homepage Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from
register, free tools, login, search, pro membership, help, library, announcements, recent posts, open posts,
Become a Pro Member

Visit PubCon.com
Home / Forums Index / Local / Foo
Forum Library, Charter, Moderators: incrediBILL & lawman

Foo Forum

Ethics Check
Your opinion matters

 5:09 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

In early July I accepted a new client, and with a handshake deal was hired as the webmaster of a brand new site. Within the first week the site framework was fully developed. After the end of two weeks the site was as complete as it could be, pending new images or content. I went after this assignment with gusto and built the best site that I could, which is reflected in part with the current SERP's (ranking very well for all relevant terms).

Then it happened. The owner has been stonewalling me, refusing to acknowledge my calls or messages. He has paid a small amount toward the total balance. So, after sufficient notification (7 full days), the site came down today. All of the content has been replaced with a simple default page explaining that due to non-payment of services rendered the site has been closed.

It's my fervent hope that the site owner will want to show off his new site to a prospective client and discover my message instead. Then, maybe he'll respond to the numerous messages in his in-box.

I've spent the last week looking forward to this day as much as I've been dreading it. I enjoy the work. But I also enjoy eating, and to my best knowledge I can't take the owners promises to the local grocery store.

I think it matters little that we had a verbal agreement versus a written contract. If he's not paying, then I'm still going hungry. I have no intention of taking any legal action, it's not worth the trouble, IMO.

I know this crowd may be biased; and I am NOT looking for any legal advise -- but your opinions are appreciated.



 5:30 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

A simple, "Currently not available" page is all you need to have up there, the client will know why.

Disclosing a clients credit/payment history may not be the best choice.


 5:35 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

I would agree that outing him as a bad debtor may not be the best idea. Not available should be enough. Perhaps you could put a more cryptic message on the site and let him try to explain it to the client.

But then what if he's ill or something?

Even worse, what if he's dead? (But then your notice wouldn't bother him would it.) ;)


 5:40 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

I agree with ken_b. Although I'd also want to make sure that the site had at least a few links to it, so it can be found in search engines.

If your cupboard is bare and the guy won't honor his agreement, then you're well within your rights to take the site down. You'd also be within your rights to offer your work to a competitor. But if you do, just do it, don't try to use it as a lever -- "Due to non-payment and your refusal to respond to any of my efforts to contact you, I sold the work I did for your site to another business. Sorry man, but I had to eat."

Good luck with this. It's very sad that a man's honor isn't what it used to be...



 5:42 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

He isn't dead, I know that.
He isn't ill, either.

I just had a conversation with someone who knows him, and apparently he is doing the same sort of thing with others.

My message isn't exactly discrediting, it explains why the site is down is clear and unambiguous terms. However, I've cleaned it up a bit so that the mention of payment, or lack thereof is now removed from the page content.


 5:45 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

handshake agreement...

Right when I read that I cringed...you always get everything in writing beforehand.


 5:53 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

Stout is right, alas. Get it in writing.


 7:52 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

I don't agree with always insisting on contracts. They can make an easy process tedious and unnecessarily formal, especially if dealing with smaller clients.

I have done many deals on a handshake, and they have always worked well. I did have one case go the way you described, however that was because her business venture failed, and she didn't have the cash. I still got my deposit which covered my basic costs and cut my losses on the rest.

I will always say though, get a deposit up front, and that deposit should be large enough to at least fill your cupboard.


 8:11 pm on Aug 13, 2008 (gmt 0)

get a deposit up front

I agree. Live and learn. This was to be my first bona fide job since I left Idaho last summer, and I was eager to get started, eager to please, and far too trusting as it works out.

Giving some thought to contracts, maybe a good rule of thumb: If the client is large enough to have a business plan, they can well afford to accept a contract. I've developed a few personal (business template) sites for friends, and I wouldn't dream of asking for a contract in that situation.


 7:05 am on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I don't agree with always insisting on contracts. They can make an easy process tedious and unnecessarily formal, especially if dealing with smaller clients.

Very risky!

I have a set of terms and conditions that I email to ALL new clients along with their quote. These state clearly that a 50% advance is required and payment of that advance indicates acceptance of the terms - not tedious, very simple and not unnecessarily formal.

The process (and the t and c's) have been developed over the last seven years and this works seamlessly for me.

[edited by: BeeDeeDubbleU at 7:09 am (utc) on Aug. 14, 2008]


 4:07 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Interesting... after closing the site yesterday I now have the owners full attention, wanting to know how to proceed in order to get his site back up.


 4:16 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Tell him you'll get back to him.


