what next


what to do next

Right, well, this is an article I hoped I'd never have to write but none-the-less find myself typing these very words in some hope for answers and to serve as a warning to others. This is an open ended piece of writing which I hope you the reader will help me answer via what ever form of social media you found your way from. What I also ask is that this gets shared, a lot. I'm certain this situation isn't uncommon but I'm not seeing a lot of answers out there. I realise that this may not paint me in an awesome light but the heart of the matter needs addressing. Though a quick note that these are 3 cases out of many that haven't gone this way. On with show...


This article is about when things go wrong as a freelancer (or studio I suppose). Now I will quickly point out that there will be failings on both sides here and that this isn't the first time this has come up, but it is definitely going to be the last. As a quick recap on info that you don't have in a 'previously on' style catch up on events I'll quickly go through the basics of the 2 cases similar to this one that have came up before.


Case Study 1: The Friend and the Club Night Promotion.

At the beginning of my time as a freelancer as was after as many jobs as I could get my hands on. Desperate to show of my skills in the world of illustration, design and website building. Any freelancer will have similar stories of cheap to free sites for friends etc. This case is not uncommon. To skate over the finer points and give out the basics it went like this. I would build the site for a friend for promoting a series of band/club nights (also vjing at them, very exciting project). I was looking at the bigger picture, being part of something at the beginning and reaping the rewards at the end. So it was agreed that I'd design and build the site in a very particular and cool way, design and print the flyers etc. Now in an effort to get things going and as it was a friend I said I'd bill for the whole thing but I'd only expect half. Reasoning? I didn't want him telling everyone I'd build similar for his price as he had little to no budget. I also agreed that if it was easier he'd could pay in monthly installments. Again, he's a friend and I felt part of the project. Now I imagine there's a few people facepalming at this point, rightly so. The nights only lasted 2 months and my emails with invoices went unanswered. Before I knew it there was a new facebook group with a new project being headed up by my friend. I was pissed. I thought "fuck it, not worth getting annoyed about, move on, friendships are worth more than money". So I did.


Case Study 2: The Tattooist Friend.

If you can remove the palm from your face for a moment (don't worry it'll be going back), I'll quickly take you through number 2. I'm sure you can guess that this one was pretty much a job for job barter situation. One where my efforts to train the shop staff in how to use not one but two versions of the site (let the domains slip didn't they, so a shiny new responsive site was built to replace a lost one) were simply in vain. Now I'd know this lad for over a decade, considered a friend. Yet his lack of replying to emails and not showing up for appointments was becoming a serious habit. We were not even in the payment stakes. Maybe this is down to me not being assertive, really pressing home my feelings on the matter and sorting what I want doing. Then I get the mail that says "we are going to do it all in house from now, the lad's are gonna build me one that we can change from the office". I now fume. As I point out that what they have is a CMS that they can do just that. That I have been down on many occasions to train staff using this system. This goes over the head and again, I just think "fuck it". A friendship bites the dust and my thoughts on communication are to get clearer. Be more assertive, stay in contact regulary and be clear. which brings me to now.


Case Study 3: Master Service

Now in the two other cases, both of the clients were friends, this I think makes it harder when dealing with something like this. Well, to me anyway. In this case it was the friend of a friend, and some one I'd already done work for. Small things, posters, graphics vectorising of logos and such like. For this I'm going to create a timeline of events for an nice easy read.


February (approx) 2012: Meet at said clients house, discuss needs, show him the client side of a silverstripe site to show him how it works. At this point I've seen the current site and it is to be built similar. Mates rates applied.


Summer 2012: Bulk of site built, templates in order, css all sorted, contact form up and running, google maps added but no real content, just filler images I gathered, some Lorem Ipsum text in places. This site is advertising workwear and printed and embroidered goods (no ecommerce mind), what I need is a list of things to put in it. A gentle reminder sent. At this point The old domain is long gone as they didn't keep the payments going, in fact couldn't find out who it was through. Didn't sort it themselves, had a third party do it initially (and to be fair, most of the content had been pulled and was missing, errors showing up everywhere. Suspected disgruntled ex-employee, alarm bell 1).


August 2012: I'm asked to buy a domain for them and continue. I point out that they'd be better off in control of the domain but it is left to me. I add a holding page with name, address and telephone number.


Now here's where it all goes a bit wrong.


