I guess the "here's why I fell so far behind in my journal" story is a good place to start!
A few months ago, my free time was consumed in it's entirety by what I affectionately refer to as "the freelance job that wouldn't die."
The short version:
My contact asked how long it would take to complete my side of things, and I drew out a detailed breakdown of what the tasks were, and exactly how many hours would be required for each one. I told them I could give it my full attention for two weekends, with a few hours over the course of the work week if needed, and that at the end of this time, we could look at revisions.
My contact conveyed this to the client, who gave us the go-ahead to proceed.
Due to a mix-up on their end, we didn't have access to the server we needed until Sunday night.
On Tuesday, my contact was frantic to know if I was done yet with the entire project. I explained that we told them "two weekends", and that the whole thing would take a week longer since they blew the first one. At which point it came out that the client was actually expecting all revisions to be done by the end of the second weekend, and would thus need a functional draft by morning or they'd send the mafia to burn down an animal shelter or something.
I explained why this wasn't possible, and my contact freaked.
The one thing we COULD do by morning was purchase someone else's pre-built code for a similar project, and skin it to the design they wanted. This would still require staying up all night when I had to work the next morning, but it was more or less doable, if that's what the client wants once they understand that this throws all timelines out the window, and some of what they've asked for simply won't work with this plan. My contact makes a phone call, and says that's a go.
Now, I can't hear what my contact is saying to the client, but I've accepted on faith that they're relaying everything important from that conversation. Not so -- the message received is "expect a fully working project by morning, and please call off the hit squad."
So when, in the morning, they receive something with slight variations from what they expected, this was unacceptable, and they demand another all-nighter.
I explain to my contact that everything takes longer than it should now, but since they've already lied to the client about everything else, they're unable to communicate this without exposing their fraud. So I ask instead that they explain to the client that long bouts of not sleeping make things take exponentially longer with each passing hour. So, they make another call, and assure the client again that this will be done by morning.
This goes on for over a while, performance at my day job suffers, and I calculate at one point that the fee we'd agreed on was roughly equal to twelve cents an hour for all the labor I put in. And it wasn't even my client -- I have no responsibility to these people! But of course my contact can't negotiate more money, because as far as the client is concerned, nothing's changed from the original plan. And they can't hire someone else, because they only got this many dollars budgeted for the programming.
Eventually, I tell the contact to take whatever they had planned to pay me, and use that money to hire my replacement. I don't want any part of this. I'm out.
This buys me a week or two off before the contact returns -- they've found someone to solve most of the remaining problems for free, but there's still a handful which that person doesn't want to deal with. How this is my problem, I'm not at all certain, but I get roped back in, and spend another miserable week putting the whole thing behind us forever.
To their credit, my conctact did send a check for the original fees, and that check went through without bouncing.
Happy ending. Yay!
...except, you'll never guess what I've been workin' on all weekend.
...and for the two weekends prior.
On the plus side, my contact is much more respectful of my time now. But since this is the same client, their changes are much harder to apply than should be, and we can never explain to them why this is so. Which means lots of excuses, and not nearly enough money.