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My Client Did Not Pay Me – What Can I Do?

Reader Question

I was working for one of my client and after I completed the task, client just changed his FTP and cpanel password and did not pay me for my work. Can I bring his website down with DDoS? What I can do about it?

A very interesting question and the interesting part is not what you can do about it but what you should do about it and what I did in such scenarios.

Most common reason for non payment

First you need to realise why such incidents happen?

The most common reason that I have seen for non payment from clients is because of delay in the project. The project kicked off with a lot of energy but as things did not move as expected energy slowly but surely dissipated.

You may or may not be part of the issue or you may have been part of the project too late, but then it can impact your final payment because the client is no longer looking at this project very actively and so ultimately you are left unpaid.

There are certain things you can control and others things which are beyond your control. Control the controllable and maintain a strict deadline.

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What you can do and what you should do?

Such issues, with payment come up for projects ranging from $100 to $1000 and projects bigger than those are typically handled through escrow or Statement of Work or SOW or other agreements.

You can have a case for copyright infringement against the client for using your code / design. You did some work for the client where he has not been paid and so client is using your copyrighted code / design.

Inform client politely with facts that they have a breach of your copyright and inform them that you can use Google’s legal removal request on client’s site which can impact their business and you are not willing to go that route.

Apart from that you can have a lawsuit against the client for non payment for the work done and use of copyright material on his website but the question is should you be doing that.

Will you not waste more money trying to recover that money? Instead just make this as a fee to gain experience and move on along with a lesson that such incidents just don’t happen again and how you can avoid it.

Make sure that such incidents don’t impact your existing clients and you just don’t become too aggressive with your existing clients for payments else you can have a series of such payment issues like I had it.

The Issue I had

Few years back when I started working for a new client and project kicked off nicely with advance payment hitting my PayPal account on the day we had plans to get started.

I started working for the client almost 40 hours per week of work. We agreed for weekly payment and an invoice sent on weekends will be paid the following week.

Sent my first invoice on a weekend.

We worked very closely in the second week and before the second weekend I asked for payment of pending invoice from the first week. Sent him the subsequent invoice on the second weekend.

I asked for a payment in the beginning of the third week as the invoices pending were close to 1500 USD now. My bad luck that there was some issue with the client’s server and site was attacked badly. Client thought it was me who did something (he had such incidents in the past) on his site and I was never paid.

At times, there is nothing much you can do about it too. We had NDA signed as well as agreement for weekly payments, but I don’t think doing unethical things or getting into legal matters could have helped.

I actually did not do anything because at times you can have an incident where you just learn from it. I never had any payment issues from clients, but suddenly when I had this incident, I had a series of them and that is when I realized I have been too aggressive in asking for payment from my client because I had a fear of not being paid.

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The flip side

There are two sides to every coin and similar things can happen for clients as well. You pay some advance to someone who is just not getting the job done for you. It is better to be using escrow system or move to the other person who works for you instead of getting the job done by the same person and delaying the project even further.

Final Thoughts

DDoS can cost you way lot more than your actual project cost. On top of that DDoS is completely illegal.

If you focus too much on getting your unpaid amount, you may waste too much of time and energy. Learn from the experience and opt for weekly payments or escrow and stop wasting time thinking of clients who did not pay. They are not worth your time.

Try to complete things on time and normally things like this happen when you have too much lag in the delivery schedule. Is it that you are missing the deadlines?

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  • vinodh

    great content as usual. payment guarantee and escrow will work only if projects is in online markets like elance, but for projects gotten thru references or the one gotten via craigslist is not subjected to escrows. But as you say we cannot do DDoS kinda stuff . gentle reminder almost always work. also some clients try to manipulate . paying much less than agreed and delay tactics etc.

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