Over the next 12 months I try reminders that the site is half built, it's up, been saying 'site coming soon' for a while can you sort some content. Now rather than email me directly he passes messages through our shared friend who understandably wants to stay out of it. Now, I can't quite put my finger on it but I think the blanking of me and talking through my friend came somewhere around the time I refused to sort out some artwork for him. He was supplied with a jpg that needed to be vectored. Nothing unusual in that, only it was for the EDL. Not those lovable musical fiends the English Disco Lovers, but the other lot. Now, anyone who knows me will be aware of my work with the social awareness group 4 People Not Profit. I love what they stand for. So much that we organised a counter demo against the EDL in Middlesborough a few years back. So doing artwork for them is not happening. At this point I realise now I should have just wiped my hands clean of all of this and sacked the whole thing off. If he was willing to take the cash off all the local Asian businesses as well as a group such as the EDL well maybe I'd be better off forgetting the whole thing. I didn't,  I figured I'd get the thing finished, after all I'd spent over a week now on this and I wasn't prepared to give up a weeks wage, I'm a freelancer, a week's wage is precious, I don't get sick pay, I don't get holiday pay, I get paid what I work, so I would crack on, get paid and then leave it.


September 2013: I'm getting a bit ratty now, so I uploaded the full silvertripe build as is and sent an invoice for part payment for the build, a year's hosting and the domain cost. Fair enough? Not the full outstanding balance you understand, half (ish). Now, before you all go, well you should be taking at least a 50% deposit before you start (which of course I do, now) I'd like to remind that it was a friend of a friend and all previous conversations had been positive. Anyway, this kicks starts some action as plans are made and things are said. Not to me directly mind, again reluctantly through the shared friend. It is he at some point around here produces £100 for me said to be from Master Service as a part payment. (I now suspect this was indeed from my friend in peacekeeping mode. I could be wrong).


January 2014: I've moved house. I'm now annoyed that this saga is still going on. I'm going to write it off and forget about it, bollocks to the weeks work, it's not worth it. Yet that nagging bit at the back of my head can't leave it. At some point the web address is added to yell.com, this irks me. I'm not having it again. So in true passive aggressive style I take all the info off the site leaving only the colour scheme. I'm still almost past caring so I write a whiny message in the code. Have a look...

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.1//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml11/DTD/xhtml11.dtd">
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
<base href="http://master-service.co.uk/" />
<meta name="generator" content="SilverStripe - http://silverstripe.org" />
<meta http-equiv="Content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />

right, if you've looked at this site and thought "what the fuck is going on here? how could you put up such half finished rubbish?" i'll try to explain.
this job has been going on for nearly 2 years, it's a friend of a friend type of thing. it's possibly the most frustrating site i've built to date.they really don't get the concept of content, time, the internet and life in general. as it is i know this industry well as i work for another company that does the same sort of thing, so technically i should be able to fill this all in myself, however, as you well know (if you are reading this you're probably fairly savvy about web design/development) this all takes time and really should be up to the client to supply the content, or atleast some basic skeleton of the services, products etc. i have so far spent about 2 weeks (spread over a few weeks) sorting the graphics (for this and various printed items) and building the site's theme.
i don't think it's unreasonable to believe i should have been paid for this, so i sent an invoice (as you would if you'd been waiting a year for some content to work with). did i mention i bought the domain and have been hosting for over a year too? i know that for me to buy the domain is wrong, but i was asked to. i don't agree with this practice at all, the owner of the domain should be the owner of the company, it keeps shit simple in case anything goes wrong in the future. i know because i've spent time trying to regain control of domains for clients. anyhoos, 2 weeks work, cost of domain and hosting i thought enough was enough i'd upload all i had done at this point and invoice (not even the full cost of what i'd done), maybe the sight of a half finished site with his work on my kick start him into doing something and get me paid in the process. this hasn't really been the case, i know he's discussed his plans with my friend (who understandably doesn't want to be stuck in the middle and nor do i want them to be), but not me. i've emailed but get no responses. i was doing various vectorisation for him until i sent theinvoice for the site, think i may have upset him. not really too bothered. now as of a couple of weeks ago i did receive a part payment, which on thesurface sounds great but really only covers the cost of the hosting. i'm lead to believe that the intention is to pay me a set fee monthly as i progress with the site, fine, but i have yet to be told that by himself. so i decided to take my name out of the footer for now, remove the big "new site coming soon" text and add these notes here, so anyone else investigating this half done shower can know what is going on. i had planned to do some proper evil shit but have gone down a more passive route. this i feel helps you guage the place much better i reckon.
i can actually build a decent site, i haven't touched on mine in a while, but i've developed a couple of good responsive themes using the silverstripe.
hopefully i'll get to finish this one at some point and delete this bit.
won't hold my breath mind.
t: @jonnydapigg

update: nearly been 2 years now, domain is coming up for renewal soon. might keep it on and redirect to my company. beyond a joke now.

