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Website complete - client doesn't want to pay.
How do I respond to this?
dbdev

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 1:03 pm on Jan 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well I guess there is a first time for everything!

A friend asked me to develop a website for his sister who is a realtor. I developed a proposal and she signed it. I developed the site which works perfectly and includes everything in the proposal. She has been using the site for 4 months now.

She said that times were tough and asked if I could hold off on the invoicing for a couple of months to let her get a couple of sales under her belt. I agreed as a favour to my friend and have not sent a single invoice yet.

Now she wants to scrap everything I have done, not pay me, and use the "free" website that her parent real estate company is offering to her and all other agents.

This is the first time I've been "screwed over".

How do I respond to this?

Do I just throw her into collections? That will leave me and my friend in a bitter situation (I can see that conversation already).

Perhaps I can take the high road on this one and be forgiving, respond in a empathetic tone towards her financial hardships and take it as an expensive lesson learned.

Lessons learned:

1. Some form % of payment is now required up front.
2. I done doing favours for people. There are no friends in business.
3. If the client tells you they "can't afford it" - don't do it.

[edited by: tedster at 6:18 pm (utc) on Jan. 21, 2008]

 

Moncao

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 7:09 am on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

Ask your friend for the cake. He asked you to do the job for his sister.

Romac34

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 9:36 am on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

I learned never to do anything for free and to collect payment upfront. When you are clear about this upfront you filter the people who do not want to pay or cant pay right a way. What to do now? Personally I would let it go because it is a friend of your friend.

designhaus

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 10:15 am on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi dbdev,

Always always ask for a 10% deposit upfront before work commences and then a further 40% midway through the project. On delivery of the site you can invoice your final 50%. This method has worked well for my business for years.

Doing business with friends and family is always a dangerous situation which I as a business try and avoid especially in our industry.

marketingmagic

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 12:59 pm on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

These are all very complicated suggestions, lawyers, doing credit checks, etc... let's face it none of us have the time or interest in doing these sort of things for a simple website job. I never do anything without 50% up front, then I keep all files on my server - let the customer preview for 24hrs to sign off on everything, then when the balance has been paid - we upload to their servers. Then you can never get burnt.

That said - I'd just send her the invoice, tell her she has to pay it as she already agreed to the work and approved it. If she doesn't pay then threaten that you'll be forced to send it to collections and it will have a negative impact on her future credit rating and leave it up to her.

Most will pay at that point as they don't want to risk injuring their credit rating. If she doesn't pay - chalk it up to a lesson learned.

Oh, and if you still have FTP access go in and download, then delete everything. :-)

frontpage

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 1:10 pm on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

Send the bill to the realator and demand payment. You are in business otherwise you are a hobbiest.

If you friend is really a friend they will understand that you should be compensated for hard work and they should be embarrassed by their sibling's action.

Lessons learned.

1) Require payment before handing over your hard work. Remember, the grocery store does not let you leave without paying first nor does the gas station, why should you allow it?

nshaw

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 2:04 pm on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

You did register the domain in your name right?

If so you control it. If it gets traffic add google addsense and yieldmanager add to it and get paid for your trouble.

My contract states the domain is mine till all accounts are paid. Don't do work without absolute control of the domain. Use Joker.com as a registrar. netsol and go go daddy give your domains and work away with just a client letter. I have not been burned since 1995 doing business this way.

rj87uk

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 2:42 pm on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

Some nice ideas:

* Ask for 50% deposit before works begins & Other 50% after work has been then, then send them the designs/work.

* If building a full website register the domain name so you control it from the start.

* Think about using an escrow service:
[en.wikipedia.org...]

Anyone care to add some short, simple rules you follow?

RJ

dbdev

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 3:01 pm on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well yesterday, out of the blue, she sends me a message asking if she can terminate her signed agreement for $500 which is roughly 15% of the agreed price.

Alternatively, she asked if she could use the site I developed along side her [parent real estate company] site, only using a .org tld.

I said "not a problem" however the full invoice is still due!

