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Screwed over by client, what to do?

polycounter lvl 7
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Deforges polycounter lvl 7
Hey guys,

I was approached to do some textures for a guy recently. Looking back, there was some pretty obvious warning signs, I still don't even know the name of the project this was supposed to be for, if it even exists.

He now pulled out of the project because I didn't reach a deadline and feigned some emotions so he could get out of paying me for what I've done. This is obviously a fuck up on my part for not being safe enough but it's left me with a few questions.


Do you guys secure half payment before you start working? And how would you take payment? (I'm guessing paypal?)

Any help would be really appreciated. I definitely don't want this to happen again.

Replies

  • garcellano
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    garcellano greentooth
    Damn, sorry to hear about that.

    As far as payments, yeah, in the past I'd have half the payment before I start, and the other half when I finish or once they approve it. I've used mainly Paypal, too.
  • MagicSugar
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    MagicSugar polycounter lvl 10
    Deforges wrote: »
    Any help would be really appreciated. I definitely don't want this to happen again.

    Sometimes, I ask for full payment before release of assets. I'll send proof of completion then tell 'em I'll email the download link soon as I have the payment.

    But I don't do this all the time. During negotiation stage you can have an idea of a client's trustworthiness via background online research or their reaction to your suggestion of: upfront payment or deposit, payment via milestone, how soon can they pay. If they hesitate, that's a flag for me so I'll try to negotiate payment upfront first. Never negotiate from a desperate position.

    My last gig I even did a paid test but told the client he could only pay me if he likes what I did. I only did that cuz I felt while communicating with the guy that he can be trusted to pay.

    So for the full project I forwarded the finished work before even receiving the closing payment.

    Live and learn from experience.
  • low odor
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    low odor polycounter lvl 13
    So you missed a deadline and he didn't pay you?

    what did your contract say as far as severing your agreement. Did it say that he would pay you for any work done, or just completed work?

    I usually go by the trust your gut rule. If someone seems shaky or shady ask them for a deposit....
  • Eric Chadwick
    Yep, good advice in here. Sorry to hear about this. We've all been there though, so you;re not alone. One of the hazards of doing business.

    I personally avoid PayPal since they chop off 2.9% plus $.30 (or something like that). I get either direct wire transfer, or barring that a personal check if they seem trustworthy.

    We have some more advice here.
    http://wiki.polycount.com/wiki/Freelance#Payment

    Did you sign a contract with them, spelling out responsibilities for both sides? If you did, and the missing payment is more than $500, you may want to file a claim with the court system in the contract.

    Usually though for single contractors, the court system ends up being a waste of time and money. You just don't have the resources to deal with something like this, usually. Better to be careful with clients up front, as others have said above.
  • Deforges
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    Deforges polycounter lvl 7
    MagicSugar wrote: »
    Sometimes, I ask for full payment before release of assets. I'll send proof of completion then tell 'em I'll email the download link soon as I have the payment.

    But I don't do this all the time. During negotiation stage you can have an idea of a client's trustworthiness via background online research or their reaction to your suggestion of: upfront payment or deposit, payment via milestone, how soon can they pay. If they hesitate, that's a flag for me so I'll try to negotiate payment upfront first. Never negotiate from a desperate position.

    My last gig I even did a paid test but told the client he could only pay me if he likes what I did. I only did that cuz I felt while communicating with the guy that he can be trusted to pay.

    So for the full project I forwarded the finished work before even receiving the closing payment.

    Live and learn from experience.


    Thanks, this seems to best thing to do. The thing was there was no contract; another mistake of mine. I think I'll just finish up what I'm working on and release it for free on here someone hopefully someone can make use of it.
  • kanga
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    kanga sublime tool
    For clients that are new, or not nonregular, you can request a percentage up front. What works a bit better is sending watermarked shots of whatever it is and request payment on work done. That way everyone feels like they are getting something. If it is a big job request payment by stage, or delivered parts, that way you dont invest too much into something that might not pan out. The size of the company or studio and the notoriety make little difference, I think once you have a real working relationship then normal billing is ok.

    I would never send work to strangers and hope they will pay. As someone already said, send a preview and release the product when the money is in the bank.
  • RN
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    RN sublime tool
    kanga wrote: »
    I would never send work to strangers and hope they will pay. As someone already said, send a preview and release the product when the money is in the bank.
    But then you have already spent the time working on the product. For an unknown client, if you finish the piece and they refuse to pay you (even if you didn't send it to them), you're the only one losing.

