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I have accepted a project on Freelancer.com. The project belongs to an agency that has a client. I have not signed any form of contract or written legal agreement.

Despite the fact that I have done all the work as requested, they continued to ask me for additional modifications to the project description that I wished to stop operating because they were not paying me any extra. Of course, because of these, the deadline was not respected (I am already one month late).

I have charged them 200 euros out of the initial agreement of 250. I delivered the project. Now they are threatening to sue me through international law for not respecting the deadline. How should I proceed in this situation?

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    IANAL, but what does Freelancer.com say about it? I'd be passing it off to them, and probably brush this off as a learning experience. It's very hard to sue someone internationally, unless they have corporate presence there – Canadian Luke Oct 2 '13 at 15:29
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That, my colleague is known as 'scope creep' and is one of the oldest problems known to freelancers.

It sounds in like they may be abusing the fact that you are 'not living around the corner'. I avoid working for companies that I cannot drive over to and meet face to face. There are too many people willing to twist things or railroad others in order to increase the scope of the project in their own favour. Distance working can make things even harder in that case.

A lot depends on whether or not the client provided a project brief based on 'time period' / price per hour or 'piece work'. Piece work can be a problem with clients you are not familiar with. I would in the future demand a 'per hour' or 1/2 day or Full Day rate. And make sure to clearly define what a Full day means. Mine is 10 hours inc travel time but not inc travel expenses for example. I also have a different hourly rates for different services.

You need to re-read all communications from them and see how vague / exact the wording is. Words such as 'may' vs 'will' vs 'plan to' can mean different intentions. I shared a house with a solicitor for 2 years so I know a bit about how subtleties in wording can be misused.

The best kind of work is via referral and then at least if 'Dave' treats you badly you can at least complain to one of his peers or do some form of moving and shaking. I find that works quite nicely. Of course you never keep all of your clients in just one group though. That can be equally dangerous for obvious enough reasons.

As IANAL indicates - surely freelance.com has some form of protection for this kind of thing anyway.

In addition I would certainly advise that you take out professional indemnity insurance so that in the future you can counter their threats with a lot more confidence. An email threatening to sue you can be countered with 'do it!' and no sleepless nights. It costs around £20 to £30 per month in the UK presently (Oct 2013).

I doubt that they are going to sue. They're just trying to push you around.

Finally, if it is not easy to physically speak to your client because they are 'too busy' or in a different time zone etc then I'd wonder why they were tendering the work out near you in the first place....

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As my wife attorney likes to say "Everyone can sue you, but it does not mean he will win" :).

Anyway, there are many things unsaid here. Like, are you registered on Freelancer with your real name and family name i.e. can Freelancer anyhow reach to you?

The other thing is the price of the project which is too low so I really doubt they would do it, even if they can!

I have never heard of any such sue cases unless you drove to them and signed a contract.

All in all, I think they are trying to scare you. Ask them to tell you the name of the "international law they are talking about" so that you can sue them first for threatening you and for slavery. I'd say you have more chances to win than them. Of course you will not sue them since they will never tell you the name of that law. Somehow I don't think such law exists.

You may rest and do REPORT them to Freelancer and provide all threatening evidence to Freelancer. Let us know what happened!

PS. I personally have a very bad opinion of Freelancer service. I find them unprofessional and rippers. I doubt they will do anything. I also had such case but on oDesk where the contractor blackmailed me to give him 5 starts before he sends me sources. I reported him to oDesk and 1 hour later he sent me sources with 1.000 apologies. This is what I call a good service.

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    I love that first line and as a part-time landlord, I've used that statement before. I've never had one but its funny how people think if you're the first to mention the word "lawsuit", you automatically win the debate! – L_7337 Oct 7 '13 at 18:59
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I never had such a problem so far but haven't heard of people that actually had this problem so here is my opinion here:they will not sue you and there are two big reasons for that:

  1. They probably can't. International law or not, you haven't signed anything that makes you responsible. You accepted the job but without some signed documents you can't really do anything in court.
  2. They probably don't want to. You said the job costed you 200 euros. To actually sue you they will have to pay o ton of money which doesn't sound reasonable at all. They will loose more than they could win.

So, you might as well report them, which I am surprised you haven't already and don't do any more work before you get paid. Also, as a piece of advice, try working hourly or try making a document where you write exactly what the client wants you to do and stick to it. Any more work that is not in the document will cost extra. If they accept this from the beginning then you are set and if the client doesn't want to pay because they want extra features you can report them to the website working on.

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