On 17/10/12 08:34, Rory wrote:
Defamatory website - not a good idea.
Have you tried the emotional and personal approach?
Fundamentally the issue started because of a misunderstanding in her
part. She thought we were working under a fixed price contract and had
forgotten we were working on a consulting basis.
She was thinking of the previous project which was fixed price and fully
I explained it all in detail, showed her the emails, sent her copies of
the previous fixed price project and invoices etc and encouraged her to
produce anything else to support her argument.
She couldn't because it didn't exist.
When I invoiced her for the outstanding work I said right up front that
she could do a payment plan if it suited over several months because it
was a fairly large amount.
Even though she finally admitted that she had got her facts wrong and
that there was no fixed price agreement she declared it entirely unfair
that she should pay for months of work that she thought she was getting
for the equivalent of 10 hours payment.
I did my best to negotiate a win win solution in good faith but it
quickly spiralled downward. She refused to respond to my requests for
her to come back to me with a suggestion solution for over a month while
continuing to ask me to do more work. When I refused to continue working
for free she got even more irate.
I finally offered her a one off AUD$3000 payment (under 50% of what she
owed) so we could settle and go our separate ways.
She refused, complained that paying the AUD $3000 would bankrupt her
business etc. She also claimed that she didn't own the business, her
fiance did - in stark contrast to what the Australia companies office
records said - and that it was him refusing to pay, not her etc.
In the end I warned her that if she didn't pay the AUD$3000 within 5
days I would remove all unpaid work from her servers. I did this
knowing full well she'd lock me out of everything, which of course she
That was a real dilemma because up until that point she did not know
that only I had backups (her ISP wasn't backing up because her account
was over it's usage limit). If I'd deleted everything she would have
had NOTHING and her entire online business would have been gone instantly.
Tempting as it was I decided to be the better person and warn her in
advance that I would remove unpaid work. So she locked me out and
backed everything up immediately. Frustrating for me but at least I feel
I acted ethically rather than being accused of holding her entire
business to ransom.
I continued to give her several extensions on the AUD$3000 deadline
asking if we could please find a win-win solution. I received tirades
back about how it was all my fault for not correcting her
misunderstanding that she thought she was receiving months of work for
the equivalent of a 10 hour budget.
Lots of manipulation, denial, blame, claims that I would destroy her
business and drive her into bankruptcy etc.
Keep in mind that she just married her fiance who is an experienced 747
pilot earning over half a million dollars a year and that she claimed it
was his business, not hers. Her latest online magazine has 20+ pages
covering their huge and extravagant no expenses spared wedding.
Inability to pay really wasn't an issue.
The problem was her ego - she could not admit that she'd made a huge
mistake and would not take responsibility for it.
I openly admitted my part - that I should have invoiced outstanding work
much earlier. That would have raised her misunderstanding much earlier
giving her the opportunity to pay or ask me to stop working. That is why
I offered the hugely discounted AUD$3000 payment. Pretty generous I
But there was never any compromise on her part.
The final email I received from her resentfully stated that she would
pay the AUD$3000 even though she still claimed it was horrendously
unfair. Even then it would only be over a 6+ month period. I've never
seen a cent of it.
So the lessons here for me are:
1) Get a good, clear contract up front with clear specification.
2) Invoice regularly no matter what other crazy distracting stuff is
going on in my life :) Or... set project points and get paid for each
section up front before continuing.
3) If working with NZ clients have payment clauses in the contract that
allow for agency collection fees
4) If working with international clients get paid up front, always. :)
5) Stick to the specification and refuse to do anything outside of it
unless it is requested in writing and agreed to with an accompanying price.
In many ways for the last 4-5 years I've been both exceptionally lucky
All of my work has been word-of-mouth or referral - I've never done any
marketing (which is why I don't even have my own website!). It's only
been since the global financial downturn that I've started having
problems with clients misplacing their ethics, asking for more while not
willing to pay for it etc.
With most of those clients I had no contract, no clear specification,
just a virtual handshake and good-will. Those days are over for the