Need some thoughts

Hi, I’ve an ongoing issue with a client who is running me around the bushes and not paying their bill. The client entered into a contract with me in Feb 2009 to produce a CMS. I own a developers licence for a CMS system that I have successfully used for other clients which is the system I decided to use. They then put everything on hold until late October 2009, bringing in a ‘Business Mentor’ who was then given the job of sending me content. This Mentor designed everything in MS word and I was give instructions to copy the design exactly which I did, I was told what colours they required, and then the colours they required changed, I wasn’t given a definative colour palette, but was expected to know what the mentor wanted. The site grew from an originally agreed 20 page to 93 pages with multiple online forms, multiple online payment system. The Mentor kept changing boundaries and in the end I couldn’t work with them because of their attitude. The site was set up on a locked browser so that the client had access to the site whilst the work was done. I produced the final site in a month despite all the trouble I had with the mentor after working solidly every day including Saturdays and Sundays.
I sent the bill to the client laying out the work carried out and offered them a discount considering the difference in the size from my original quote and the final piece of work.
The client ignored my invoice until the day it was due and then asked for a detailed timesheet - because of the pressure in getting the site done I had only noted my start and finish times on each day. I informed the client of this, but they still demanded a fully detailed time sheet.
I have since discovered that the client and the ‘Mentor’ had contacted various other web designers in the local and got them to comment on the website I had produced was worth.
I feel that they have colluded to undermine my business and not pay me for the hours I worked. I know that my time sheet has been passed to another web site company which I think is totally unethical. As soon as the site went live my access to the hosting was removed without my knowledge and I keep getting various questions fired at me with regards why I did things in a particular way. Strange things have started to happen like e-mails that should go to the client from the forms I set up have started to land in my e-mail intray I think that my coding has been altered. The site has been live since 24/12/09 I feel that the client has hijacked my work and passed it to another company with no intention of paying my invoice. I have sort legal advice and have been told to try and come to an agreement with the client, but I feel that they have undermind my business and destroyed my reputation, do you have any suggestions?

You’re paying a lawyer to help you with this ‘case’? That doesn’t have the ring of trust. Those who don’t do written change orders usually don’t have an attorney on speed dial.

There is no law saying that you have to provide a breakdown of the work upon demand. And, there is no law saying that they have to accept and pay for the work that you provided if they don’t think it’s what they wanted.

These are contract matters, and unless there is no contract you are bound by your agreement.

If I were a judge and you were asking me to demand that the client pay, I would still be asking the same question. What does the contract say?

Does it say that you need to supply a detailed breakdown?
Does it say when you get paid? What you owe them? When they are accepting it? What happens if they reject it? What is the payment schedule? Must it include itemization? What if they don’t like the work?

If you aren’t able to provide this detail, then as a judge I’d have to say that you haven’t proven your case! Why do you think that they owe you money? There must be something governing this relationship.

They key/central question is: did they expect to receive and pay for a specific service from you, and did you provide that service?

Hi Sagewing,
I was contracted to supply a CMS with a base number of pages 20 in all, which is what I did. I did tell the client when I had got to the number of pages agreed that they were going over the agreement, but they pressed me to put their site together. What really annoys me is they seem to think that I should only charge them the original quotation price which was for a 20 page site, although they ended up with a 93 page website which took nearly 150 hours to produce compared to 30 hours which the original quotation was for. The original agreement was that I would get the basic site up together and they would then work on the site themselves adding content to build from the base upwards. I even supplied the training agreed with the client.

My contract said that I ‘may supply for example a copy of my time sheet’ it doesn’t state that I would supply one, I supplied my usual break down, it just showed the start and finish times for each day worked. They then demanded a full knock by knock breakdown.

With regards to what they wanted, I was specifically told how the design was to be laid out for each and every page, in this particular case I wasn’t even able to offer other design options, they set the design and the layout and I followed their brief to the letter.