She said she will get back to me.

The $500 would cover my out of pocket expenses for the project (copy writng, site design, graphic design) which I outsourced to 3 different companies.

I really don't even want her as a client any more and she has proven to be unpredictable, untrustworthy and IMO bad-for-business.

I'll wait to see what happens. Still gonna send final notice if I don't hear from her within 2 weeks.

Also, FYI - collections companies are really expensive and rarely do they recover the funds. I did quite a bit of research on this as I was going to go this route if she doesn't pay. It doesn't seem worth it for a ~$3K website.

microcars

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 3:53 pm on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

I am going to jump in here only since my wife is a Realtor.

I used to pay for her ad in the local paper but recently they stopped accepting the ad and my payment.
Reason?
They had lots of other ads from individual Realtors that had gone to "collections" because they were unpaid. They were now only accepting ads through the Agent's Brokerage Company.
So after jumping through some hoops I was able to keep the ad going.

I really don't think you are going to recover the money on this one.
As previously mentioned many Realtors are just dying right now, there are too many of them and not enough business. The ones that do not have an alternate source of income (working spouse) are hit bad.

And from my experience most Real Estate Agents are pretty cheap.
Even the ones that deal with high-end property.

Also- they are constantly bombarded with "new" ways to get leads and referrals and business and it is possible that someone told her she simply HAD to have her own personal site to attract business and "build her brand". But most Real Estate Agents don't have their own sites, they are fine with the stuff provided by the Brokerage they work at.

I like the idea of the "payment plan" option mentioned but there is no incentive for the client to use it. What is there to lose if they don't pay the payment plan?

I would call Experian and see what they charge these days for you to list this person directly in their credit reports.
It is "x" amount of $ per month and the info stays in the credit report as long as you keep paying the monthly fee.

Once you have this info and are prepared to use it, let her know your next step will be to put this debt on her credit report. See if that gets her to either cough up the money or if she does not have it (and I doubt she does), agree to a payment plan.

In addition, definitely remove the site from the domain put up the info about it being in default. She is not going to sue you, she does not have the money.
And sometimes shame and the court of public opinion makes things work when nothing else will.

But I think you should let her know in your next invoice exactly what the consequences are for non-payment:
*Site down with a default message
*Non-payment goes on her credit report

Gomvents

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 4:49 pm on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

one word - subrogation - at least you'll get SOMETHING

[edited by: Gomvents at 4:49 pm (utc) on Mar. 7, 2008]

LifeinAsia

WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 5:53 pm on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well yesterday, out of the blue, she sends me a message

Maybe she has friends who read WebmasterWorld. :)

At this point, I'd get whatever money you can from her. But take the advice here and don't give her access to ANY of the site until paid in full.

Definitely take down the existing site and put up an "under construction" page. The "taken down for lack of payment" will add fuel to the fire and may create some liability for you. (Or, if you still want to embarass her a little bit, make the page say "Site opening on May 1, 2007" or whatever the original date of completion was.)

microcars

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 6:37 pm on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

The "taken down for lack of payment" will add fuel to the fire and may create some liability for you.

Liability for WHAT?

she didn't pay the bill and the site was taken down because of that.

Anyone can sue you for any reason at any time. She is the one with LIABILITY, not the OP.

The OP has $3K in actual damages. and is not suing because it is not worth the effort. The client in question does NOT HAVE ANY MONEY. How you expect them to sue is beyond me. Plus the bad PR that would come out of that is not worth it for the Realtor.

Realistically the only person who would SEE that page is the deadbeat Realtor/client. But the perception that OTHERS might see it would be an incentive to pay up....maybe.

or just keep walking on eggshells and maybe she'll pay up.

dream on.

LifeinAsia

WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 7:54 pm on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

The client in question does NOT HAVE ANY MONEY.

Many lawyers take on cases on a contingency basis.

