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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.
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]
I don't want to label a profession but I've worked the real estate industry for 7 years and I've seen realtors complain over $5 in fees. Interesting people in that industry to say the least.
.. i had a client once who was arguing that i charge a $1.5 more per domain renewal per year than someone he knew(he had around 7 domains on my machine).....bah...i had to give him a $ 10 discount .. :P
don't worry you will get such clients in any profession.
I agree, you will find strange or difficult clients in any industry, but there seems to be a fair number of them in real estate. I used to work for a college that offered real estate education. They had a statistic that applied to the real estate sales industry that said 95% of the income was made by only the top 5% of Realtors on a national average. With all the real estate agents running around out there that means you have a whole lot of them that probably aren't making squat in commissions, some of them are probably losing money after they figure out there marketing and operation expenses!
I had a real estate agent last year contact me to develop a web site. I was nearly complete accept for the copy, which she was supposed to supply. After months of waiting she finally called and said she was going to go with a site provided by her broker because she didn't have time to write anything!
She did pay for the time I had into it so it is a little different, but I just couldn't believe she would settle for being listed on a main broker site with all her competitors with just a simple bio and picture instead of having her own optimized web site marketing just her and her listed properties because she was too lazy to write a few pages of content. Go figure.
I guess if she represents the "typical" agent then I can see why 95% of them are running around making no money and trying to scratch out a living. With so many agents, competition has to be stiff, those that market and sell well will be in the 5% of earners and everyone else will be listed on their broker's main web site because they don't know any better.
I won't hold my breath. And the holder will change to a more descriptive page in a few weeks. She has had the invoice and knows what she is getting. BTW I made the stupid mistake of assuming that, as she is/was my first real-estate site I should reflect that in the price. Another mistake. Nobody appreciates anything that comes cheaply. It will never happen again. Percentage upfront, staged after designs and coding, remainder before handover. Domains must be paid for in advance.
I would be interested in seeing the sort of contracts that others use as well, as this could help me to understand more the business process. I started as a hobby designer and it escalated so I could be planning and designing 24/7. If I wanted to, but I don't. Thankfully coding is only a small part, albeit a very important part, and is probably the majority of what the general public would think of as the "Black Art", rather than the thought processes that go on before anything gets written down.
Please answer these questions:
Do you have a business website and, if so, did you link the website that you developed back to it?
Did you know that you can copyright your design? It's called "intellectual property"?
Did you know that you can (and should) "brag" about what you did for this person? Do you announce to your other clients and prospects what "you are currently doing" and "what you have already done" on a regular basis?
Part of your problem is "business management" and another part is "marketing".
For goodness sake, brag a little and this person will feel compelled to reward you in some fashion. Surely you have some emails where you and they had "back and forth" discussions. I would think that somewhere along the line you were complimented concerning your work. :) sooo brag about it...
One last thought. If you want to make an example of this situation for others to be aware of, follow the "Lessons Learned" approach which is:
1) This is what I did and why.
2) This is how it came out.
3) Here are the things I learned.
People who ask questions are seeking knowledge.
People who have knowledge seek solutions.
Which one are you?
About me: I have "been there", and "done that".
I welcome comments.
I settled with the client and she paid $500 (my out of pocket expenses to develop the site).
The "listings management system" and database cloned, enhanced and I'm just about to sell it to another company for double what the original client was going to pay ;-)
An important thread to me, my business and many others who will no doubt encounter this situation. Read the posts and learn from others.
Thanks to all who contributed.
The "listings management system" and database cloned, enhanced and I'm just about to sell it to another company for double what the original client was going to pay
This does sound like good news. Just make sure that the settlement you had with your old client allows you to re-sell the site components and she doesn't think that somehow her $500 bucks gives her all ownership of this code and work. Now it doesn't sound like she was all that tech savvy that she would even know how this worked, but still for your own piece of mind you might want to be sure by having her sign off on something.