How do I tell this guy he needs to pay more?

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by maclover001, May 13, 2009.

  1. maclover001 macrumors 6502a


    Mar 25, 2008
    Vancouver, Canada
    I'll start from the beginning. I posted an ad on Craigslist saying "I'll build you a website for $100". I'm young and want to build a portfolio so I can charge more in the future.

    This guy emails me and asks if I can set up a site where people in Vancouver (our city) can write about themselves and people can respond anonymously, get to know each other, and eventually meet. I replied and said I could, thinking that an installation of phpBB with a bit of code-tweaking could get the job done. He gives me his ideas, color scheme, logo, etc. I install phpBB on to his hosting account, did some code-modding to add things such as gender/age under the username, and photo album pages (took about two days). He says he likes it. Then he says he wants built-in blog support. Okay, get WordPress, do some more code-monkeying to integrate them. Done. Now he wants "registration boxes on the front page like Facebook", a dice-roller to see a random post, and somehow, somewhere in the mix, "Vancouver" became "Worldwide". Yup, gotta change all the Vancouver neighborhood forum categories to over 25,000 (?) counties, cities, and neighborhoods. :rolleyes:

    Not finished just yet, he wants Facebook and Twitter integration :rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:

    My point is, this is definitely not the $100 project it once was, how do I tell this guy to owe up?
    I can't just dump him, I've put weeks into this now-wasted project and want at least something for my time. (He has payed nothing yet)

  2. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    well you did advertise it at 100

    has he paid? if so, just stop working on it if he doesnt want to pay
  3. maclover001 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Mar 25, 2008
    Vancouver, Canada
    True, but his initial description was worth $100, the end result is probably more like $1200.

    Maybe this is one of those facts of life I need to face, but if I just stop working on it, thats like hours a day for a month wasted.
  4. SelfMadeCelo macrumors regular


    Sep 9, 2008
    Tulare, CA
    Just my two cents:

    This is a sucky situation to be in. For future jobs I would definitely create some guidelines as to what the $100 website includes. Maybe a simple template with a couple pages and a few updates down the line. That way the person on the other end doesn't expect you to create the next big thing. But anyways...

    I would sit him down and let him know that the amount of work he's asking for at that price isn't going to happen. Try to find a quote for a site like that and show him what professionals (Not that your work isn't professional I just mean people who have been in the business for a long time) are charging. Let him know the amount of time you've spent working on it. If you spent 40 hours over the past couple weeks and only get paid $100, you just made $2.50/hr. I don't think anybody, even a novice, is worth $2.50/hr and I can bet the end result will be a lot more than $1,200.

    Personally, I would leave the site as it is now and just take the loss. Sure you spent a lot of time on it for little to no money but at least you have an addition to your portfolio and you learned to always let people know what they get for the price. Let him know you can't do anymore unless he pays more, if he says no, so be it. Leave it as is and don't offer support. Down the line I can see him asking to fix things here and there and include it with the initial $100.

    Anyways, good luck. Let us know what happens. Hopefully everything works out and you both end up happy in the end...
  5. Ttownbeast macrumors 65816

    May 10, 2009
    Good thing he didn't ask for more from the start and you're lucky you got the c note. As an artist I always underbid on commissions I always offered my design services for a reasonable fee which undercut the competition , but made sure to get half the money upfront so there was no waste of my time and I at least recover cost for time and materials used should the client suffer from buyers remorse. It also works out good for you if you have a policy which details the price structure upfront should there be extras added--always make sure the clients are aware of these from the start. Even starting out never seem desperate or cheap bastards will always try to take advantage of you, that's why 4 years later I still run a business(not a profitable one), but don't make more than a couple hundred a year doing it and hold a regular 9 to 5 to cover the bills, I think eventually the quality will win out though. Running a business is very hard work and sometimes in order to get through life those dreams have to be left on the back burner to simmer while you get your crap together.
  6. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    May 19, 2002
    Not really, you got some experience, and something for your portfolio.