Bill collectors are prohibited from contacting friends and co-workers and telling them about the unpaid bills. Any number of slimey lawyers would probably be interested in taking on the case on that bais (with the expectation that the OP would just pay to make the nuisance go away instead of paying more to defend himself in court).

microcars

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 9:18 pm on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

Many lawyers take on cases on a contingency basis.

oh really?
then why doesn't the OP use one of these lawyers that will take this case "on a contingency basis" to get back as much money as possible?

and just how much money do you think there is in a case that involves a Web Designer putting up a notice that the website has not been paid for?
I'm sure the Lawyers will be chomping at the bit to get a piece of that action...

/not for this kind of nonsense.

LifeinAsia

WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 10:30 pm on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

and just how much money do you think there is in a case ...

Defamation of character, ruining of reputation/name, etc. If lawyers can bilk millions out of McDs for customers spilling coffee on themselves, a sharky lawyer should be able to paint a picture for a jury of the realtor's loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in commissions that will never come because her reputation was forever trashed.

I'm not saying I agree with it. I'm just saying the potential is there.

Fortune Hunter

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 11:50 pm on Mar 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

Plus, it's just plain nasty. I don't think I'd do business with somebody who I knew to go about things in this way.

The other side of this argument is that I really wouldn't want to do business with someone that doesn't pay their bills and I would have more respect for someone that stands up for their rights and doesn't let a deadbeat walk all over them.

microcars

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 1:15 am on Mar 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

Defamation of character,...

wrong. Truth Trumps Defamation. End of Story.

ruining of reputation/name, etc.

wrong, see above. This is not McDonalds.
There is no massive pot o' money with which they will settle out of court.

I'm just saying the potential is there.

No there is not.

fishfinger

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 3:01 am on Mar 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

We've been stung a few times this way. I don't know how it works in the US, but in the UK, if a company owes you money they can fold the company and you get nothing. If an individual owes you the money they can go bankrupt and you get nothing. Either way you stand little chance of getting your money back if they don't intend to / can't stay in business .

It's horrible to be stung, but it happens. You start to develop instinct and learn to sniff out bad deals, time-wasters, messers and no-hopers.

I have to say I'm with jtara. We have learnt to stay away from 'friends of friends', start-ups with big ideas and small budgets. We only deal with established businesses who are accountable for their decisions. You should always insist on a deposit - our minimum is 20%.

I doubt you'll get your money. Learn the lessons and move on.

If building a full website register the domain name so you control it from the start.

We do this wherever possible - always reg'd to client but we are the tag holders. Legally they have rights to it but it protects us in case of debt as we can show debts as a reason to refuse to release tag if it ever comes to court. Still only works with businesses that intend to stay in business and keep their domain. Won't help if someone is just prepared to walk away from the site and the domain.

trinorthlighting

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 3:40 am on Mar 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

We would demand payment immediatly or file a lawsuit. Do not start to be known as the "push over web designer" Business is business after all.

jomaxx

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jomaxx us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 4:23 am on Mar 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

This is WEBMASTERWORLD. This is what we do. If you own the domain, don't delete the site; leave it up. You don't have to be mean, just make sure it doesn't provide contact information or anything else that would be of value to her. And make sure you outrank her for her own name.

This will be such a chronic pain for her, you're sure to get paid eventually. If it even costs her one client or one sale, the value of that is already well over $3,000.

jtara

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jtara us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 4:41 am on Mar 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

If building a full website register the domain name so you control it from the start.

Wow, I would never do that nor recommend that a client allow anybody to get away with this.

The first thing I ALWAYS do is explain the importance of being the registrant for your website, and not to allow ANYBODY else to do it for you or put it in their name.

This is the #1 source of pain and suffering dragged through the domain names forum here.

Even if the parties are "partnering" in some way - then a legal entity should be formed, and hold the name.

If the Example Company isn't the registrant for example.com - something almost always smells very, very bad.

Clark

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 4:59 am on Mar 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

Mean jomaxx. Bad bad jomaxx. Outrank her for her name... that is awful. But I love it. :)

She can pay you $500 then $50 a month for a few years until paid...

trinorthlighting

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 6:14 am on Mar 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

They will not care how you rank, websites are advertised in the yellow pages and on business cards for most realators.

