Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Worst Job I Ever Had

I had a client, an agency type, branching out on his own for the first time, who wanted me to develop websites for his clients (let's call him Richard, or Dick for short). This arrangement usually works out well as it shields me from dealing directly with pesky clients and I know I'll get paid.

Can you guess where this is going?

I did Richard's own company websites, they both went well. Then he got a client but wanted me to sit in on the brief, which is uncommon but fine. Then he stepped back and let the client bombard me directly with constant changes, more meetings, complete redesigns, yet more changes. This dragged on for months.

The job finally stalled when everything had been completed except the (apparently) complicated shipping component in WooCommerce - which was being configured directly within the site by inept "IT staff" at the client's freight company. Not my problem. They never did sort it out but I was asked to hand the site over to the client and invoice them directly. The amount invoiced included Dick's commission, which he told me to hold as part payment on another job we'd started. Messy but… OK. The invoice was paid, I kept all the money, such as it was.

The next job became the biggest nightmare I have ever experienced in my 30 year career as a freelancer.

Dick again pulled his trick of throwing me at the client and running away. What had been quoted as a Wordpress / WooCommerce job had to be started again half way through as a Magento job because it simply wasn't possible to do it any other way. And yet I was expected to stick to the original quote.

My experience of Magento had been limited to making updates on existing sites for a few clients. I'd never built one. I didn't know that the templates would be so expensive. I had no idea that the sort of plugins that are freely available for Wordpress would each cost at least US$89. Who knew it would be SO DAMN COMPLICATED to edit templates, or even FIND various components in the back end to make what should be simple text changes? Magento is AWFUL!

Weeks of frantic activity followed by months of waiting for the client to get back to us. More meetings, more changes, more waiting. Hundreds of emails. On and on it went for a year. A YEAR!!

Although I hadn't quoted to do so, I entered all of the products into the shop simply to get it over with. That alone took several weeks. At one stage the changes requested were so completely beyond my ability to carry them out that I had to hire a Magento dude and pay him, for which Dick paid me back.

After the client had signed off on the job, then come back with more changes, then signed off again, then made more changes, I was asked to let someone else, more experienced in Magento, take over the job just to finish something to do with the invoicing component.

Meanwhile the client came to my office for training and seemed happy enough.

At this stage Dick and I had a conversation and agreed on the amount due, which was basically the original quote minus the withheld commission from the previous job. I wasn't happy about it but I just wanted it to be over.

And I've not heard from Dick ever since. The site went live, I saw by accident, but I wasn't told about it. I invoiced Dick for what we had agreed on, and he didn't pay it. I sent a reminder when it was 2 weeks overdue and he ignored it. I hadn't even tried to charge for all the extra work involved, or the cost of the plugins, or for entering all of the products despite that not being quoted for.

A few days ago I received an e-newsletter about a new site that seemed familiar, but I couldn't remember why I would have subscribed to the mailing list. I clicked through and remembered that it was another job I'd quoted on for Dick. He's had someone else do it. That's fine by me, as far as I'm concerned that confirms that he is no longer a client and all bets are off.

So now what?

I just sent him the following email:


You have chosen not to pay the overdue invoice, despite me being incredibly reasonable and sticking to the amount we discussed. I had not charged for the many extra months of work that was involved, or for the cost of the plugins and templates which I paid for myself, or for entering all of the products into the site - which was not even included in the original quote.

The site was quoted as a Wordpress / WooCommerce site. The change to Magento rendered that quote irrelevant and yet I still made the effort to stick to that price.

That offer is now closed.

It was your choice to open the door between the client and myself, and to allow them to deal directly with me on their numerous changes and modifications, so I shall be invoicing them directly (as you had me do with Client 1) for the full amount due, which is $5,500. Even at that price, the site they received is way below market value.  Obviously I don't know what you have already charged them.

I shall explain to them my reasons for doing so and I will make it clear that I shall be actively pursuing the amount due.

If you would prefer I invoice you for the full amount rather than the client, please let me know but I shall do so only on the condition that it be paid immediately.


This should be interesting…