Dealing with a bad client

Ill lay this out in a nutshell, im sure it sounds familiar to some of you…

Client contacts me to design their business website. They are just starting out and need a reasonable price. I quote them 750 for a ‘very basic’ design including custom adobe created layout, wordpress implementation, some jquery snippets, xhtml valid code blah blah blah…they put down 250 in a deposit upon contract signing.

ALL of the text/imagery content was to be submitted within 2 weeks. They sent about a quarter of it in that time. This was supposed to be finished in 3 weeks, we are on week 6 now.

I ask for the remaining 500 because of all the time passed, something else that is clearly stated in my contract. I get the run around for 2 weeks that the check is in the mail. I was lied to on a few separate occasions about it.

I finally get the check and it clears.

Now, im pretty annoyed that i had to chase a measly 500 dollars and my motivation for the remaining 10% of what remains on the project is nil. How do you guys deal with this?

Im basically slapping in the rest of the content they provided, burning their copy of the files on a disk and being done with it. My contract does not obligate me to provide any support upon site completion. At this point i dont even want anymore of their money.

I know, this was more of a rant than anything else and part of being in business for ones self.

The problem with hosting someone else’s stuff and allowing them to run their business through it while you’re working on the site is that if you take it down, they could claim that your damaging their business (crazy I know, even if they haven’t paid up) and might have the potential ability to go after you legally for taking the site down (even though you technically own it until the contract is finished). Hosting that kind of material also has the potential downside that the client (I’ve seen this happen) may simply copy what’s on the site and host it elsewhere without paying. I tend to offer the client a “non-functional” demo requiring authentication to access.

Unfortunately, bad clients do exist, and they will continue to exist, you just need to keep working away at that contract and expanding and tightening it up to meet the ever growing range of issues you encounter. After a few years of having clients do weird things or follow the usual scope-creep, delays or late payment methods you’ll evolve a straight forward “no-BS” policy which’ll allow you to deal with issues swiftly (if the friendly communication method doesn’t work). :slight_smile:

Not sure where i said there wasnt any content…it just wasnt ‘complete’. And because they were a business that wasnt ‘open’ i allowed my work to be viewable in their server for prospective customers of theirs to see. They took advantage of me for that and it will not be done again in the future.

That was done with no positive results. If three phone calls to kindly ask for payment isnt enough im not sure what is. Especially when you are lied to each time that ‘the check is in the mail’. Where i come from, those who sit around and wait for other people finish last.

Not sure what laws say i cant take down unpaid work. If i let all small business run my websites without paying for them id be out of business in a heartbeat. Cease and desist letters go out all the time to hosting companies for unpaid for and copyright infringing work. It specifically states in my contract that the work is my property until it is paid for in full.

In the dozen or so projects ive done, this hasnt been a problem. And it wasnt a problem for my client in the initial meeting/consultation. The problem only arose when i wasnt being paid.

Thanks for the tips though. :slight_smile:

Don’t start a project without the content. It’s the number 1 thing you do. It’s always a problem and rarely seems to end well or on time.

Normally through non-threatening communication with the client.

That sounds illegal or at least a very stupid thing to do - both hosting the dev copy on their server and you taking it down to be paid.

Learn to handle client relations better, it’s your job to be mature and professional at all times. We all make mistakes but you need to smooth things over with this client not shove the work back in their face.

Not many clients can handle doing content on their own, they need help. Team up with a copy writer to assist them and things will go much smoother for you in the future.

This sounds very familiar. I belive that we all have some bad clients, once per month. Though we need to consider, that it’s very important to have a good comunication with them , and to find the right solution each time.

I wont be hosting anymore in progress websites for the business to use as i work on it. Way too much of a headache.

Im actually still having some problems with this client. All work has been completed and ive officially signed off on the project. He has been starting to pester and send emails about things about his website. How he doesnt understand how to edit html/css and i should be helping him with it for free yada yada yada. If maybe he wasnt a liar and not out to ride people…i would be willing to be a nice guy and help out. Unfortunately for him, he burnt down his own bridge.

Some times you just have to count your losses and move on.

It’s really annoying but it is part of any kind of business. The only way that we can prevent this from happening is by executing and signing up a mutually agreed upon contract prior to the start of the project or the deal. It will not be a 100% guarantee but it will definitely raise the chances of not being put on a run around.
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I can agree with that somewhat. But when work presents itself its best not to turn it away, especially in these economic conditions. Maybe things are a little better for business in Australia. I do my best to work with people with what they have and as stated in above post i just need to alter my contract to keep people away from handing in late content.