    If the site isn't finished and he hasn't paid, tell him he cannot use the code.

    Just because you haven't finished it or been paid, doesn't mean you cannot show it to others.

    If he wants the site finished, tell him the $100 introductory offer is over. You only expected at most 20 hours of time, and you have spent way more than that for the changes.

    Offer to sell him the current site for $250-500 if he wants to take it to someone else to finish. Especially if you think he isn't going to pay anything else.

    Or ask for $500 to finish the original 2-day site, and $500 for every 10 hours in changes or additions after that.
  7. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    you need to communicate to him that you advertised for $100, but his requirements are way beyond that.

    I'm a firm believer that no experience in life is wasted.

    You've learned to better outline details prior to a job starting and you also got more experience building a site and working with a client.

    Ask him to pay the $100 and explain anything more will cost additional.

    Never, ever undersell yourself. Value your time.
  8. gotzero macrumors 68040

    Jan 6, 2007
    Mid-Atlantic, US
    The time was not wasted. You learned how to integrate some code together, and you learned that you need to get paid upfront and also have guidelines/contracts.

    Tell him he owes $100 now plus a negotiated fee for each additional request. If he knows nothing about computers, he probably does not know how much work it is.

    If he does not pay, dump him and take the lessons learned. ;)
  9. maclover001 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Mar 25, 2008
    Vancouver, Canada
    Thanks for the responses guys (girls?).

    I'll try and think of a nice but firm email to send him based on your opinions.
  10. notjustjay macrumors 603


    Sep 19, 2003
    Canada, eh?
    This is called "scope creep", and happens all too often. This is why in my line of work (software development for government clients) there's an awful lot of paperwork that happens long before a single line of code gets written, as people write down and review hundreds of pages of requirements documents. As a programmer I find this tedious, but it gives me the power to tell a customer or tester "no, I'm not going to do that, it's not in the requirements". If it's something the customer decides he really does want, then contracts get renegotiated, requirements documents get amended, and the cycle begins anew.

    I read maclover001's first post and alarm bells ring in my head when I see terms like "now he wants" and "next he's asking for". The way to handle this in the future is to define up-front what the client wants, estimate how many hours it will take you to do the job, make sure it's reasonable for the price being quoted, then deliver the work. You might agree that the price quoted includes, say, up to 2 hours of extra work doing tweaks and adjustments.

    If the client then says "great, but now I want", then you can stop him and say "I can do that, but that's beyond the scope of the original requirements, so let's agree on a price to do this additional work."
  11. wheelhot macrumors 68020

    Nov 23, 2007
    yup, I agree with what the others said, tell him that if he want all those stuffs added he need to pay more then $100, hmm next time maybe you can add website building at $100*, the asterisk is used to add your own T&C, so you can state like *includes basic web design, anything else will need to be discussed.

    Honestly, I hate when people pay you little and ask for more, I did photography for an event and eventhough I'm not getting paid a lot but for me the importance is experience, but what pissed me of when the person said, I should take more photos and that I'm inefficient! I'm like WTF, the event just last about 40-50 minutes, how much photos you want? 200? and its those kind of prize giving ceremony event, all the crowd is just staring at the speaker and take their prize, nothing much to take photo of rite? Furthermore, the time spend after the photographs also is not taken into account.
  12. iann1982 macrumors regular

    Jul 9, 2008
    Leicester, UK
    Can I just add my tuppance to this...

    I'm a web developer, about 5 years experience, mainly working for enterprise level clients but have done a fair bit of smaller stuff.

    The problem here is that you've set your price at $100, this guy values you as though your work is worth $100, from what you've posted, you've done far more than that.

    If I were you, I'd charge more, create some templates and some fixed rules as to what you get for say $250, anything else is extra. You might think it'll only take 2-3 days, but then add factor things in like sorting your taxes, equipment costs, broadband etc.

