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Freelance web designer nightmare

Discussion in 'Web Development' started by Jamie-AU, Apr 17, 2013.

  1. Jamie-AU

    Jamie-AU Membership: Community

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    I'm not sure if this is the right forum for seeking advice in regards to the topic, but here goes.

    About a year ago, I hired a freelance web designer from Melbourne to redesign an existing travel-based website I had. I needed around 35 pages/templates designed.

    No contract was signed - I simply paid his invoice up-front, and while he indicated it would be finished in about 3 months, we never set a formal date until a while later, when we both agreed everything would be finished within 6 months.

    It's now 12 months later and:

    1) I have paid him $6,490 up-front (this is just a partial payment for the whole project)

    2) He has delivered not one complete web page/template I can use - just screen-grab drafts of less than half the total pages required, none of which is at the finalisation state

    He blamed the blow-out in deadlines due to the huge number of changes to each page. The problem is that most of the changes are due to:

    1) His failure to follow the agreed design spec. Eg: he left out breadcrumbs navigation which was in the spec, and now he said he had to waste lots of time re-designing all the pages around that

    2) His constant switching of web project management and publication platforms - eg Basecamp, Layervault, Dispatch, DesignSignoff, etc - which has meant the feedback I've provided for page drafts is lost each time, and I have to keep repeating them every time he switches platforms

    3) Decisions he makes without any consultation. For example, he significantly changed the font style used within the website logo (something I had professionally designed about 18 months ago through someone else), without even discussing it with me. This is despite the fact I had heaps of stationery in stock with the original logo - I'd be throwing thousands of dollars away if I shredded it.

    All in all, this has wasted so much of my time and caused lots of stress. It's impacted badly on my reputation, and I originally had notified my clients that a new website would be released by Christmas, then I changed that to the first quarter of 2013, now I have no date.

    The interesting thing is that this designer has excellent credentials on the web - a website with lots of clients, a highly ranked linkedIn profile and a glowing CV.

    This freelancer has been through a number of personal hardships, including financial problems during this time, so I'm not totally heartless and do have sympathy for what is going on behind the scenes. However, I get the impression that while he's been doing little work on my project, he's been doing lots of work for others. You'd think because I paid so much up front, he'd ensure I was looked after first. And let's not mention that he changed his mobile number without bothering to tell me, meaning all my SMSs never got answered for weeks.

    He has tried to make amends for the blow-out in completion date by offering to discount the total price and bundling in thousands of dollars of free SEO services. None of that really means much without completion of the website, does it?

    Recently, I told him to cease work until he signs a contract, so I had a completion date in writing that he would be legally bound to. He refused to sign the contract, even though it gave him a whole month to finish and it stipulated that I would pay him for all work he had completed by the completion date.

    I've become very fed up with things. I've asked him to refund some or all of my $6,490 so I can get someone else to do the work. He again refused, saying it's not like returning a broken item to a shop for a refund. He says he's done a lot more work than I think, and he claims he has all the documentation to prove that, but he doesn't bother to show me anything to justify that.

    Further complicating things is that the web designer has become aware of a similar thread to this that I posted in another internet forum where I asked for advice on how to deal with this situation. He said having his business name associated with that posting is defamation as all his customers are 100% satisfied. People replying to the forum posting suggested legal action, however my freelancer says he knows a lot of lawyers and legal action will get me nowhere. He also said that if I tried to take legal action, his defamation claim against me will more than wipe off any claim I make against him.

    I got all sorts of advice to my other forum posting. First, I got heavily criticised for not having a contract to begin with, criticised for paying him so much money up-front, and blasted for not coming down harder on him in the first few months of the project rather than letting it drag on so long.

    Some people said I should take legal action. Others said that because I have no contract, and this freelancer is in financial strife, then it's unlikely I'd get my money back, so I should write it off and pursuing legal action can be costly.

    The issue is that this guy clearly isn't going to finish the work any time this side of the next millennium, and I need to get the redesign happening as it's 6 months overdue, so I can't really afford to get involved in years of protracted legal action against this person. So what do I do?
     
  2. johno69

    johno69 Membership: VIP

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    auDA Member:
    Yes
    Cut your losses and find someone else.
     
  3. ScottNugent

    ScottNugent Membership: VIP

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    You've probably done this, but have you picked up the phone and made a call to discuss the project? Sometimes these things can be mediated better while talking. :)
     
  4. FirstPageResults

    FirstPageResults Membership: VIP

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    auDA Member:
    Yes
    I wouldn't let him off the hook that easily, as it sounds like he bit off more than he could chew.

    I introduced two parties to one another last year and the reverse happened, with work being started by the designer and the client pulling the pin and then refusing to pay.

