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  1. #1
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    Non Paying Client

    I own a website design company (sole proprietorship). I have a client (let's call him Joe) who I have been working with for 3 -4 years. The original bill to him as done as I usually do it - 1/2 down and the balance when the site was done. I've clearly explained that all updates (other than very small text changes or swapping out an image or two) are billed at $35 per hour. This person is an elderly man who has dreams of becoming a country star. He has many, many changes and additions, at one point he decided he wanted to be able to make the changes himself, so we decided together to re-design his site in a WordPress format, to make it easier for him to make changes. He still could not make very many changes himself. I continued to work with him, he would call sometimes multiple times per day - some calls lasting an hour or more, sending emails and requesting changes. Many times I would make a change and his reaction would be "that's great" and then a few weeks later he wants it changed completely. These calls and email would come in bursts sometimes several per day for a few weeks and then a month or more might go by and I would not hear from him again.

    On September 14, 2012 I sent him an email for work that I had done over the previous approximately 4 months for $565.05. He blew his stack. He didn't want to pay and he decided he wanted someone else to take over his site. I said fine and just pay the invoice for work already done and I'll send you whatever you want. On the invoice, under "Payment Terms" it reads: "PLEASE READ SPECIAL TERMS BELOW". Here are the special terms:

    PAYMENT TERMS:
    As soon as full payment of $565.06 is made to my PayPal account, I will do any and all of the following (choices to be made by Joe):
    • Send Joe a backup copy of the WordPress Database or give him access so that he or his representative can access the database.
    • Send Joe a backup copy of all of the website files (including images, text, music, and videos) from the time we began working together or give him or his representative access to those files to copy/download themselves.
    • Relinquish my login ability to the WordPress site whenever I am asked to do so by Joe .
    • Continue making any and all updates, revisions, corrections needed from today (September 14, 2012) until the time I am told by Joe that he wants me to hand over full control to someone else. All work done will be billed at $35 per hour.
    HOSTING is paid in full until August 8, 2013 – at that time – Joe may renew the hosting for one more year (at $125.00 per year) or he may transfer his site away. I agree to facilitate that move in a timely manner.

    He did agree to pay, after a very heated phone conversation. I sent him a copy of the WordPress Database and told him that if he needed anything else, to just contact me. I did not hear from him for about a month. Then when he contacted me, he just sent me more updates and changes to his site. I figured he had simply cooled down and/or found that any web designer was going to charge him to do work for him. Since I had very clearly stated on the invoice dated Sept. 14 that "All work done will be billed at $35 per hour." and that he was the one who contacted me to continue to do work, that he realized I was not working for free.

    On January 2, 2013 he sent me a lengthy email with quite a few new changes to his site. I sent him back a very detailed response along with an email which read:

    "I can make these changes (with some questions and clarifications). Please take a look at my questions/comments below in RED. Also, I want to let you know that the work I have done since the last invoice (September 13, 2012) is now at $264.25 (3.3 hours – phone consultations and 4.25 hours of design work). Would you rather take care of that now or should I do a revised bill once this additional work (below) is completed?"

    His first response to that was a email that said "Just disrgard". I followed that up with an email which said:

    "No problem. Let me know if you decide to make any of these (or any other) changes/additions.

    I’ve attached my invoice for the previous work; as I mentioned in my previous email. Here is the link to my PayPal payments page."

    I have sent that email 4 times. Now today, I get an email from him (and a new web designer that he is working with). He wants all of the files that I have from the last several years of working with him (I have no problem giving him what I have - I don't have everything, some things get written over on the server when you make changes - I also no longer have access to the site because he had the new website designer move everything before he contacted me). But now he is refusing to pay me the Jan. 2 invoice amount of $264.25. He says he didn't know I was going to charge him any more money and that just because it said so on the 9/14/12 invoice - he didn't agree to it.

    He is contacting a lawyer. Advice??
    Last edited by guido2004; Jan 22, 2013 at 14:30. Reason: deleted name

  2. #2
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    As usual, the answer depends on what your contract with him says. If you don't have a contract with him and instead just have your email agreements and the language on the invoice, it might be a little less clear.

    I would do the following:

    1) Remove his name from the above post. It's very unprofessional to mention him by name, and since this is a dispute it could bring you some trouble.



    2) Send him a letter, via registered mail, including your invoices and a SHORT statement indicating that you are due payment for the work that has been performed under your agreement.

    3) Send him the same information on the same day, via email.

    4) Wait 30 days, don't get suckered into any communications with him unless they are substantial and useful. Then, send the letter/email combination again.

    5) Wait 30 days, don't get suckered into any communications with him unless they are substantial and useful. Then, send the letter/email combination again. This time, add that because the payment is so late your next step will be to file in small claims court including legal fees.

    6) Then file it in small claims court.

    There is no way that someone is hiring a lawyer for a $250 dispute. Just send the invoices, be very clear, and file it in small claims. Take the energy you are putting into this and put it into the next client!
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  3. #3
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    Good advice. I did not mean to put his full name in the post, those sections were copied and pasted from the invoice. You are totally right about that. I don't see a link to edit the post. How do I do that?

    Thanks for the quick reply.

  4. #4
    Robert Wellock silver trophybronze trophy xhtmlcoder's Avatar
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    Off Topic:

    For future reference JustDucky, if you would like your post #1 editing (after it has timed out), you should either flag the post (click that orange flag relating to the post in question) or PM one of the active green SPF Adivsors or dark blue Team Leaders explaining your mistake. I have done this on your behalf. Hopefully they will see the report and edit it soon.

    See the FAQ: How and when to report a post.

  5. #5
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    Thanks!

  6. #6
    Robert Wellock silver trophybronze trophy xhtmlcoder's Avatar
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    No problem, looks like Guido, did the name editing.

  7. #7
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    For future projects, always bill every month, no matter how small the amount. My gut feeling is that you surprised him with the size of the invoice and he may also not have remembered the many phone calls you had over that 4 months.

    HTH, Jochen
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  8. #8
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdog View Post
    For future projects, always bill every month, no matter how small the amount. My gut feeling is that you surprised him with the size of the invoice and he may also not have remembered the many phone calls you had over that 4 months.

    HTH, Jochen
    Good advice
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

    SAGEWING LLC - QUALITY WEB AND MOBILE APPS. PREMIUM OUTSOURCING SERVICES.
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