I learned a valuable lesson today the hard way. I know what to do in the future, but for right now, I want to know what my options are for collecting payment, and maybe some advice on how not to get suckered by your clients.
IS THIS LEGAL? ~~ Client hired me to build an e-commerce website for her business. she signed proposal, I collected a 50% deposit, but the scope of the project doubled during the build. I went totally out of my way for this client, going above and beyond the scope of my job. She manipulated me, and made the project drag on and on. She caused me so much unnecessary work that all got tossed, and endless hours of my time. I was unhappy, but played nice, because I wanted my payday. She kept me so busy with constant emails and texts, asking me questions on a range of topics from software to hardware, apps, web-browsers, mobile phones and more. I provided her with extensive information I mostly had to research myself to make sure it was accurate, and arrange it in a way you would provide technical instructions to an indigenous tribe in the Amazon Jungle (she was, or pretended to be "tech-illiterate").
THEN, she wouldn't even try following my instructions at all. She wouldn't do any of it! I'm not including all of the options for how the site would work etc, I'm not even talking about the ridiculous number of mockups, designs, color palettes, logo designs and business card designs I made for her. I wanted this client to be happy, that's my job. And IMO, the work I produced was really good! but trying to get her to make a decision was like pulling teeth! She would say, I don't know, this is a lot to think about, I want to be careful... She had made an old Vista Print website some years ago that was absolutely frightening. The home page image was crooked, cut-off, and sat by itself in a random position on the page, the whole site was just brown, but then weird colors would erroneously pop up in areas, she used 6 different fonts, and it had page loading issues. She kept saying, I liked my Vista Print site. (???)
I didn't even know what to say because I didn't want to offend her. I helped her make the best/easiest/cost conscious decisions possible. I created a form for her to input her product information, she never used it. I even went to her home for 3 hours to help her get her content together. But she still would send me a couple photos on my phone, some in an email, some random images of text she wrote on scrap paper on my phone again, then duplicate photos on dropbox. I would edit them all for import, and then find out she sent me 3 pics of the same thing. She sent me about 2 dozen photos of her product, I put them in the website, and then she tells me, "oh no, those were just examples. I haven't sent you any images for the website yet". (why???) she would send me random photos of other peoples jewelry on etsy (why???)... she was a nightmare. Her photos were of horrible quality, crooked, cut-off, 9,000 px wide. I had to edit every single product image. She took up ALL of my time.
I couldn't accept any other work making her my sole client (except for 1 SMM gig). 1 day before delivery, she tells me - she doesn't think it's going to work out, she terminates the project. I thought it was a cruel joke at first. For 2 months she gave me no indication this would happen. It took a month before she gave me any content at all, (I was building the site, and responding to her emails and texts) and she finally chose some stock images (I licensed) for the site just days ago! This was after I sent her, I lost count, 60 to 70 maybe?
She thinks she owes me nothing.
She compared the professional services I provide, to her prior work as a real estate agent. (??? I don't work for commission!) She said sometimes things just don't work out.
I want to get paid. Do I have any legal right to collect money from her? I'm willing to take her to court if I have to. I get the feeling she's done this to other people before. It was so calculated and manipulative.
I'm furious, I'm a wreck, and I'm broke.