    It's not a race to the bottom, charge fairly for good work and you'll retain clients, people will always want more for less, but there's so many cowboys out there, I'm sure if you're delivering good work on time you'll do fine.
  13. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    Well in the future, describe what the $xyz amount will get them.

    "I always underbid on commissions" is your problem, that's why you are not profitable. You need to rethink your pricing.
  14. maclover001 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Mar 25, 2008
    Vancouver, Canada
    I'll tell him anything that isn't already done will face additional charges. If he refuses, I guess I'll just de-brand the site and add it to my portfolio as a failed project.

    He seems like a bit of a nutbar. If I don't reply to one of his "Add this and this and this and do this" emails within two hours, he will quote it, and send it again with "Have you received my email?" or "Please complete this ASAP" or "Please get back to me about the following message", then he starts bashing MobileMe for rejecting his messages and that I should start using Hotmail.

    After spending a day away from my inbox working on HIS project, I'll find 5 or 6 emails of him whining.

    Yup, I'm definitely going to charge more.

    Thanks for all your help guys.
  15. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    A learning experience, eh?!

    This comes under contract law.... and even though a signed contract doesn't exist, I believe a contract was entered into. You made an offer, it was accepted, a benefit was exchanged. The contract was not fulfilled (i.e. the website was not finished) so you may be out the $100. If your client wants to be sticky, they can claim that you didn't deliver the web-site, and therefore are not entitled to the $100. It may depend on what your initial e-mail exchange was. If there was an email exchange that listed what you would do - then that forms the basis of the contract. The client may ask for more to be added, but if you don't agree it doesn't get added to the contract. Do you still have the initial email exchange? Do you say you will build website (with no limitations), or do you say a "small" website (or something similar)?

    Your time was certainly not wasted. Besides all the code learning you've done, you have also learned....

    1) Specify what the $100 gets the client.
    2) Get a contract up-front. This can be as simple as an email exchange that lists what you will do for how much money, for small projects. For big projects get a signed contract.
    3) Now you get to research who owns the copyright on the code you wrote. Remember that Canadian law is different than American law.

    In a worst case scenario your client may threaten to sue you if you don't finish the website. If they do, I wouldn't sweat it. My understanding of Canadian law is that they have to show actual damages by your failure to finish the website. Since really all they can show is that the contract was not fulfilled, ie website not finished, all they can do is withhold payment.

    But, I'm not a lawyer... I am a professional photographer who has sat through several workshops by a lawyer on contract law for photographers and our obligations. I'm assuming writing code is covered by similar civil law.
  16. design-is macrumors 65816


    Oct 17, 2007
    London / U.K.
    I agree, if anything, overbid slightly (not much, just slightly) and then the client can have a happy surprise when you're efficient enough to come in under estimate.


    Back to topic, I agree with what others have said. Simply explain in a professional manor that the new features aren't within the original scope of the project and that they will cost an appropriate amount of money to implement on top of the work already completed. If he's reasonable and you explain it clearly, it will all work out fine. A plumber wouldn't build you a bathroom for £50 when you originally said you would give him £50 to fix your kitchen tap.

    If there is an honest misunderstanding, you can always offer a slight discount on usual rate as a goodwill gesture, but never lower it to the point where you aren't profitable.

  17. Ttownbeast macrumors 65816

    May 10, 2009
    I never lost money either, If a commission fell through I at least recovered my costs for materials and labor. Underbidding is not always a bad thing if you know how to set up the contract to guarantee you won't totally lose in the deal. Many artists place too high of a value on their skills and lose in this market as a result because they do not understand that the services they offer are a luxury more than a necessity there is little demand for luxury items in this economy right now and many very talented artist lack that proper business sense because they believe they will be the next Picasso or Rembrandt.

