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What should/could I do?
If you don't have a signed contract, kick yourself in the a$$ <snip> :)
[edited by: trillianjedi at 4:07 pm (utc) on Mar. 9, 2006]
[edit reason] Point made without further need to clarify.... [/edit]
If you can afford to live without it chalk it up as expenses for a hard lesson learned. It's sometimes just not worth the agita involved.
In the absolutely worse case scenario where you never get paid, at least you can use this job for your portfolio when soliciting the next one (with a 50% deposit up front and a contract).
Our agreement was that once the site is in the top 10 rankings on the se's we would begin charging a fee.
That's like building a house of cards. I've thought about different pricing structures over the years and settled on a retainer type structure. I would never, ever do performance based SEO. Why? I have no control over what the search engines could do. And, these days, with the delay in getting a new site indexed, you may not be getting any money for quite a few months!
There are ways to make the client pay. There are legal methods, and then there are those methods that you don't want to discuss in public. ;)
Better to use that work as an example in your portfolio to make you some money than to just feel better by getting revenge.
You may also want to point out to them that you got them #1 and if they don't pay you perhaps you'll contract with their competitor to make them #1....
Or become their competitor....
Besides that, I have web design and SEO separated in my contracts, and charge different amounts for each.
When the client/customer signs the contract, they can opt to include the SEO portion, and therefore must pay. If they don't, it's time to seek legal action.
When he comes back crying about his ranking, charge him double to get him ranking again, collect your money upfront, and never do a thing.
You can even go so far as to ask for more money six months down the road, extort him for as long as possible.
Bleed him dry and make him cry.
client was a friend of mine!
Now they are a debtor, unless you can laugh it off over a couple of beers.
If you value your future business prospects, don't do anything foolish. Keep your composure, use the legal methods available to you to recoup your investment and sever all business ties with this person.
If you go black hat on them they will have substantial recourse to sue *you* ... not to mention the waste of your time and income as you exact your revenge and postpone your next venture.
Either make the decision to take them to court or get on with your life. There's no future in protracting the problem.
client is a friend of mine!
Time for the obvious cliche: with friends like that...
No, the obvious cliche is not to do business with friends...
Contract or no, you will need to decide whether or not to just eat it.
Some things are just not worth the fight, unless you like fights.
I, for one, am not averse to letting it be known when people don't pay their bills. Negative press spreads quickly and could have a much greater impact than sabatoging SERP's. I did some SEO on contract a few years ago (for a design firm) and was never paid. I think it was a couple of grand I was owed, but all I got was a lot of excuses and empty promises. A couple of the sites I worked on still rank quite nicely in their niches. The design firm has had significant difficulty getting work amongst the circle that we were both a part of back then.
It probably helped that there were others working on contract that never got paid either - a couple of graphic designers, a copy writer, etc. All have moved on to other successful (and paying) endeavors while the firm in question struggles along.
Always get a portion of your fee as an advance.
If they say do this job for me and I'll give you X amount up front .. fine .. but any profit share or future payment etc .. just avoid like the plague...
If they are truely a friend then I do it for free.. it just works out better in the end..
It's good business to have a contract that you can both refer to and rely on. If you can't reach agreement on being paid, go to the small claims Court, debt collector or a lawyer to recover the debt - but always keep a polite method of communicating if you can.
This SEO consulting charge really boils down to time related rates versus performance, with risk for both parties.
As a client [ not an SEO ] I'd suggest you always approach your business in the early stages with the view to building "trust and goodwill" - that means a bit of sacrifice and risk both ways until you establish your working relationship. If it works well you should become co dependant and the economics will kick in later on the back of the early sacrifices.
If the business is dishonest - don't deal with them - cut your losses, don't get cranky, move onto better biz relationships, and work out if you want to spend time and energy pursuing them for debt recovery.
Hope this helps and hopefully you'll get paid and/or move on.
In one case I send this guy a million faxes and left 100 messages and so I turned off his site. He called about 30 minutes later and was at my office with a cheque in 90 minutes. Bad Karma for me? No. Not sure how this is different. I say exclude all bots in the robots.txt file.
If I sell you a trip to Mexico and I tell you since it is raining you don't have to pay until it gets sunny outside. Then once it is a beautiful day you decide not to pay, then I ship you back. Does it benefit me? No, but do you get something for free? For a little bit, yes, but what if word gets around that you can enter a contract with me and then not have to pay and I will do nothing about it. Then does it benefit me to remove services that were rendered and not paid for? Yes it does, because then you know and people you deal with will know that if they go on a trip with me they have to pay.
No free rides.
With a contract, you would be able to take the client to court, even if they are/were your friend.
No contract = no legally defensible course of action.
If you start harming their business at this point then YOU are in violation of the law, not them. You simply cannot prove that they had any obligation to you whatsoever, so any malicious (even if it seems 'fair' to you) activity on your part will only get you in trouble and do far more damage to your reputation (and bank account) than simply learning your lesson and vowing not to ever do paid work without a contract again.
Let it go. Learn the lesson. Get on with your life and business.