    Now they are going to VCAT - perhaps that's an avenue for you too?
     
  5. johno69

    johno69 Membership: VIP

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    auDA Member:
    Yes
    The way I see it:

    Will he finish the work?

    No, you said he likely will not.

    Will you get your money back?

    No, he has spent it and it's gone forever.

    Can you get the work done so far from him?

    Maybe, but it's likely a lot less than you think it is.

    Best thing is to find someone new that can complete the work. Learn from this mistake, get a contract, never pay in full up front unless it's to some trusted escrow agency.
     
  6. FirstPageResults

    FirstPageResults Membership: VIP

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    auDA Member:
    Yes
    He may not finish it, but you might be able to keep him up at night.

    Then maybe he won't take the next person for a ride too.

    Having said that, there are obviously two sides to every story. I know I've fired my fair share of clients over the years.

    And then do this, paying in installments after each milestone as it's very common for clients to misunderstand what they are getting from their web designers/developers.
     
  7. James

    James Membership: VIP

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    It is a tricky area if their is no contract, but I am sure the email correspondence is decent but I am no lawyer. It is something you will need to take via small claims court.

    I wouldn't believe he has no money, he is probably talking it up.
     
  8. Jamie-AU

    Jamie-AU Membership: Community

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    When I demanded a refund, he actually showed me a screenshot of his internet banking dashboard. Now I know those things can be digitally altered, but each one of his 4 accounts had either a negligible balance or was negative.

    He said he's been on the verge of being evicted from his house several times in the past.

    I do believe he's endured some personal and financial hardship as his past work history is stellar, which is one of the reasons I selected him to begin with. So why all of the sudden would he conduct himself this way? Clearly something big has gone wrong along the way. Unfortunately I'm all caught up in it.
     
  9. Jamie-AU

    Jamie-AU Membership: Community

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    That's true. I've tried to be as honest as possible with describing the situation.

    What I of course don't know is what is going on behind the scenes with this freelance web designer. I can only speculate the worst. He has specifically called me paranoid for thinking he wouldn't finish the work. But when I'm $6,490 out of pocket and have nothing I can use after 12 months of work (which should have taken no more than 6 months), what am I to think?

    He was given a comprehensive design spec before he even quoted the project, so he knew exactly what he was getting into. There's been no "scope creep" apart from the splitting up of a couple of pages specified in the original spec due to information overload.

    I do share part of the blame as yes, I should have had him sign a contract that clearly spelled out milestones and dates. After paying him the money at the start of the project, I didn't hear from him for 3 months. I thought he was busy working away, and then 3 months later, he just presents me with a draft layout of just 3 out of the 35 pages. He then pledges to finish the rest within 3 months, and again delivers only a few extra pages by then.

    I will say our business relationship began to sour after 6 months as I was increasingly getting fed up with the lack of progress and he was increasingly getting fed up with my implications he wasn't going to deliver, despite him breaking every single deadline that he gave an iron-clad guarantee he would make. And when he changed his mobile phone number without notifying me, what was I to think other than he was trying to "lose" me.
     
  10. smee

    smee Membership: Community

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    The freelancer has played you for 6 months. Has not delivered and you've allowed him to continue playing you. He claims he will sue you for defamation, yet has no money. Can he sue you if what you say is true? He is playing you again.

    Pick up the phone. Tell him he has 3 weeks to deliver the outstanding items else you will be spreading the news on your experiences dealing with him. Do not allow him to talk over you and do not allow him to extend it any further. No sob stories. Be clear, concise and then say goodbye. If the items are not delivered in said time frame, then post away.
     
  11. Jamie-AU

    Jamie-AU Membership: Community

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    Do you think a debt collection agency would be interested in buying this debt? I say it's a debt, because I could send the freelancer a letter of demand for the money I paid him, so effectively I'm invoicing him. He won't pay me of course. But then if I sell this debt, I get some money up-front (maybe 20%?) and then the debt company can pursue this guy. Would that work?
     
  12. Scott.L

    Scott.L Membership: Trader

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    auDA Member:
    Yes
    stop making excuses for this scumbag - you paid good money for a job to be done.

    Everyone has hard luck stories and shitty problems but the few who push through the power of pressure are the professionals, this guy isn't pro just a wanna bee hack.

    if the guy is breathing, he can finish the job - otherwise, take him to court and smash his name.
     
  13. Scott.L

    Scott.L Membership: Trader

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    auDA Member:
    Yes
    in other-words, don't make this your own personal hardship and financial problem, either get what you can and smash it or cut your loses and get with the pro's.
     
  14. Lucas

    Lucas Membership: Trader

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    I would not be happy either!