 4:23 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

LOL! Maybe he thought once it was a finished product you couldn't do anything to hold him to the deal!

Nice one!

Make sure you add on an administration fee!


 4:31 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

and a "reactivation fee"


 5:37 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Get paid in full, and be sure you have the cash in hand, before you put the site back up.

He now knows you can take the site down, so you want to get the cash before the site goes back online.

I'd want the cash in hand (you know, take his check to his bank and get the cash, etc.) before that could happen.


 6:25 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Yes, make sure you have everything you want before you put the site back up, no more deals. If you put the site back up and he backs out again, he will have most likely taken all the client-side code and images.

All the cash owed to you before the website goes back up is the only way to go now.


 6:27 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I think you handled yourself very well.


 8:00 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Point some text links @ it with text being "cheap #*$!s".

Seriously, you did the right thing.


 8:11 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well done!


 8:20 pm on Aug 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

You definately did right. Let us know how it turns out.


 2:47 am on Aug 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

He never paid you, he doesn't own it. You can put up on that site whatever makes you feel better... just stick to the facts.

And I would charge another fee since you had to do extra work (bringing the site down then back up again).


 8:04 am on Aug 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

I actually have that written into my T and Cs. What I say is "Any websites previously launched may be removed if payment is not forthcoming. When this occurs an additional minimum charge of 50 will be required to have the site restored."

Fortunately I have never had to use this.


 8:16 am on Aug 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

I often find that until you strike back, those who are avoiding payment will never pay; but once you show that you aren't in business to mess around money tends to appear.

On the other hand, I don't agree with your course of action, although it was effective it is not the recommended way to deal with debt and could have caused you problems if you sought recovery through the legal system later. Having taken down the site, you ceased to provide him the service - how can you claim the work is completed if it is not visible?

In the past I have found that the following works well:

  • Invoice issued, dated, with credit terms marked and sent
  • When credit terms are up, a phone call or email to check
  • At the end of the month, another invoice, with interest added and itemised (in my experience, it always ends a few days from here)
  • At the end of the next month, another invoice, with more interest and debt recovery fees; along with filing with the small claims court as appropriate.

    And, I'm sorry to be the thousandth person to say it... contract next time!

  • SEOMike

     4:41 pm on Aug 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

    Tell him you'll get back to him.

    HA! Yes!

    I think you did the right thing. Sometimes you have to rattle the saber a little to get a deadbeat's attention.

    Having taken down the site, you ceased to provide him the service - how can you claim the work is completed if it is not visible?

    The service has been provided. The site was created and was live. The production part of the service was complete and should be paid as agreed. It sounds like the client had plenty of opportunity to make payment arrangements. The site was live for a while in good faith. The dude didn't pay for the service provided and in this case grandpa had the ability to freeze the deliverable until payment was made.

    Grandpa - don't put the site up until the check clears :)


     4:54 pm on Aug 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

    Having taken down the site, you ceased to provide him the service - how can you claim the work is completed if it is not visible?

    I don't really agree with this. It is standard to "pause" or "suspend" services until money owed is paid.

    Just ask anyone who hasn't paid their cellphone or cable bill... one day you go to use your phone or tv and it doesn't have service. There is always a reconnect fee. I wouldn't be shy about assessing one in this case.


     5:03 pm on Aug 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

    Ask that he pay what he owes, and the the arrangement now needs to be a payment up front for any additional work.

    That being said, you can split up future work into smaller blocks (milestones?) so he doesn't have to pay for a large project up front, but you are still working against already paid hours.

    If he has problems with that, it's time to walk.


     3:04 pm on Aug 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

    how can you claim the work is completed if it is not visible?

    A quick SERP's check will resolve that question. In fact, there is unfinished work on the site but that is due to the lack of images and/or content as provided by the owner. The pages are created and ready to receive said content.

    I'm still waiting for payment. It will be in full, nothing less will satisfy the current terms. Since the original verbal contract was broken I feel at ease to create my own terms in this matter. He's lucky that I'm a nice person and all that I want is my due.

    I'm still drafting a document to use for any future work. As several of you have pointed out, it only makes good business sense.

    Global Options:
     top home search open messages active posts  

    Home / Forums Index / Local / Foo
    rss feed

    All trademarks and copyrights held by respective owners. Member comments are owned by the poster.
    Home ¦ Free Tools ¦ Terms of Service ¦ Privacy Policy ¦ Report Problem ¦ About ¦ Library ¦ Newsletter
    WebmasterWorld is a Developer Shed Community owned by Jim Boykin.
    © Webmaster World 1996-2014 all rights reserved