update 2: i have just been informed that said client now has another web designer ready to build him a site. i will bid him the very best of luck, he will need it. but first there is the matter of my payment.
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="http://master-service.co.uk/themes/masterworkwear/css/layout.css?m=1403729393" />
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="http://master-service.co.uk/themes/masterworkwear/css/typography.css?m=1379666402" />
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="http://master-service.co.uk/themes/masterworkwear/css/form.css?m=1379666402" />


As you can see there's a couple of updates, will come back to this. Now I've seen other fun things to do when clients don't pay their bills. One web designer simply replaced the site with an invoice. Others have redirected elsewhere or been replaced by images. I'm not the first to feel hard done by here. So what happened next I think was in order.


As you may be able to see in update 2 a new designer has been brought in, to build a lovely new shiny site where he can sell stuff. Now forgetting that I would have done that, there's the small part of my work and the two years of domain and hosting. Well actually there isn't, because fuck that. I'm going to write it off and chalk it down to yet more experience. But I'm going to have the last laugh. So, I did this.

A link to me and one to Tyneside T-shirts as he does pretty much what Master Service does, only quicker and better. Not even sure where I got £400 from. Should have been more, even unfinished. Anyway I did that a month or so ago. Forgot about it. Out of sight out of mind. Then, on my birthday of all days, I received this (a Sunday night at 8.46pm) .

Well I was shocked, outraged, actually slightly drunk and found the threat quite funny when I realised what he was talking about. So I responded, in what seems to be some aristocratic tone of outrage and went back to my takeaway.

In came another one.

Now I'm confused, he didn't even answer my question. What was I supposed to think? I feel I need some sort of closure on this. It seems daft that I should be the one being threatened with a visit when he's the one that owes me money. Somehow this all seems very backwards.


So, what now I'm thinking. This is obviously not going to go down in my ticky book for model professionalism but I feel that I need to do more. Passive aggressive has not got me paid. Walking away doesn't work. Being a bit childish apparently just brings on sinister threats of "or I'm coming over to see you". So I put it to you internet. What should my next move be? Do I take this lying down? Do I renew the domain and keep it and cover it in pictures of cats?


I'm going to put it to you internet what should my next move be. How do I deal with Mr Steven Hodgson of Master Services Workwear, St Lukes Pallion Sunderland, Tel: 0191 565 4317 email: masterservice@btconnect.com


Just as I was making sure I had the correct telephone number and spelling for his name I found an excellent article in which he seems really pleased about a previous recession as it made him some money. I'm all up for he little man doing well in the face of adversity and all that but this seems not all that rosey to me, no 'all in it together community spirit' type affair here, just an 'I got so busy' little article. I may be biased and bitter mind. Here, have read.


Steve Hodgson, of Master Services, Martin Terrace, Pallion, says business is going from strength-to-strength despite the economic downturn which has hit many firms.

The 43-year-old said: "The recession seems to have had a positive effect on business.

"I am working late and coming in early.

"Without a doubt trade has shot up in the last six months."

Although Steve's shop offers a range of services, including key cutting, watch repairs and engraving, the biggest rise has been in shoe repairs.

Steve estimates that he is getting at least 400 shoe repair customers through the door each week, suggesting that, with everyone tightening their belts, people would rather get their old shoes fixed than fork out for a new pair...

He has expanded into trade engraving and work wear.

His partner Claire, 30, with whom he has three children, Kallum, 14, Rhys, 11, and Erin, six months, helps with the business too.

She embroiders and personalises workwear and has also seen business pick up as electricians, joiners and plumbers get laid off and go solo.

The extra services he provides bring in extra trade and be estimates his turnover has doubled, perhaps even tripled, since he bought the shop 18 years ago.


Sunderland Echo 29/01/09


Lovely fella, be nice if he used some of that good fortune to pay for those of us that have been forced to go solo, instead of sending unpleasant emails and withholding payment.

Any ideas? Please feel free to share the article using the social media share buttons down there and of course I'm all up for any and all feedback on how best I should resolve this situation.


Cheers for reading.

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