Help! my client is asking for refund or may sue for a website i built

by WebJen
18 replies
  • WEB DESIGN
  • |
Hi, i need advice and while i realize this question may need to be asked to a lawyer instead of a web designer/developer, this is quicker for me.

I work on elance as a freelancer. My client wanted a website and had an example website for me to go by, functionality wise. The site includes advanced games and text to speech api's integrated in. This website has had numerous changes and taken months longer than my originally quoted timeline to the client because of all the constant and what i believe to be excessive changes. It is 90% complete. She has a rather large milestone left that she has not funded to elance yet so i dont feel comfortable starring in it, but she says i have 1 week to finish a very long and complicated list of changes she sent. And if i don't, then she wants a refund for the entire website. I dont have that money as ive spent it all and more on her project. Even the last milestone, when funded, will not even cover all the costs involved as many of the features she wants are very costly and tume consuming.

Any advice? I feel very trapped by this project and beyond stressed out. I already owe developers for work theyve done and she wont pay me ao i cant pay them.
#built #client #refund #sue #website
  • Profile picture of the author fantrom
    Most of your headaches could have been solved with a solid contract.

    Better Contracts = Less Headaches

    Did you have one in place before the web project started?

    What did it specify as far as payment and milestones?
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10176786].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author WebJen
    Just the contract provided by elance. Does that count? There were 4 milestones and the last milestone is when its fully completed. She briefly outlined and as we created more and more of the graphics and games , shes asked for numerous completely different changes than expected and extra that werent mentions to begin with. Milestone 1 was create and choose design mockup, 2 was convert mockup to css and html, 3 was create 8 games,4 was testing phase and final delivery.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10176827].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author Cali16
      Originally Posted by WebJen View Post

      Just the contract provided by elance. Does that count? There were 4 milestones and the last milestone is when its fully completed. She briefly outlined and as we created more and more of the graphics and games ,shes asked for numerous completely different changes than expected and extra that werent mentions to begin with. Milestone 1 was create and choose design mockup, 2 was convert mockup to css and html, 3 was create 8 games,4 was testing phase and final delivery.
      WebJen, I'm sorry to hear this happened to you.

      It sounds like the problem started with your client only "briefly outlining" what she wanted when you agreed to take on the project. She's been clarifying what she wants as the project has progressed, when all of that really should have been clarified at the beginning.

      That being said, once the mockup was done and agreed upon, then multiple changes shouldn't have been allowed after that, correct? That's the point of mockups - to make sure the client is happy before proceeding.

      It's hard to say who's at fault here. While she may have completely unrealistic expectations, if you took on a vaguely outlined project then you may be obligated to see it through (very tough lesson to learn). It sounds like she didn't really know what she wanted and is taking advantage of you, and that's created significant problems for you.

      I would contact Elance for some guidance in terms of resolving this. Having an attorney review your original contract and correspondence with your client may be necessary as well. I'm not an attorney, but I'm pretty sure the Elance contract is binding. However, if it's vague (and allows for all these changes) then you may be stuck.

      For future reference, never agree upon a project (especally one as involved as this one seems to be) where the client has only "briefly outlined" what they want before you start. Or only agree to do them as hourly projects, and make it clear that multiple changes will result in additional hours billed.
      Signature
      If you don't face your fears, the only thing you'll ever see is what's in your comfort zone. ~Anne McClain, astronaut
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10176883].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author WebJen
        Originally Posted by Cali16 View Post

        WebJen, I'm sorry to hear this happened to you.

        It sounds like the problem started with your client only "briefly outlining" what she wanted when you agreed to take on the project. She's been clarifying what she wants as the project has progressed, when all of that really should have been clarified at the beginning.

        That being said, once the mockup was done and agreed upon, then multiple changes shouldn't have been allowed after that, correct? That's the point of mockups - to make sure the client is happy before proceeding.

        It's hard to say who's at fault here. While she may have completely unrealistic expectations, if you took on a vaguely outlined project then you may be obligated to see it through (very tough lesson to learn). It sounds like she didn't really know what she wanted and is taking advantage of you, and that's created significant problems for you.

        I would contact Elance for some guidance in terms of resolving this. Having an attorney review your original contract and correspondence with your client may be necessary as well. I'm not an attorney, but I'm pretty sure the Elance contract is binding. However, if it's vague (and allows for all these changes) then you may be stuck.

        For future reference, never agree upon a project (especally one as involved as this one seems to be) where the client has only "briefly outlined" what they want before you start. Or only agree to do them as hourly projects, and make it clear that multiple changes will result in additional hours billed.
        Thank you for the awesome advice. I will contact elanceand ask for guidance as well. And yes this is a hard lesson learned.
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10176906].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author laurencewins
    Never do a job until the client has fully funded the fees into escrow. That is the financial security. Also don't deal with the person outside of elance so you have a history. As you want more money, you need to ask for it and give the reasons and see what is said. As for them asking for a refund or they will sue you is ridiculous but don't let them intimidate you.
    Signature

    Cheers, Laurence. Read my Warriors for Hire ad.
    Writer/Editor/Proofreader. Place orders.