Plaster adsense advertising all over the site to make some money back. When they pay for the complete site, you can take it down.

That can be a killer if they already distributed business cards and paid thousands of dollars to advertise in local yellow pages or newspapers.

eljefe3

WebmasterWorld Administrator 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 7:11 am on Mar 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

Monetize the site until client pays you.

incrediBILL

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 8:55 am on Mar 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

Plaster adsense advertising all over the site to make some money back.

Worst advice ever posted.

The customer could click fraud you right out of AdSense.

I can just see that thread title...
"I've been banned for putting AdSense on a deadbeat client site"

fishfinger

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 9:47 am on Mar 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

The first thing I ALWAYS do is explain the importance of being the registrant for your website, and not to allow ANYBODY else to do it for you or put it in their name.

I agree. But if you host the site and hold the tag then you always have that leverage over clients who are slow to pay or try to avoid paying. We put up 'site suspended for non-payment' pages and charge a reactivation fee. By this time the client will have had three invoices and at least 2 phone calls so this fee covers our admin time. We've only had to resort to this a few times, but it works wonders.

trinorthlighting

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 2:52 pm on Mar 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

If he owns the domain, why would it be bad advice?

microcars

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 5:29 pm on Mar 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

This is WEBMASTERWORLD. This is what we do. If you own the domain, don't delete the site; leave it up. You don't have to be mean, just make sure it doesn't provide contact information or anything else that would be of value to her. And make sure you outrank her for her own name.

This will be such a chronic pain for her, you're sure to get paid eventually. If it even costs her one client or one sale, the value of that is already well over $3,000.

Since I know how the World of Realtors works, I think this would be a huge waste of time.
The OP client has never actually used the site for anything and potential Real Estate Clients, when blindly searching for property, are not going to be searching for this Client's NAME.

you may as well suggest Google-Bombing the deadbeat Client's name to end up at [en.wiktionary.org...]

Also- I don't understand this issue about who owns the domain.
If the OP registered the domain, paid for it, and built the site, but never received any compensation, he is somehow obligated to GIVE the domain to the deadbeat Client?

#*$!?

It would appear that every intention was there to transfer the site ownership and content to the Client once it was paid for.
But the Client decided to stiff him.

This Realtor Client just walked away from this deal.
If the OP wants to get paid (which is what this is thread is supposed to be about) he needs to use every possible legal recourse available. And that does not limit methods to "the legal system".

I still think the "Site suspended due to non-payment" is an excellent incentive.
Their name is not up their, nor any reference to them.
No one else sees it except the deadbeat Realtor and hopefully the idea that there is "a page on the Internet" as an eternal reminder that she is a deadbeat will get her to cough up the balance due.
Right now she feels no obligation or guilt. She walked away and there were no consequences for her actions.

and if that does not work, a few months of the debt being listed on her credit report might also work
(but make sure she is aware that it has been reported or it won't work).

cmarshall

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 10:24 pm on Mar 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

integrated with google maps

I was told that we ain't allowed to use GM for commercial purposes [google.com]. I do NPO sites, and had to clear the legalities of using them. In fact, one example I was given was that the free Google Mapkit API was not allowed to be used in a (for example) real estate site.

Maybe I'm completely wrong, but we had to dot our Is and cross our Ts to implement Google Maps.

sonjay

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 1:04 pm on Mar 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

we ain't allowed to use GM for commercial purposes.

Google Maps info page [code.google.com] says this:
The Maps API is a free beta service, available for any web site that is free to consumers.

I took that at face value and have several real estate agent clients for whom I've integrated Google Maps using the API.

cmarshall

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552899 posted 1:08 pm on Mar 10, 2008 (gmt 0)

I don't think they lose any sleep over it. They want eyeballs and hits.

A lot of times, these clauses are there to give them some muscle if they run into issues.

The sites I do are pretty uptight about legalities, so we may be a bit extreme.

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