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Professional Webmaster Business Issues Forum

How to Fire a Client
They can't make final payment

 3:51 am on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

This was supposed to be a 3-week redesign job started last October. I bid aggressively on it because my business is new and the client would have been good for the portfolio. I put a huge amount of extra work into it for free for the same reasons. (So many regrets. . .) It was also my first real-life experience with scope creep. The client has been dragging out revisions to the final prototype site for six weeks and when I finally said no more without final payment today, she said I don't have the money right now, business has been bad.

I do have a contract, but it only has provisions for the client canceling. There is also a provision that allows me to keep the initial 50% payment and bill for the remaining work (which has all been completed) if the client delays the project for 60 days. But nothing that says what happens if I want to end the relationship with them.

I long ago wrote off the money and only hoped the experience would be redeemed by the success of the live site (12 carefully optimized pages that looked very promising for driving a good deal of targeted traffic to this small business client.) Now I shudder at the thought of having to continue working with this person if she comes up with the money a month or two from now. I'd rather cut my losses and move on.

I realize this is getting into the legal advice area, but I was wondering if anyone has had a similar experience and if so, how they handled it. I must say I've learned a lot from this woman, and I've revamped my whole project management routine because of her, but enough is enough.



 2:55 pm on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

If they haven't paid, that was integral to the contract!

So they ended the contract by default I would say.

Now... if only I could pracice what I preach with the client coming in in 5 minutes who owes me 2,639.45 (I have his bill here...)



 3:05 pm on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

This is how I do web design work now adays. 50% up front, before hand, and the rest of the 50% when I receive final payment. Don't have payment? You don't get the site. Plain and simple, that rule has been adapted to my life from The Web Lady's rules of e-Business ;)


 3:22 pm on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

I would agree, if you don't get paid, don't give them the site. It's YOUR code/site until they pay for it in full.


 3:29 pm on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

That's exactly how this deal was set up: 50% up front, 50% when the job was completed, but before being uploaded to the client's server. So now the job is done, the client says they can't pay, and they don't get the site. But what happens if some weeks or months from now the client comes back and says OK I have the money, I want my site now? What if I don't want to continue the relationship? Ideally, I'd like to formally notify the client that the agreement is terminated and I will do no further work for her. I think I would have to forfeit any future claim to the final payment, but right now that seems OK. Legally, I'm not sure what I can do, since she only informed me verbally she doesn't have the money. How long does it take for non-payment to be legally proved?


 3:31 pm on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Sounds like the client is in material breach of the contract due to non-payment, and you should be able to terminate your activity. A lawyer could tell you for sure, but a start might be a written communication stating your position. I'd still demand payment for the services you have provide to date, though, even if the probability of payment is low.


 3:48 pm on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

How long does it take for non-payment to be legally proved?

The simplest way is to set them a reasonable deadline in writing (in Germany, two weeks after receiving the letter seems to be considered "reasonable"). If they haven't paid then, you can take that as concludent action that proves their unwillingness/incapability to pay.


 5:11 pm on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

I am not sure what you are concerned about. If she does not have the money to pay you she probably does not have the money to consult let alone hire a lawyer.

If she comes back two months from now and says here is the rest of the money, please give me the site, why not give it to her and refer her to a competitor for support. (Does your agreement say you have to support the site?)

What is your down side? (Other than you don't really want to talk to her?)

If you want legal advice on this, does the law society in your country have a legal referral like ours where the first half hour is $10? Try them.

..... Shane


 6:09 pm on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

I'm not concerned about a legal battle, but about how best to handle the situation. Since my business is new, I have really been focused on building good client relationships and offering excellent customer service. It never occurred to me that I might want to terminate relationships with problem clients, so I just wanted to see what other people's experiences have been along these lines. I'm undoubtedly sensitive about this now because I've just realized that the woman has been having me do lots of work to complete the site over the last couple months, all the while knowing that she wasn't going to be able to pay me. Perhaps I could just send her the files on disk if she ever pays me.

I did send her an invoice dated 2/20/03 due "on receipt" so maybe that's enough to constitute non-payment. Sounds like if I want to take action rather than just wait and see, I'll have to get legal advice. The comments here have been very helpful though.


 6:12 pm on Mar 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

vmills, you take down the site until you get final payment. Upon final payment they will receive the site as is, in a complete status. submit a report with the extra hours and changes that COULD HAVE been AVOIDED if the client discussed these ideas before hand. At this point further work to your site will cost you additionally 200.00 a hour. I understand if this is too expensive for you and understand if you want to make further changes with someone else out there. Give them the site on CD so they have physical copy so they wont ever come to you again :)

And if you don't receive payment before then put the site design/concept up for sale on eBay where someone else can purchase it so you make your money back from the time you put into it. Of course remove their logo from it and put yours on it or a <LOGO> type logo on it ;)


 5:51 pm on Mar 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

"And if you don't receive payment before then put the site design/concept up for sale on eBay where someone else can purchase it so you make your money back from the time you put into it. "

This brings up a potentially good marketing strategy. What pitfalls would entail this approach, such as licensing agreements vs full release, or methods of ensuring payment - and not getting scammed? I have built several design templates that I would like to market.


 9:40 pm on Mar 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

Make sure you have your tale of woe in the html somewhere so the next person will tread carefully.

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