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10177301].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author WebJen
      Originally Posted by laurencewins View Post

      Never do a job until the client has fully funded the fees into escrow. That is the financial security. Also don't deal with the person outside of elance so you have a history. As you want more money, you need to ask for it and give the reasons and see what is said. As for them asking for a refund or they will sue you is ridiculous but don't let them intimidate you.
      Thanks for the advice. I've already asked for extra money and have been turned down many times and all im asking her now is to fund the final milestone because i cant keep sinking time and money into it without it even being funded to elance escrow. She denies that, so i think today i will contact elance and ask for advice.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10177684].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Himanshu1988
    I think you where not clear about the work & the time it will consume. Also you ignored to get all the details & send your bid because you wanted that project. I usually avoid such projects for which I don't have a clear vision.

    The best you can do in this situation is first talk with her. (on skype or any other IM) and explain everything. Tell her that even you need to spend the money in order to build that website & that you will be in loss if she don't pay. Again talk with her and no email / message. Chances are she will understand your situation.

    Good luck.



    Originally Posted by WebJen View Post

    Hi, i need advice and while i realize this question may need to be asked to a lawyer instead of a web designer/developer, this is quicker for me.

    I work on elance as a freelancer. My client wanted a website and had an example website for me to go by, functionality wise. The site includes advanced games and text to speech api's integrated in. This website has had numerous changes and taken months longer than my originally quoted timeline to the client because of all the constant and what i believe to be excessive changes. It is 90% complete. She has a rather large milestone left that she has not funded to elance yet so i dont feel comfortable starring in it, but she says i have 1 week to finish a very long and complicated list of changes she sent. And if i don't, then she wants a refund for the entire website. I dont have that money as ive spent it all and more on her project. Even the last milestone, when funded, will not even cover all the costs involved as many of the features she wants are very costly and tume consuming.

    Any advice? I feel very trapped by this project and beyond stressed out. I already owe developers for work theyve done and she wont pay me ao i cant pay them.
    Signature

    Web Design | SEO | WordPress | Mobile App @ ZOTO Solutions

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10177999].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author WebJen
      Originally Posted by Himanshu1988 View Post

      I think you where not clear about the work & the time it will consume. Also you ignored to get all the details & send your bid because you wanted that project. I usually avoid such projects for which I don't have a clear vision.

      The best you can do in this situation is first talk with her. (on skype or any other IM) and explain everything. Tell her that even you need to spend the money in order to build that website & that you will be in loss if she don't pay. Again talk with her and no email / message. Chances are she will understand your situation.

      Good luck.
      Thank you, and you right. I totally wanted the job so i grabbed it and quoted as best as possible , closest to other peoples bids but on the higher end. And actually i already tried that. I sent her a very long heartfelt letter full of complete honestly baring all, even including all the skype conversations ive had with over 4 developers daily to show how much time and guidance i gave to them and how much its been costing me,plus all the design and development and graphic changes ive done myself on top of learning some javascrjot myself
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10178037].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author Himanshu1988
        In that case only elance can help. But to the best of my knowledge usually freelancing websites (including elance) will take her side. They need buyer & they don't want to loose one customer. Just take this as a lesson & avoid such things in future.

        Originally Posted by WebJen View Post

        Thank you, and you right. I totally wanted the job so i grabbed it and quoted as best as possible , closest to other peoples bids but on the higher end. And actually i already tried that. I sent her a very long heartfelt letter full of complete honestly baring all, even including all the skype conversations ive had with over 4 developers daily to show how much time and guidance i gave to them and how much its been costing me,plus all the design and development and graphic changes ive done myself on top of learning some javascrjot myself
        Signature

        Web Design | SEO | WordPress | Mobile App @ ZOTO Solutions

        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10178392].message }}
  • {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10178341].message }}
  • You are pretty much screwed. When she complains to elance, elance will refund her and pull anything in your elance account out to cover it. If there is not enough, you next deposits will go to pay it off.

    Sounds like you may have messed up in the beginning not clearly defining the scope of the project with additional hourly charges that will apply if she goes beyond the original scope.

    Not much you can do now. Meet her demands or refund the money and wash you hands and keep all the files.. Do nothing and elance will do it for you. That is about it. When elance gets involved, state you case well if they give the opportunity. There is a very slim chance they may side with you.

    If you refund the money and keep the files, you have the option to sell what you have made to somebody else...

    P.S. I always state "up to 2 revisions allowed". Additional revisions will be $x per hour in all my contracts.
    Signature
    Premium WooCommerce & WordPress Plugins $10/ea. or FREE With Membership. PluginForage.com
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10178454].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author WebJen
      Originally Posted by totalprocessing.net View Post

      You are pretty much screwed. When she complains to elance, elance will refund her and pull anything in your elance account out to cover it. If there is not enough, you next deposits will go to pay it off.

      Sounds like you may have messed up in the beginning not clearly defining the scope of the project with additional hourly charges that will apply if she goes beyond the original scope.

      Not much you can do now. Meet her demands or refund the money and wash you hands and keep all the files.. Do nothing and elance will do it for you. That is about it. When elance gets involved, state you case well if they give the opportunity. There is a very slim chance they may side with you.