    Picasso was a poor womanizing starving idiot who really did not get much for his works though many were brilliant when he was alive and by the time he was alive the renaissance had been over for centuries. There are no longer very many rich patrons willing to spend for a commission on such luxury and his works really did not gain the millions in value till after his death. Rembrandt was one of the last from that particular era making a decent living as an employed artist--he was very well known for his detailed work on human anatomy.

    Most artist these days romanticize the old ideal inappropriately--they don't understand that the way to be a successful artist these days is to give up the notion that they will create one great work and make millions.

    I don't lack the business sense I understand I have to create a competitive product of good quality and be able to work in some small amount of quantity that appeals not only aesthetically but financially to the client--if that means I design a tattoo for somebody they can take to their local ink shop I get paid 25 bucks for the flash work and put the details of the copyright in writing with the client so that no other duplicates beyond the one ink to skin can be made without my express permission some tattoists won't touch my work because they only see the money in mass producing copies of the same flash those kinds of shops don't seem to stand the test of time either. I don't specialize in flash but it is a decent way of gaining clients for anywhere from 5 minutes to 3 hours of work sometimes with just a pen and paper.

    If they are satisfied with it they get the tat done by a guy they trust and come back to see me for more unique designs at the same reasonable rate rather than pick some mass produced crap from the wall that might find itself on 100 peoples bodies. I will always underbid if it means I get the contract, break even, manage to come out of it with clients and free word of mouth advertising I have gained a small amount of success. Cash profit does not always equate to a successful business and at least I am not losing my shirt while I gain clients.
  18. belvdr macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2005
    No longer logging into MR
    Sounds like classic scope creep to me. When you agree to build a website, you issue a statement of work to the client, and have them sign. This shows what they will get for $100 and anything beyond that is extra.
  19. AppleMatt macrumors 68000


    Mar 17, 2003
    I'm quoting this because I think it's an excellent post and I want to be able to refer to it again.

    OP: Just lay down the law with him, state he's taking a good-faith agreement way too far and the barrage of emails are unreasonable - you offered a website and he's taking a web-portal to create the next (doomed) facebook. I certainly wouldn't continue to work with him, he sounds too difficult. Find two smaller clients = less stress, more references.

  20. notjustjay macrumors 603


    Sep 19, 2003
    Canada, eh?
    One other argument for pricing yourself higher is that you tend to filter out the nutbars. The "web design is so easy! I'm going to build the next Facebook!" guy is also the guy looking for the rock-bottom pricing. He'd pay you at $100, but when you price yourself at $250, he'll swear at you in disgust ("You're not worth that! Web design is so easy! I could...") but you'll then be free to take on clients who actually value your time.

    Replace "web design" with "video editing" or "software development" or "home renovation" or whatever you like, the same principle applies. Price yourself away from the bottom-of-the-barrel clients. If a client truly can't afford to pay (say it's a charity looking for a website) then you can always extend a discount.
  21. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    Exactly. Yup. I don't do anything under $1000 in general.
  22. TenPoundMonkey macrumors member

    Aug 23, 2007
    Agreed- the point of a business is to make money. Clients (or potential clients) tend to value the work partly based on the cost. No professional will take you seriously if you offer the $99 identity system or a $100 website. That should buy them no more than an hour of your work. No successful designer or agency will consciously offer cut-rate bids. Unless that opens the door to guaranteed additional (profitable) work, it's not worth selling yourself short up front. If you were to get a multiple-project contract, then it's fair to discount it all a bit...

    You need to have an agreement IN ADVANCE that lays out the scope of work (including a specific number of rounds of revisions, etc) and sets a price that you both agree to. It helps to have some sort of "changes to the scope of work outlined here will result in additional charges... ...costs do not include printing, stock photography, etc..." you need to specify all that.

    Beyond the additional mistake of no contract/estimate, you should at least hit him up with an updated estimate each time he asked for something new. At this point, it's not really crazy for this guy to expect you to finish this as you haven't raised any concerns up until now.


