Ethical Question w/ a Former Client

by kk075
8 replies
To make a long story short, I had a client a few years back that had me sign an NDA since he was outsourcing the work to me from a much larger company. The company believed that he was writing 100% of the text and I was fine with that; it was a fun assignment that paid fairly well. It definitely wasn't easy though; these were email responders on very specific information that required some research and a good bit of creativity.

Anyway, we worked together for several months and everything went great. But then the company decided to cut him back due to a stock of plenty of content, and they reduced the payout for the assignment by around 65%. So at that point, my client went back to writing these himself for several months, but then he got behind and asked me to write 3 of them as a favor for $600 total. I went ahead and did it....and then he never paid me. At first, it was excuses that he forgot or whatever, but he eventually just ignored me completely.

So here's my question- the "NDA" was not to approach his client for work for two years from our original agreement...which has now passed. Should I be a jerk and contact this company to get paid, knowing that it will likely cost my former client his relationship with them? Or should I just eat the $600 and be the bigger person here, even though I'm clearly in the right?

I'm interested in what others will have to say on this since it's more of an ethical call than anything. I personally don't think I can screw someone over just because they did it to me, but I've since learned that this client has a history of doing this to others. So do I "serve justice" here or "pay it forward" and take the loss?
#client #ethical #question #w or
  • Profile picture of the author splitTest
    Originally Posted by kk075 View Post

    Should I be a jerk and contact this company to get paid, knowing that it will likely cost my former client his relationship with them? Or should I just eat the $600 and be the bigger person here, even though I'm clearly in the right?
    Sorry to hear about this. It's hard enough to make a living as a freelance writer without people like that...

    I'm pretty sure the end-client owes you exactly nothing. On the other hand, maybe you can approach it from a "rights" standpoint -- in that the content doesn't really belong to the middleman until he pays for it... thus the end-client company doesn't really have rights to it either... But collecting $$ that way is obviously a stretch...

    ...Or -- if you just want vengeance -- you can inform the client co. of the jerky guy's lowlife way of operating... warning them that if he jerked you, he might jerk them too... while reminding them that they don't really have rights to the content, "but go ahead and use it anyway with my blessings". If you have proof of your case, you might even be able to finagle this approach into direct work from the client...

    And of course, you could publish the guy's name, pic, website, email address on the internet far and wide, so that other writers aren't taken... Especially if this is his known m.o.... But then going that far might invite retribution.
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      Your reason for contacting the company would be to "out" this person - the company didn't hire you and owes you nothing. You say this company had no idea you were doing some of the work.

      This would be a vindictive move clearly meant to cause problems for the former client (if he still works for the company). My experience is being vindictive is like being jealous, envious or greedy. Too often the person who ends up covered in 'slime' is the one who is "right".

      Not easy to walk away - but sometimes it's the best thing to do.
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      • Profile picture of the author splitTest
        Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

        This would be a vindictive move clearly meant to cause problems for the former client (if he still works for the company). My experience is being vindictive is like being jealous, envious or greedy. Too often the person who ends up covered in 'slime' is the one who is "right".

        Not easy to walk away - but sometimes it's the best thing to do.
        Wise words. But personally I hate the feeling of impotence that comes with allowing someone to screw you over... let alone get away with making it their de facto business model ... so I understand the O.P.'s dilemma.

        Might be worth it to at least try to get direct work from the end-client, based on the good work you've done for the middleman...
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      • Profile picture of the author kk075
        Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

        Your reason for contacting the company would be to "out" this person - the company didn't hire you and owes you nothing. You say this company had no idea you were doing some of the work.

        This would be a vindictive move clearly meant to cause problems for the former client (if he still works for the company). My experience is being vindictive is like being jealous, envious or greedy. Too often the person who ends up covered in 'slime' is the one who is "right".

        Not easy to walk away - but sometimes it's the best thing to do.
        Like I said, I'm personally not going to reach out to the company, but I thought it was an interesting topic for us to discuss. We all get stiffed at times and take different approaches towards dealing with it.

        Originally Posted by ThePromotionalGuy View Post

        No need to approach his client. You just paid $600 to approach his client's competition with copy writing experience.
        That's sound enough advice and makes complete sense, but I didn't really do this last batch of writing for the job opportunity. It was more just to bail him out of a bad situation since I stay fairly booked up time wise. But you're absolutely right, every job is a learning experience and an opportunity to gain insights.
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  • Profile picture of the author trobo
    Of course you're free to use your own judgement in this situation, and all we can do is give advice based on "putting ourselves in your shoes" so to speak.

    But, the way I look at it, if this guy is doing this to a lot of other folks, then I honestly wouldn't lose any sleep by whatever problems I caused him by simply telling the truth. I think it would at least give me some satisfaction.

    And since the NDA has run out, you might as well let the company know that there's plenty more great content where the other stuff came from.
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    • Here is what your client didn't consider.

      You now have specific knowledge of:
      1. his client's content
      2. his client's audience
      3. his client's industry
      4. his client's marketing
      5. his client's requirements reaching end viewers and users
      6. very specific research knowledge and practical experience required to produce acceptable content for a large company
      You know a little bit more about his client than he realizes.

      Knowing his client isn't the only game in town, in that specific industry, your specific knowledge can be used as a marketing tool to promote your service(s).

      Simply put: You have insider marketing information about an industry, that can open doors to other clients in that industry.

      No need to approach his client. You just paid $600 to approach his client's competition with copy writing experience.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jack Gordon
    If you don't need that $600 to eat, and it doesn't seem like you would, then I share this thought with you...

    How many times over the years have you gambled more than $600 on something that bombed, fizzled, turned on you or was just a plain scam?

    While I would like to think I have learned valuable lessons and made fewer mistakes over the years, I can certainly count on more than one hand's-worth of fingers the times I have lost at least that much on things I had regretted doing.

    I am a hell of a lot smarter for the things I know not to do again though.
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  • Profile picture of the author obaynes
    Maybe I'm an alien or a pod person or something, but I have no idea why you would consider protecting the career of someone who ripped you off for $600. But from your description I'm also not understanding how the company would be obligated to make you whole.

    If going to the company does get you your money somehow, though, I'd do it and never lose a second of sleep about it. Why protect someone who uses other people like that?
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