I have a small business client who I freelanced for before getting my current full-time php development & server administration job. Let's call the client "Joe's Pizza" (not actual name). Joe's Pizza owes me about $10,000, which is roughly 1/7th of what I'm getting as a yearly salary at my new job. That debt in various outstanding invoices is much more money than I wanted to rack up over the 6 years I worked with Joe's Pizza, but it happened piece by piece, $500 invoice by $500 invoice. I actually liked the work, and the people, and didn't have many other work prospects at the time, so I continued working for them despite failures to pay.
After 6 months of no work for Joe's Pizza, and no further payment against that $10,000, I finally got a full-time salaried job instead. Now I work at a tech startup, the job is great, and they pay me a consistent salary. I told Joe's Pizza that I got a full-time job, and thus was no longer available to work on their problems.
At that point, the CEO of Joe's Pizza, let's call them Joe, who I'm still on friendly terms with, got back to me and said "I want to chat about getting the new developer I want to chat about finalizing access to the back end for our new coder" I initially responded "That process is generally more complicated than you seem to think, and you owe me a lot of money, so I would only be able to do that accompanied by payment".
Now, a week later, Joe wants to have a phone meeting "to finalize the back-end access for the new developer".
- They may or may not be able to transition to another developer without me being involved at all. I'm sure it will be much harder for them and much harder for the new developer to have no assistance in the transition.
- For instance, I'm the only one with ssh key access to the server. I have all the passwords for the host, the email service, github, etc etc.
- They certainly own the servers and source code, but I have little interest in providing work for free or for peanuts to give their next developer access while they still owe me money. I'm not wealthy enough that I can even afford to take effort & energy away from my current, paying job to provide free transition work for them, either (in part because of lots of outstanding invoices).
- I do have a contract which I created myself that I worked for them under.
- I wouldn't like to see their business fail because they can't develop their website, their server goes down, etc, a fact that I asked them to pay to fix many times over the preceding months.
So, what should I consider doing? What am I liable to do? What tactics are most likely to be most effective here?