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Client Not Paying Money Owed


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20 replies to this topic

#1 ScottSalwolke

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 12:26 PM

I did a site for a client nearly 1 year ago and he still owes half of his payment. He's never said he's dissatisfied with the site, in fact, he loved it when it went up. Ive sent numerous invoices to his home address and work site. I've also emailed him a number of times. Any suggestions on what actions I should take. Small claims court or collection agency?

#2 Randy

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 12:31 PM

It depends upon your contract, as well as your access to the site.

Back in my old design days I didn't relinquish use or copyright until final payment had been made. Thus if I had access to FTP into the site I was completely within my rights to log in and remove the content if there was a problem with final payment. (Technically I usually didn't bother removing the content, just set up an .htaccess to redirect every page to a plain jane "This Site Is Currently Unavailable Due To Non-Payment" page since most clients had no idea what .htaccess was and couldn't even see the file doing the dirty work since dot files are normally hidden. angel_not.gif)

You need to go back to your original contract though. Whatever rights it says you have, you have. Any it doesn't say you have are open to interpretation. Usually by a court.

Get in touch with a good and hopefully inexpensive local attorney. They'll be able to tell you what actions are available to you. And quite likely can also tell you what, if anything, needs to be incorporated into future contracts. If you go through a collection agency you'll need to be satisfied with a small percentage of the outstanding bill. Because that's all you're going to get.

#3 qwerty

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 01:15 PM

A number of collection agencies I've spoken with have told me that in most cases, their fee is only about 25% of the amount collected. However, the one time I used a collection agency, I didn't have to pay them anything, because the amount collected was zip, nada, the goose egg, nought, nil, nothing sad.gif

#4 Jill

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 03:51 PM

Have you tried calling?

(You mentioned email and mail, but not the phone...sometimes that works best in these situations.)

#5 ScottSalwolke

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Posted 02 June 2008 - 07:10 PM

QUOTE(Jill @ Jun 2 2008, 03:51 PM) View Post
(You mentioned email and mail, but not the phone...sometimes that works best in these situations.)


He's a Realtor and I've left messages at his office, but his home phone isn't listed.

#6 Conspicuous

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 01:48 AM

Call him or if he's local, visit him in person. I have to imagine realtors are easy to find because of all the open houses they hold.

The big question is whether you have a contract. If you have a contract and he's still unwilling to pay, you'll likely need to file in Small Claims, depending on what the actual amount in question is.

If he's still reluctant, explain to him how your magical SEO powers that you used to his benefit can also be used to have information about how he is a non-paying deadbeat moved to the top of the rankings for his searches in his area. Okay, maybe you don't want to do that, but it sounds fun, doesn't it?

I've learned the hard way that good contracts are essential to a successful operation.

#7 Randy

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 03:20 AM

QUOTE
I've learned the hard way that good contracts are essential to a successful operation.


Too true that! I think most of us have had to learn that lesson the hard way, unfortunately.

Isn't this a pretty dangerous thing to do for a realtor? I was under the impression they all have to have a license issued at the state level and that realtors have an organization that's much like the Bar Association for Attorney's where people can file complaints. I can't believe he'd want to get hauled in front of his licensing/regulatory board over the cost of some web design. Let alone possibly lose his license over a fraud claim for what has to be peanuts compared to the amount of money he represents in home sales.

I don't suppose you have any realtor friends you could ask do you? You wouldn't even have to mention his name, just see if there's anything they can recommend going through their organization to finally get paid. I suspect good, professional realtors would want to make sure bad realtors get drummed out of the business. Or at least that's the way realtors I know seem to approach things.

#8 ScottSalwolke

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 11:13 AM

These thing related to the Realtor business I hadn't considered. I'll have to try it.

#9 Ladybug

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 07:46 PM

This is a learning experience. First, have a contract, get money up front, have them sign-off on the finished product - full payment due for the site to go live, or if you want to give them 30 days, at the end of that time if they have not paid, shut the site down. (It helps if you own their domains)

#10 davebob spongepants

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 09:39 PM

I like Jill's idea. Nag the guy to death - he'll eventually pay just to get rid of you. If it's not something you are comfortable doing - use a more assertive person - perhaps a convenient mother-in-law? mf_prop.gif

#11 OldWelshGuy

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 01:58 AM

Send him an email, in the email politely tell him that you are requesting his preference for pages to be removed from the site. Explain that as he has only paid for 50%, then he can only expect 50% of the site up. List the pages you will remove if he doesn't reply (include the home page).

OR

Send him an email and ask him which DAYS he wants his site to appear on. Inform him that it will be appearing 4 days one week, and 3 the next, as he has only paid 50%.

OR

if you have no control over the site, tell him you will be contacting his Hosting company to remove YOUR work from their server as they are breaching your IP. Tell him IP will be assigned when he pays you the outstanding amount.

OR

Send around 2 big guys in long coats carrying a horses head in a bag to 'explain' to him the joys of being debt free and to make him an offer he can't refuse smile.gif [the last option was a joke]

My guess is he will reply soon enough.

#12 Jill

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 09:26 PM

Great suggestions, OWG!

#13 ScottSalwolke

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 11:07 PM

QUOTE(OldWelshGuy @ Jun 10 2008, 01:58 AM) View Post
Send around 2 big guys in long coats carrying a horses head in a bag to 'explain' to him the joys of being debt free and to make him an offer he can't refuse smile.gif [the last option was a joke]


How fresh does the horse head have to be? I have one in the freezer now that's about two weeks old. My wife's been nagging me to get rid of it.

#14 thesitebox_guy

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 12:34 AM

When someone does not pay a due account and I've done the phone calls, emails and so on, I get a small claims form and fill it in photo copy it and send a copy with a letter telling them that I will file the small claims action 7 days from the date of the letter, this normally gets a result. Send it recorded delivery.

If they then don't pay I file the small claims action.


#15 rolf

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 04:58 AM

QUOTE
I get a small claims form and fill it in photo copy it and send a copy with a letter telling them that I will file the small claims action 7 days from the date of the letter, this normally gets a result. Send it recorded delivery.


I have a similar approach, but before this stage I write 2 extra letters. The first letter simply states the relevant dates (completion, launch, invoice, reminders etc.) and asks for immediate payment, after 7 days I write one saying I expect payment within 14 days to avoid further action, then at the end of 14 days I send a letter giving them a final 7 days to pay before I start court action, in which I include the photocopy . (all these are sent recorded)

The reason for the extra letters is A ) so I can demonstrate clearly to the court that I have been reasonable, clear in my intent and have given them every opportunity to avoid court action and b ) to try to subtly indicate to the client that I am working on point A. I'm pleased to say I've never yet had anyone go past the final 7 days.

Hope it helps, I know how annoying and frustrating it can be to fall out with an otherwise decent client.




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