      If you refund the money and keep the files, you have the option to sell what you have made to somebody else...

      P.S. I always state "up to 2 revisions allowed". Additional revisions will be $x per hour in all my contracts.
      This is terrifying especially since i barely pocketed any of the money, i spent most of it all on developers yet ive done the majority of the work. I have no money in my bank. You're saying elance can snatch up what i dont even have? Or put us in the negative? If they tried then i would just have to shut down my elance account and banks because the debt would kill my family and i. We would have nothing and im 30 weeks pregnant with 4th child. I pray that this doesn't happen.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10178505].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author Cali16
        Originally Posted by WebJen View Post

        This is terrifying especially since i barely pocketed any of the money, i spent most of it all on developers yet ive done the majority of the work. I have no money in my bank. You're saying elance can snatch up what i dont even have? Or put us in the negative? If they tried then i would just have to shut down my elance account and banks because the debt would kill my family and i. We would have nothing and im 30 weeks pregnant with 4th child. I pray that this doesn't happen.
        WebJen, I wouldn't assume the worst just yet. Contact Elance first and explain the situation. Also, if we're talking thousands of dollars here, I'd recommend consulting with an attorney (most will provide a free consult to give you at least some idea regarding your options) as well.

        Someone from Elance can look at the project agreement as well as the correspondence between you and the client - all of which should be in your work history.

        This may be a case in which a simple letter from an attorney will be enough to get your client to either back off or reconsider her expectations, or to agree to terminate the project with you (without demanding a refund) and taking what you've started and finding someone else to finish it. Granted, that may cost you at least $200 or $300 (depending on your attorney's fees). But it may be worth it at this point.

        The down side of not refunding her is that she will be allowed to leave negative feedback for you. If she does, then leave a response (which you can do to feedback) and clarify your side of the story, but in a very professional manner (i.e. keep your emotions in check and don't badmouth the client). Almost every freelancer runs into that "client from hell" at some point in time.

        One other thing, be sure to check the client's history. If she's used other freelancers in the past, look to see if any of them left negative feedback for her. That could give you some leverage in terms of establishing a pattern or her being difficult to work with. And in the future, always check a prospective client's feedback history (both the feedback they've left and the feedback that's been left for them) before taking on a job.

        Hang in there! Don't assume the worst right now. Try contacting Elance and then consult with an attorney.
        Signature
        If you don't face your fears, the only thing you'll ever see is what's in your comfort zone. ~Anne McClain, astronaut
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10178519].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author WebJen
          Just to give yall an update. I called elance and was told since the clients last payment was made way back in may that she cant get a refund and that i should not do anymore work unless she funds the final milestone. And if she doesn't fund it, then she said to mark the job as complete and if she leaves bad feedback i can contact elance again to show proof of her threatening bad feedback and therefore possibly get it removed. I feel much better about this now, as long as she doesnt sue me. And as for the $860 i owe the developers for work they've done, i dont want to just leave them unpaid so i guess ill try to pay them a little something out of my own pocket each week and remove all those parts from her website that she didnt pay for unless she decides to pay. Does that sound like a good plan? Thank you all for your help!
          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10181474].message }}
          • Profile picture of the author alvinchua91
            Originally Posted by WebJen View Post

            Just to give yall an update. I called elance and was told since the clients last payment was made way back in may that she cant get a refund and that i should not do anymore work unless she funds the final milestone. And if she doesn't fund it, then she said to mark the job as complete and if she leaves bad feedback i can contact elance again to show proof of her threatening bad feedback and therefore possibly get it removed. I feel much better about this now, as long as she doesnt sue me. And as for the $860 i owe the developers for work they've done, i dont want to just leave them unpaid so i guess ill try to pay them a little something out of my own pocket each week and remove all those parts from her website that she didnt pay for unless she decides to pay. Does that sound like a good plan? Thank you all for your help!
            Ok great, yes at least Elance's reply sounds reasonable.

            Don't worry, chances are, if she's arguing over 3 to 4 digits, she won't sue you - the cost of hiring a lawyer to sue you would cost more than that. She's just trying to intimidate you.

            I'm not so sure about the removing part.. only if the parts that you intend to remove are related to what she has not yet paid for then you should do it. If you intend to remove parts which are written in the contract that she has already paid for in her first payment, then removing it can get you into trouble.
            {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10183126].message }}
            • Profile picture of the author WebJen
              Originally Posted by alvinchua91 View Post

              Ok great, yes at least Elance's reply sounds reasonable.

              Don't worry, chances are, if she's arguing over 3 to 4 digits, she won't sue you - the cost of hiring a lawyer to sue you would cost more than that. She's just trying to intimidate you.

              I'm not so sure about the removing part.. only if the parts that you intend to remove are related to what she has not yet paid for then you should do it. If you intend to remove parts which are written in the contract that she has already paid for in her first payment, then removing it can get you into trouble.
              Thanks and the amount she paid was 4585. The last milestone she didnt release or fund was 1485 and i would only be removing the work that she didnt pay for which was $860 worth of work that was supposed to come from the last milestone. Thanks!
              {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10183483].message }}

Trending Topics