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I have a client with a freelance website. We agreed on $125 to finish a project. He agreed to a contract as an hourly job. It was $3 per hour including the website's charge. So 41 hours per week would be $123.

On the last day of the first week, I messaged the client and told him that I can't finish the task because it is bigger than I thought, and I requested of him that he give me one more week. He said yes, so I continue working.

I was paid for this work via an automatic online weekly timesheet. I was automatically paid for my first week's timesheet. Then my client refused to pay me for the second week's timesheet because of the unfinished task. I discontinued working. I told him that I thought he knew that the task was so large that it could not be finished it in 41 hours. The timesheet is in dispute, but the freelance website resolved the issue, they charged the client account for the time sheet and getting me paid.

Now, the client is threatening to sue me, if I don't refund him the money. Is he capable of suing me given that I am from a different country? Am I breaching a contract?

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    Welcome to Freelancing.SE. We need to clean up your question a bit to make it more readable, but need your help. What country is your client in, and what country are you in? What online site are you going through? Did you sign any contracts with the client? With more information, we'd be better able to help you solve your issue – Canadian Luke REINSTATE MONICA Nov 6 '13 at 1:16
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    The only contract we have is the Hourly contract for Elance-a freelance site. – maybelline Nov 6 '13 at 3:51
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    Hi, take a look at the similar question: freelancing.stackexchange.com/questions/828/… . Bottom line is "he can sue you but it does not mean he will or that he will win". Also the sum is sooo low that I am positive he won't do it. But take care of his feedback since he may leave a bad feedback to you (revenge feedback). Elance is very careful on this matter and inform them if he leaves a revenge feedback. – Peter MV Nov 6 '13 at 7:27
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    Update: Elance has already resolved the dispute. Again, the client (from UK) has filed another dispute to refund the total amount paid to me. What will the I do? What will be the best reply for that client to stop emailing me? Or will I just ignore him? Thanks for any advice you can give me. – maybelline Nov 7 '13 at 8:42
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    Point to the previous dispute resolution. Also, $3 is not a sensible hourly rate for any job. – Simon Richter Apr 18 '16 at 6:49
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Don't be scared of that guy, there is no way that he can sue you, I assume you are talking about oDesk or something similar. When you register on that website there are some privacy and agreements that you and your client have to read.

Clearly he is not aware that you weren't working for him under a real contract, that's just a contract on the website. Also, he didn't respect the rules of the website, once he accepted to give you one more week, then he had no right not to give you the money.

Just ignore him and keep every evidence of your work for him, he cannot do anything about it, you're the winner. Head up, and focus on the next client.

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    Hello Okei, this information seems helpful, but can you expand a bit more on how we know this client cannot sue the asker? On Freelancing SE, we're looking to build a resource of knowledge based on facts, references, and specific expertise. – jmort253 Nov 7 '13 at 5:22
  • Update: Elance has already resolved the dispute. Again, the client (from UK) has filed another dispute to refund the total amount paid to me. What will the I do? What will be the best reply for that client to stop emailing me? Or will I just ignore him? Thanks for any advice you can give me. – maybelline Nov 7 '13 at 10:02
  • @maybelline: If your query is not resolved then I would like to answer your question. – Siddharth Rout Nov 9 '13 at 21:54
  • Thanks for the follow up, @Okei. We should add this into your answer via an edit. – jmort253 Nov 11 '13 at 4:47
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I have a little bit of sympathy for the client because you told him that you expected the work to take a certain amount of time (and thus a certain cost) and it took longer and cost more. To help see things in perspective and avoid conflict, put yourself in his shoes and then imagine how you would feel. Then use that experience as you discuss the problem with him. It is a good way to increase understanding and avoid conflict.

It is important to develop the skill of good estimation in freelance work. If you look at it from his point of view, he was told certain things regarding duration and cost that turned out to be wrong. that can be frustrating. He is not the expert here, you are, and for these things he must rely on your expertise.

However, the time for disputing should have been at the moment you told him it would take more time. He may have had a case at that point according to the rules of the website to ask for a refund or at least to walk away with the work done up to that point (I don't know the rules of those sites) but from the moment he agreed to more time he lost his right to dispute the cost.

The learning experience: For you, it is important to gain more experience, and perhaps be more careful in how you estimate the time it will take to finish projects. You should always factor in some "slippage" time which usually means, in many projects, this will be at least double the amount of time you expect the project to last. This might be difficult in competitive sites like eLance or similar where you compete for a contract with others who may be saying they can do it in a much shorter time frame but, in the long run, by proving yourself to be more reliable and accurate than the others (or by finishing earlier your estimate) you will gain a good reputation, more satisfied clients and thus more work.

We all have made these sorts of mistakes early in our careers (and even later) but hopefully, this answer and your experience will be helpful to you for future work.

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