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Client ditches site half way through

 8:44 am on Apr 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

Just wanted some opinions on this.

I did a site for a client on the cheap as he was a friend (mistake I know, but I won't be doing that again). I was able to get 50% up front. I finished the site and did the SEO when the client decided they'd keep their old site, which is on another domain.

I wanted to keep the site up to use for my portfolio and as the client never paid me for the hosting or domain name, they still belong to me. I removed the client's access to the CMS on the site and also removed all contact details but the site is still up.

My site comes much higher in search engines than his does and he tells me that its illegal for me to do that. Is this nonsense? He is also demanding that I republish the contact pages, but I have told him this won't be happening as he's only paid for half the site and hasn't paid for hosting or the domain name.

What should I do?



 8:53 am on Apr 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

he tells me that its illegal for me to do that

Haha - It is easy to make laws up on the spot! Then the company doing the crime is the search engine, not you.

Also on the contact pages, he has only paid a deposit so he has no rights to demand anything of the site until paid for in full.

As long as you have taken a 50% deposit and he hasn't paid the rest, he owns nothing apart from copyright on any photos or articles that he sent to you.

I would ask the 'friend' that the contract for the further 50% cannot be cancelled unless he puts it in writing. Then, I would contact other companies in the same trade (particularly those without sites or with poor sites) and offer them the site for a discount (say 60% of the quote given out to the original person) and just change logos etc to fit with the new company, with no trace of the original 'buyer'.

It's is like putting a deposit on a car and then telling the garage you don't want the car. They will sell it to someone else, but you won't get your deposit back.

[edited by: PCInk at 8:54 am (utc) on April 29, 2008]


 9:20 am on Apr 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

Thats a really good idea! There are people in similar businesses in the local area who all have pretty bad or no websites.

I'll give him a ring and say that I want the cancellation in writing and most of the keywords will be applicable to similar businesses. I'll still have something pretty for my porfolio too!


 5:00 pm on Apr 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

see this thread..


Fortune Hunter

 7:34 pm on Apr 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

would contact other companies in the same trade (particularly those without sites or with poor sites) and offer them the site for a discount (say 60% of the quote given out to the original person)

I think this is a fantastic idea! However just make sure you tail is covered by not having anything he owns, i.e. company name, content, logos, etc. on the site so he has zero claim to what is up there. I would also explain to him what you plan to do and see if it suddenly comes up with the other 50% of the money.


 9:56 am on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

Thanks for all the advice, everyone.

I got a contract cancellation in written form. I then told him what I planned to do and he said that he wanted me to remove the name, logos etc straight away. I told him that I will do in the next couple of weeks when I get the time and that I would be keeping the graphics that I designed.

He seems annoyed at me for not just handing him the domain (I registered it and paid for it and am only asking for what its worth: 10) and is insisting that I make the site lower in Google rankings, which I won't try to do as it will be a nice bonus for a new customer.

This was a valuable lesson - no more cut-rates for 'friends'.

Fortune Hunter

 1:50 pm on Apr 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

is insisting that I make the site lower in Google rankings,

I would be so annoyed at the arrogance of this person that I think I would go out and double the rankings and then email him the results after I sold it to one of his competitors.


 6:54 pm on May 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

** DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer and this is not intended to be legal advice. **

This is what I would do. Make sure any content he provided you with is off the site. This includes text, graphics and any other files. Also, make sure that the site does not use any of his trademarks and that the domain name is not a trademark of his. I wouldn't wait a week to remove the copyrighted and trademarked content. I believe it is possible for him to sue you and recover damages if he incurs losses due to you using his legal content.

Other than that, I like the idea of selling the complete package to a competitor. :)


 5:04 pm on May 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

If I was you I'd try to negotiate a further 20-30% payment and then forget about it. Did they give a reason for cancelling? try to find out the reasons it went wrong and they chose to keep the old site.

You need to be grown up about this and act professionally, maybe a good idea to arrange a meeting with them.

If you annoy them by hosting it as your own or selling to a competitor you could end up being sued for copyright infringement and damages for loss of earnings , the 2nd could be substantial and professional indemnity or ltd liability wont help you if you have been negligent with copyright law.


 12:47 pm on May 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi everyone.
Thanks for all the advice. I'll give you a little update.

I had a meeting with the client, who gave me a reason for cancelling: money. He told me that he'd already spent the website budget on the previous website, but the web designer hadn't returned his calls since collecting the last of the payments. When the old site designer found that one of his clients had come to me, he immediately offered to update the site and fulfil his prior contractual obligations.

This is unfortunate for my client, who appears to have been messed around, but also a big waste of time for me.

As for copyright issues, the client hasn't registered his company properly. I checked with companies house and they had no reference to it. I will take off his logos, but it seems he's got other problems to worry about aside from web rankings etc. I think he must be using a holding company or something.

The client did seem annoyed when I told him that I would be selling the site elsewhere but I used the car deposit analogy and that seemed to work.



Fortune Hunter

 10:42 pm on May 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

but the web designer hadn't returned his calls since collecting the last of the payments.

This is an unfortunate trend in our industry. While it obviously doesn't happen all the time it is a problem with the "vanishing webmaster" who disappears after getting money or with necessary passwords. I have had to clean up several messes left by other "professional webmasters."

I believe the problem is that becoming a web designer is easy, relatively speaking. You can buy some cheap software, print up some cards and read a quick book on HTML and call yourself a web designer. Some people are lured to our field because of the legends from the dot com days of easy money. Unfortunately once these people start their "business" they don't realize how hard it is to actually do and how much there is to learn to do it well and they disappear. Some good clients get hurt in the process and all of us end up getting a bad wrap.

I have some sympathy for your friend, but remember you didn't cause the problem, but it still needs to be cleaned up and in this case you were the clean up person and hence should be paid for your work regardless of what happened on his end.

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