Just to let you know this site has been live since 24th December 2009. They haven’t complained about the site, they advertise it in all their products and at events, they also add to it and change it.
I don’t think a court would look with favour on a client who uses the product freely without paying for it, whislt refusing to pay the provider, I personally consider this as theft.

Thank guys for the information.
I’ll talk to my lawyer with regards the out come of this.

I am in agreement with Sagewing on this one; the contract is the be all and end all when it comes to going to court.
Unless your contract states what is to happen in any given situation you are on a hiding to nothing.
If it goes to court for goodness sake do not start going on about your client “colluding” and “undermining your business” that is going to get you nowhere fast.

Is the value too much to go to small claims court?
What is their response to your invoices?

It is extremely hard to get a clear answer because you aren’t discerning what was in the contract, what you ‘said’, what you were ‘pressed for’, etc.

It sounds to me as follows:

  1. You and the client made an agreement to do a site with x pages.
  2. The client wanted you to do more work, so you did it.

I didn’t hear anything about a change order or the notion that you would be charging the client extra for the additional work.

Therefore, you satisfied the contract and should be paid the original amount stated in the contract. The extra work that you did was just that - extra work that you did. You don’t claim that the client agreed to pay for that so they probably never did agree to it.

It doesn’t sound like theft to me, it sounds like a project management debacle.

Asking about what is in your contract is getting tiresome, so let me recommend that you check the contract and see if it says anything about when the rights to the site are turned over to the client. Might it be linked to payment? If so, you can compel them to take down and stop using the site unless they pay you per the contract.

I can’t really understand how the phrase ''may supply for example a copy of my time sheet" would fall into the contract, so I cannot address that point.

I did have a contract with this particular client, I actually use the Sitepoint Contract from the Web Site Business Kit 2. Every client who hires me signs the contract. I was interested to see that a comment was made by the mentor that they would let me finish the work and then not bother to pay I received a copy of this which I assume should never have been sent to me.

I’m actually a accessibility specialist who produces very clean coded sites, I don’t like dropping my work quality to produce a site over night. The client was made very aware from the first time they spoke to me about producing a site for their company. I even spent time explaining why their choice of pale shocking pink links with pale orange roll overs that then went pale green after a client visited the page was not suitable for users with colour blindness this was dismissed as me being a pain! They eventually saw the light!

I have already pointed out to them that they are in breach of my contract with regards blocking my access to the hosting as I am unable to discover what supossed issues there are with the site.
I am writing once more, but if I get no where it’s off to the lawyer and the court.

The only responses I’ve had were for me to supply a detailed breakdown of what work was carried out on the site, from the original that I supplied htat listed the actual work done over the month. There has been on other contact.

I’ll be the one to say it: what does your contract say???

If you have no agreement with the client, you have little recourse except perhaps to sue them in civil court for whatever the max is in your state.

You’ll have to prove that the client intended to hire you to do x work, you’ll have to prove that you provided x dollars worth of work for the client, you’ll have to prove that the work that you did is consistent with what they asked for. If you do, you can be awarded that amount.

n small claims court this isn’t so hard to do, but in formal civil court it may not be worth it depending on the value of the job.

But none of that matters because you DO have a written, signed agreement right?? :slight_smile:

If you have good contract that protect your interest - go to the court (no sure which one, don’t know UK specific). Seems that such client is not intended to pay you voluntary.
We have a bit similar experience in past and won our case in court.

Sagewing always says the same things that I am about to, it’s great for my productivity as it saves me a lot of typing time.

You never came up with a new contract/agreement on the extra hours. That was your big mistake.

I have never had this happen to me, so can’t talk from experience, but a lot can be said for just turning up at their offices to ask for payment. Stay polite and civil throughout any exchanges obviously, but it is a lot harder for someone to refuse payment to your face than over the phone or by email.

I would say turn up and show them your original contract, and later correspondence laying out your side and offer them various options on how to pay - lump sum, instalments, etc. If they still don’t pay up then get your lawyer to chase them (if it’s worth the money) - the threat of a civil case should be your last resort, but if you have to then the option is there.