 percent complete, and the client told him they'd already implemented many of the recommendations he'd made.
These days, Paul is a self-proclaimed "data backup nut."
"On any given day I have about 10 copies of all current project data, and can completely restore every project data file that I have worked on during the last three years within about five minutes," he says. "I learned a hard lesson that I certainly won't forget anytime soon."
Lessons learned? 1. You can never have enough backups. 2. It's a good idea to also keep hard copies on hand, just in case. 3. If you do lose all your data before you've delivered the final product, try to make sure you're working for the government at the time. They might never notice.
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