    In my opinion it does not really matter what is going on behind the scenes, he promised you something and did not deliver. Simply not having signed a contract does not mean he can just take your money and give nothing in return.

    What sort of project was it? Why did the developer change publication platforms so many times? That says to me they ran into problems with each platform that made it difficult for them to finish the project. That is bad management / incompetence on their behalf. Was there a lot of customisation of the platform required?

    On the other hand I have worked with some terrible clients, not saying you are such a client, that has forced projects to go on for longer than they should of with constantly changing specs. You learn quickly that these things have to be fleshed out in detail before assuming the other party will just be reasonable.

    If I were you I would tell them to produce at least something you can work with within 4 weeks or you will pursue the matter further - if you are reasonable and compromise, in terms of delivery time, you might still get something for your money.

    As a last thought, I thought it was only defamation in a legal sense if you were making false claims against him (or his business)?
     
  15. Designer

    Designer Membership: Community

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    @Jamie - how's a person with no money going to sue you; and what could he sue you for? Truth is best defense against defamation. Why be reluctant to name the person or business? It's a small world, and somebody will know him and be able to tell you if he is good or bad.
     
  16. smee

    smee Membership: Community

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    Looks like you simply haven't the courage or conviction to challenge him yourself, for whatever reasons.
     
  17. Jamie-AU

    Jamie-AU Membership: Community

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    I guess I would just love for this to be someone else's problem to pursue, get some money back quickly, move on, and forget this nasty business ever happened.

    This web designer has simply become hysterical over the fact his name was mentioned by me in another forum. Here's the contents of one of his SMSs:

    "You have opened a public conversation based soley on baseless paranoia and encouraged public participation who have only the facts that you chose to reveal. It's biased and a threat to my personal safety."

    The personal safety he refers to is that when I mentioned his business name, some people on the forum then did a business register lookup (which anyone can do) to locate his address, as he works from home.

    When I mentioned legal action, he said:

    "If you wanted to take legal action, then you don't need my permission, but the the effects of public defamation and revealing personal details to an angry mob encouraging home visits to sort me out will swiftly counteract any agenda".

    As mentioned before, I just revealed his business name and never, ever, did I suggest anonymous people from the internet visit his home. I mean, why would strangers I am discussing this with on a forum that I don't know do such a thing? Would anyone here discussing the issue feel so strongly they'd do something stupid like that?

    That's the sort of hysterical stuff and nonsense I have to put up with when dealing with that individual, as he now seems to blames me for everything going wrong in his life.
     
  18. Jamie-AU

    Jamie-AU Membership: Community

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    Another thing that comes to mind, is that I think I'm dealing with someone that has reached a stage in their life that they're sick of the industry they are involved in, and have nothing but contempt for their clients. Maybe they are intending to get out of it?

    There's this extract from one of his hysterical SMSs:

    "I have come close to being evicted numerous times, especially when clients withhold payments as ransom in order to gain further work for free if they feel I'm becoming desperate."

    I guess I'm an easy target for him to get revenge on all these clients over the years that held him to ransom. He's now holding me to ransom, holding $6,490 of my money and I have nothing to show for it.

    In regards to his work:

    "if you saw what's involved you'd wonder why anyone was willingly in this business".

    Again, this is the sort of stuff I have to deal with from this individual.
     
  19. Jamie-AU

    Jamie-AU Membership: Community

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    I'm not really sure why they kept changing platforms. I think it may have had something to do with integration with all his other work tools, but I can't be sure.

    My project is dead simple:

    - 35 pages/templates of static HTML
    - a detailed design spec provided
    - an existing website full of content to refer to for guidance, as this project is a site refresh/redesign

    That's true, but I'm dealing with an individual who's reached hysterical levels, hence his claims. If you read an earlier posting I made, this person accuses me of plotting to send an angry mob to his house to "sort him out" simply because I mentioned his business name and provided website link in another discussion forum.
     
  20. findtim

    findtim Membership: VIP

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    auDA Member:
    Yes
    pick up the phone again or go to his place of BUSINESS not his home and simply ask "what needs to be done to solve this"

    he'll then go off tap and rant, let him, stay silent, then he'll run out of things to say and start repeating himself, now you have all the info, still stay silent, then he'll repeat himself again, now he is running out of breath and frustrated you are not fueling him.

    stay silent until he asks you a question, then answer it with your original question.

    then you will get the answer of if he intends to finish or you have truly lost your money.

    but after all this i think the end result will be shit, so move on, take him to small claims you don't need a contract you have a receipt that you paid him money and have received nothing for it.

    make sure you change all the password before you do this so you block him out.

    tim