    @ Ttownbeast: I'm glad it's worked out for you so far and that you are seemingly happy in what you do, but you could not operate the same way if you were running a full-time business.


    Everything I've said above applies mainly to running a business- if you are simply looking to grow a portfolio on your own time, then go ahead and do work cheap, I suppose... but you should realize that even though you're using the experience to learn, your "product" has a real value and you should make sure that you're compensated fairly.
  23. maclover001 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Mar 25, 2008
    Vancouver, Canada

    This is essentially how it went:

    1) He replies to my ad on CL:

    I reply:

    He replies saying we can meet at Starbucks at this date and this time. Our meeting went more or less like this. I have bolded some key terms:

    I install phpBB and find a nice red theme for it. I Make a nice simple logo in Photoshop, then go under the hood and change a few things (Mostly what the $100 is worth). I made it so genders, ages, looking for men/woman, and relationship status are under their username, I spend a good amount of time making a "hot or not" system (I didn't know phpBB didn't already have a karma system until then, and I couldn't find a plugin. Whatever, easy enough to make). Basically making it less forum-like and more dating-site like.

    I email him back with my work, hoping that he'd like it. His response:

    Sure, WordPress with some internal database work should accomplish that nicely.

    WordPress installed. I spent a couple hours trying to get them to share a user database. WordPress is a huge P.I.T.A. to mod I tell you.

    I email him back, and say that the blogging system is complete.

    This is where I start to get pissed off. I paste an exact quote:

    I think this is the moment I should have said I'm increasing the price.
    But because I consider myself quite a generous person, I leave it be.

    Discussion boards were pretty easy to do, considering the entire site is based on one.
    Video uploads? Good luck with that on a 2gb web host.
    Groups? Please elaborate.
    Better logo? Please don't diss my logo without reasoning. Thankyou.

    We meet at Starbucks again, and he starts talking explaining what he wants, what the logo needs, etc. I then go back home and spend the next two weeks fulfilling his wishes. It doesn't even look like phpBB anymore.

    I email him back saying I have performed his updates.

    He emails back, this came just an hour ago (better reply before it comes again)

    *ROLLS. EYES.*

    So this is the story so far. I think he's expecting way too much of me.

    My lessons learned:
    1) Ask for 50% pay at the start, and the other half at the end.
    2) Decide EVERYTHING at the start, and make him sign
    3) Raise prices to avoid the "bottom of the barrel" people (Thanks to whoever said that)
  24. slipper macrumors 68000


    Nov 19, 2003
    He is definitely taking advantage of you. In future ads specifically state something along the lines of $100usd for a basic 4-5 page website. PHP, Flash, etc is available for an additional cost. It may be a month of wasted time at this point, but use it for the experience like what you originally planned to do.
  25. wheelhot macrumors 68020

    Nov 23, 2007
    Okay, reading that bold line already tell me the $100 is off, who the heck get paid for $100 in 2 weeks, you wont even survive w/ only $100 in 2 weeks. This guy is asking way too much, and well its good to be generous but this is wayyy too much. :mad:

    Anyway $100 in 2 weeks means you got about $7 a day, that is just nutz, I rather work as a salesperson and earn more then that.

    Wow, am I sensing another Bill Gates coming? That is how Microsoft got their OS nway, they bought it from some guy but of course they still paid for it more then $100 :D

    Okay, enough of the BG story, if its me I just give him the phpBB thing only and scrap all the other stuffs, when I see "I want to start an advertising network", I'm already pissed of to begin with, forget it, and the second bold, wow, that is just too much, he is clearly ripping you off, I bet he will sell it for like $500 or maybe more depending on how successful his "site" is. And the last line is just a joke, this clearly show how many people do not know how complicated it is to build a website, most of them think its like a drop and drop thing.

    But looking on the bright side, at least now you know there are such a cheap ass people out there, and it is wise to price your stuff properly :).

    Excellent advice slipper.

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