I am having a difficult time with a client. He's someone I have known since uni and we have worked well together since then. This time he hired me to re-do the design of his website. His main requirement was that he wanted great design, something well thought that would last more than a year. So after defining all the requirements, I sent a quote and he agreed with it.

I started the work and just before I submitted the final layouts he came back to me saying they had found a great theme they wanted to use and that I should then adjust my design to it. I was a bit annoyed but I said it was ok and that it would be charged separately since it was a new requirement. He said I should have suggested this approach and that he wouldn't pay for designs he is not going to use, that I should remove this from my quote and requote for the new work.

After talking to wall, I agreed to give him a discount on the initial project but asked for his team to write down their new requirements so I could quote from then. Then I asked for a 50% upfront of the new quote before I would start any more work - I hadn't taken upfront payment for the initial project. He got annoyed and said he couldn't pay before he would get anything tangible. I explained to him that this is a standard in my industry and that given their change of direction in this project I had lost many hours of work.

Since then, I haven't heard back from him. I saw they went live with the site using really poor design elements so I emailed him once more to ask him if he needed any design work now that they were live. He didn't get back to me.

I have made peace with the fact I won't get that money. Legally I should be paid for my work but I should also have been more careful and asked for an upfront deposit. I am not sure how to finish off this project now. Should I send him the invoice anyway? Needless to say that we won't work together again in the future but I still would like to give a professional but firm impression in my last correspondence with him. Any idea how to do that?

Sorry for the long message. Kind regards, Charlotte.

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    "...give a professional but firm impression in my last correspondence with him" --> Move on and stop wasting time with the guy, don't even send a response if you don't even care anymore about the payment. You might end up sounding like a sour designer & I don't think it will end in anything more than expectations, endless replies & excuses, and waste of time. The irony is that kind of client often comes back 6 months later with a puppy look begging for help and that's when it's fun to "give a professional but firm impression"! But each have their style, this is mine.
    – go-junta
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 2:54
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    ^ eg. You told the guy you're opened to fix his new website, he knows about it, and I guess it was said nicely with grace. I think you already did the best you could do. You can always send an invoice again but don't expand on the "blabla I spent time on this, please understand..."; or send a registered letter signed by a lawyer, that has impact. Consider this as a costly experience for you. We don't know the value but if it's a few hundreds, you'll make a lot of few hundreds by focusing on the next projects and asking down payments!
    – go-junta
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 3:01
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    I agree with @go-meek. You've done what you could do. You didn't get a deposit up front, you know better now, you've accepted that you won't get paid for this. Chalk it up to experience and walk away. Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 10:55
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    "His main requirement was that he wanted great design" = that's not really a requirement. :)
    – DA01
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 22:36
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    @DA01, he is not a friend he's more someone I have known since college - I don't really feel like working with him again as you might imagine ;-) About the main requirement being great design, I meant he emphasized on having a strong design that suited their business (I know it's the core of design ;-)) that's why I didn't offer to use a cookie cutter theme for his project... Anyway it is learning! I haven't started on any project without getting an upfront deposit since :-D
    – Sharlott
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 2:32

2 Answers 2


Whether or not he used the work is irrelevant. You provided a quote, he agreed upon that quote, and you did work based upon that quote.

It really depends on how much you have invested in it. Working with "friends" can be tough. I'm assuming you also worked without a contract?

It doesn't cost much to file in small claims court. Find out what that is. If it's more than what you're going to get back, forget it but if not, consider it. If he's got a legitimate business, it's not great to have claims against him since that knowledge is usually public. He may have more to lose than you do. Whether he cares is another story.

In some states, a verbal agreement can be construed as a contract. If you have any correspondence (e-mails and such) dictating the initial amount, that might help you as well.

If you didn't send him an invoice, don't wait. Knock the amount down a bit and mention "since you didn't use the work, and since we go way back to uni, I'm invoicing you for the $xxx, which is xx% off but I still expect payment for the design work we already agreed upon on (date he sent you the quote acknowledgment) and which I had completed on XXX. I'm hoping we can get this resolved without resorting to legal action."

If you don't hear back within a month or so, threaten to go to small claims.

  • You are right, RitterKnight, no contract just a terms section within the quote. The legal aspect of this project is complicated because we are in different countries so different legislation. But I will send him the invoice, you are right.
    – Sharlott
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 2:35

@RitterKnight is correct:

Bill 'em!

Send an invoice that reflects everything discussed to this point. My invoices always include a note about late fees (I use 30 days). I never actually charge this fee unless a client is a problem.

After your "delinquency" period, send another invoice that includes the late fee. If another 30 days goes by, send another invoice with the late charge and include a very clear note that you'll be sending this on to a collection agency if you don't receive payment in 15 days.

A collection agency may not want your job if you don't have a signed contract, but it's worth a shot. If you can afford to spend a small amount of time following up, don't let this go.

  • That's a great idea about including late fees in the invoice - I will add a section about this. Thanks for your help!
    – Sharlott
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 2:36
  • "I never actually charge this fee" haha! Indeed, that's usually very convincing, they don't need to know you don't really want to actually charge that extra. Another trick I used in the past was to do the reverse of this and give them a "fast payment rebate" for payments within 1-2-3 days and that worked very well too. Instead of using a punitive method, I used a rewarding one but it's all the same result (except, it makes you look nicer I guess). Well in the OP's situation, that's really not an option but I thought I could mention this.
    – go-junta
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 11:34
  • @go-meek Along the same lines, I can usually work it out so I come in under the proposal amount. If the client hasn't caused me any trouble and I plan to work with them again, I put this savings on the invoice. If they're a pain and I never want to see them again, I don't. Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 16:02
  • @go-meek, I like your rewarding method! I will definitively keep that in mind for my next invoice!
    – Sharlott
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 5:32

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