During our meeting, he came off as a pretty nice person whos starting a family-orientated type of business. I gave him the benefit of the doubt because of that, if he was/is having financial issues im not sure, i wasnt approached from that angle. If i was i would have surely worked with him, its the lying that im not a fan of. I would never hire someone for this type of work and BS them around. Thats just me i guess.

And yes, i usually run my devs from my own server. I felt like i was helping someone out and doing a good thing for someone so i let it reside on their server. Not a big deal, i got paid and the small amount of work that was left is done.

We’ve all been there. And, I have to say, we will all be there again!

We’ve implemented a late fee system into our contract to discourage “getting the run around”.

Also, we put “if you (client) aren’t doing what you’re supposed to” and “you (client) want out at anytime” clauses into the contract. The first one allows us to terminate the contract and the second clause allows the client to terminate the contract: in either case, the client is to pay for all work completed up until that point and we turn over all files that they have rights to and call it good.

Best advice I can give you is to just complete it to the best of your ability as fast as possible and be done with them. See it as a lesson learned and move on. :slight_smile:

Part of it was my own fault for allowing the client to have the design running live on his server while i was constructing it in pieces. The only way i got paid was once i took the site down from the server, i had the check in my mailbox the next day, lol. He was basically running his business off of what was on the site (about 85% of the work) as long as he could without having to pay for it.

The thing that ticked me was being personally told something but it being a blatant lie. How am i supposed to continue having a friendly professional relationship with someone who does that? As you said, i will complete the project which is just about done…turn the keys over and be gone from it.

Because of this i will have to revise my contract in the future as to not revisit this sort of BS again.


Hopefully this will make you feel less mad.

My story:

The client asks for a website. Since I too am starting out I charge him 700 euros for a Drupal Driven side. Anyway, I designed the site and got the designed approved, eventually developed it too. Since he is obviously a friend I did not take a deposit or charge a contract. After going to his office about 7 times for the content, he decided to ignore me and waste hours of my time. In total I send around:

  • 10 emails
  • visited him 7 times
  • called him 4 times

Soon after I said forget this, I did not chase him up and eventually he went away because he found somebody else to mock.

We’ve implemented a late fee system into our contract to discourage “getting the run around”.

Can you elaborate on this? A late fee system? Would clients go along with this?


  1. Never start a project without the complete content
  2. Never turn over any development files to the client without payment
  3. If client does not pay within 14 days threaten to put their site off-line then actually put it off-line, give them notice though. You will soon find that they will pay you. Did this last week to a client, and guess what? He paid.
  4. Always log everything, client’s lie and they always seem to forget what does not benefit them. So log everything and remind them of what they said and don’t get fussed over them trying to be clever. When you have the facts you’re also more confident.
  5. Always agree on a price before, and stick to it. Any changes to the price have to be extra as this was not agreed before, but mention this when they ask for those changes. Legally you cannot charge something that was not agreed upon, so he needs to be aware of any price differences because of his actions.

I hope this helps, and chin-up, everybody makes mistakes. I don’t think anybody here can say they never made a mistake. Normally you can spot genuine client’s.

My mistake. Don’t start a project without all the content to do your job. Can’t build a house without the whole plans.

A better way to keep the source code is to host the project and not allow FTP access. Otherwise just encrypt it if you can.

Agreed. We have the same thing in our contract: “code/design/etc is our’s until you (client) pay in full.”

We take it a step further saying that upon final payment, they own the design, content, etc., but the code is ours and we license it to them to use. That protects us from them attempting to sell code that we have written and making money off of it.

Yes, we actually had someone try to do that. :mad: Which is exactly why we put it in the contract.

Also, I’m assuming you have a website? Do what most people do and host their work-in-progress site on your server under a directory of ‘clients’ or something ( That covers you LEGALLY (just for you NetNerd ;)), and allows you to take down a site if the client is delinquent on payments.

Just make sure something like that is set up in your contract so the client knows 1) development and initial hosting will be on your site and that 2) in the event of non-payment, the temp-site will be taken down and no work continued until payment is received.

If you do that, I don’t see how it can come back and bite you. :nanaman: