Thursday, January 17

Freelancer Nightmare: Unpaid Work

I'm busy getting some websites off the host so I can make room for more. A couple of the websites were done as actual jobs that never received pay. I figure a website takes me at least 10 hours to complete, even in the pre-production form. The two websites here would represent 20 hours of actual, sitting in front of the computer work, along with another few hours of research and contact with the clients. Let's say 25 hours, at least. I'm cheap, as far as high-end web design goes, but these two sites were set at about $1,000 each, so it's a couple of decent checks not coming my way.

The first job was ended because a marriage fell apart. I was a friend of the wrong spouse. The business also closed, so maybe the money to pay for the site wasn't there. I was able to re-make a really old website into something modern and mobile-friendly. I also added a shopping cart (probably a $1,000 option) free because the husband was my friend (and I wanted the practice). I used some of the photos from the old website, but I also showed up at the store on my own to get a couple more images.

The second website was also arranged through a friend. He was writing some kind of proposal for the company, and he suggested there should be a web presence. I can't imagine how this company existed without one, but I guess I eventually found out. The owners (two doctors, no less) decided not to pay my friend for his services when the contract went to another company. I had already bailed on the project, since the emails I received from one of the doctors were racist, sexist, and just mean-spirited. He even accused me of using a photo from the company's old promotional material, along with a lot of other derogatory comments about the photos I used (he would provide none, and I needed to find ones that were available to use). I even asked around to see if I could find the right kind of people doing the work he wanted them to be doing. It was supposed to be an easy website for a client who didn't know anything about the internet, but he suddenly became an authority on aesthetics and copyright laws.

The sad part about both of these jobs is that they kind of left my friendships out to dry, too. I hadn't talked to the one friend for some time, and I haven't really felt the desire to reach out to him since our shared negative experience. I cool with the other friend, but it's still hard to see bills coming in and know I could have paid those bills with the work I'd done, especially since I went above and beyond on that site.

I suppose there would be a legal angle to all this, but with one company being out of business and the other out of town, I'd probably just get the old, "You should have gotten a down-payment" lecture from a judge. And she'd be right. I want to trust those I work with, but not everyone is trustworthy. The good news is that I only bought the shopping cart app for one site and the domain name for the other, meaning I'm out my time and about $20. If I was building boat piers or refinishing bathrooms, I'd be way deeper in the hole. I guess that's why I'll continue to build websites and trust those who hire me, though it's a good reminder to those of us who work for ourselves that working is good but getting paid for it is better.