    Requiring 50% upfront from new clients is a way to ensure that if they cancel or go missing etc. at some point later, your time working on that piece has at least some return for you.
    Additionally, once they pay that upfront value they are more likely to deal with you to the end -- they have invested part of their money in something. Making a deposit is a strong trust statement.
    It'd make it too convenient for them to back out if they hadn't invested anything.
  • kanga
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    kanga sublime tool
    Yeah 50% up front is better if you can get it. However a lot of jobs can be broken up into parts, like an animation series or a character design. If they dont go for the 50% you could always send a watermarked sketch or say a few watermarked small animations. Give the prospective client something, but nothing they can use. If they wont pay then move on.
  • Goeddy
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    Goeddy greentooth
    Deforges wrote: »
    Thanks, this seems to best thing to do. The thing was there was no contract; another mistake of mine. I think I'll just finish up what I'm working on and release it for free on here someone hopefully someone can make use of it.

    if he didnt pay you, i dont think theres anything stopping you from just putting it up on turbosquid or on the unity asset store. you might get atleast some money for your effort.
  • Playdo
    But a lot of companies use a Net 30 payment system, which prevents payment on delivery. Any advice on how to get around this?
  • Rurouni Strife
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    Rurouni Strife polycounter lvl 10
    Always always always use a contract with individual clients, or some larger clients that don't have paperwork of their own. Never start work without a signed contract. Within that contract, you need to stipulate the terms in the event something like this happens. Yea sure, your client could just ignore it but then at least you have a signed document that in court should holdup.

    Although I should say, exceptions can be made for client tests. I spent time doing work for a prospective client last year and it turned out quite good, but he decided to go in a different direction. I knew I was testing to try and get his business. It happens. I wouldn't have done anything differently.

    Secondly, missing a date happens sometimes. I communicate with my clients regularly so they know if there's a chance of me missing a date. If an understanding can't be reached, then I end up paying the price. It's fair in my eyes. I've had to drop out of jobs and do a partial refund before due to just having too much on my plate. It sucked, but it was all I could do at the time.

    To answer a few other questions-I'll usually take a certain % up front if it's a non regular. I usually don't go as large as 50%, I tend to start at 20% or so. It depends on my schedule and the project duration. I also actually will go the PayPal route. It's easier for international clients and is speedy. Bank transfers take a while. Also, I write the PayPal fees off of my taxes.

    Getting around a Net 30 for companies doesn't really happen, at least for me. If it's a company,its usually part of their business practice. If you're close with the company you can try to work something out with them but definitely no promises. Sometimes you're lucky and you get paid faster. Or, you can be kind of screwed like I was last year and get paid 2 months late. That was a fun time.
  • skyline5gtr
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    skyline5gtr polycounter lvl 5
    All the above advise is good, just live and learn son
  • MagicSugar
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    MagicSugar polycounter lvl 10
    Playdo wrote: »
    But a lot of companies use a Net 30 payment system, which prevents payment on delivery. Any advice on how to get around this?

    For late payments after invoice I just email a professionally written reminder every 15 days. Nag 'em till they bleed :) But seriously, ideally you'll have multiple projects going so you're not waiting and depending on one payday.
  • Playdo
    Getting around a Net 30 for companies doesn't really happen, at least for me.
    MagicSugar wrote: »
    For late payments after invoice I just email a professionally written reminder every 15 days.
    I wanted to know how you can protect yourself from not being payed, if their system does not do payment on delivery. It seems like a case of getting a deposit and then risking the remainder. But maybe there are other solutions, or that companies will actually pay on delivery if necessary?
  • battlecow
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    battlecow polycounter lvl 9
    Not reaching a deadline and not making a contract are the cardinal sins of freelance. Learn and grow!
    It sucks for you and I feel for ya, I've been screwed quite a few times too :)

    State in your contract that your work might only be used when fully paid, it should cover you, you can sue the hell out of them if they do (provided they live in your country I guess)

    Never work for free or for a "test" (unless its a friend), you don't ask your dentist to treat you for free the first time to see how he works do you?

    When you give a deadline to a client always add a few days to what you have estimated, underpromise to overdeliver. Being late will lose you clients, you will be seen as unreliable and your clients won't recommend you to their friends. Companies have tight shedules and often if they rely on freelancers, people in the company will organise themselves around the freelancers deadlines.

    Read the article about it from Jon Jones, it has all the information you need.
    And watch the "fuck you pay me video" to pump you up before you negociate with a new client :)
  • kanga
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    kanga sublime tool
    Always always always use a contract with individual clients, or some larger clients that don't have paperwork of their own. Never start work without a signed contract.
    A contract is only as good as your ability to defend it in court. To take a client to court is expensive and time consuming and people who know this rely on your inability to back up a contract. At least this is the case in Europe. Debt collectors on the other hand can be very effective, shop to get the best deal. Best to email a quote and request a confirmed return with a contract attached. You can ask for confirmation of the brief including fees deliverables and delivery dates plus delivery formats and include that confirmation includes acceptance of the contract you sent with the mail.
    But a lot of companies use a Net 30 payment system, which prevents payment on delivery. Any advice on how to get around this?
    I have a 14 day payment limit so where does that leave us? A company or a studio can have a year payment policy if they want, you dont have to work for them. Before you start work make sure the company has agreed to the email you sent. Agreement is just that though, in itself it means little especially if a client intends not to pay you from the very outset. To counter that the only way to be completely sure you have the very best chance to get paid is to hold off on delivery until you have the money. On big jobs get paid in stages (if you are lucky enough to get a big job). Having a commission is great but you dont have to so thankful for it that you will provide it for free. There are a lot of sharks out there who think this is the case.

    If there are clients who wont pay the way you would like then look for other clients. That sounds more arrogant than it is because finding good clients is HARD unless you have a foot in the door via networking, which is preferable but not always possible.
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