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[Freelancing] Got cheated by the client

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Shah

Cyborg Agent
Hello, digitians

I am a student pursuing B.E. CSE and I work as a freelance programmer and web developer in my free time. My parent's don't know about me working as a freelancer and I just donate the money I earn to charity or I spend it on some of my other hobbies. This post is about how I got cheated by a so-called client after I have completed all the work.

I usually search for projects on WorkNHire and Truelancer. Back in November 2014, I placed my bid on a WordPress project posted in WorkNHire which involved some theme and plugin customization. After some time, I got a reply from the client stating that he would like to hire me. After a few chat and email exchanges, He gave me the login credentials and I started the work. A few hours into the work and a few emails, I realized that he just outsources the projects that he bid and won on other freelancing websites. Also, He doesn't even know anything about development or programming. He said he makes his living from the commission. I had no problem with that. So, I continued the work and completed the project. As discussed, he paid me 600 INR. (I don't know how much he charged the real client though)

After a few days, He again approached me with a few WordPress based projects. I sent my quote for them. He said he'll take a commission of 20% from what the client pays and pay the rest 80% to me. I trusted him and started working on the projects one-by-one. In a week or two, I had completed 3 out of 4 different projects. But, He didn't pay me. Whenever I asked him about the payment, He will say some lame excuses like "The client didn't pay yet", "Paypal is processing the payment to my bank account" and so on. So, I stopped working on the fourth project (I had already completed 70%) and demanded him that he must pay him. After a week or so, he paid me the amount for two projects (the budget of these two were the least out of all the 4) alone saying that the client cancelled the fourth project as It was not complete before the deadline. I believed him again.

When I asked about the third project, he would the client is his classmate and he will surely pay me the money. My quote for that project is 5000 INR and that was only for back-end programming (Core PHP). After a week, he replied me stating that the client didn't like design of the website. And this guy asked me to change it. I said I would charge separately for Designing the Website. After a few hours, he said that the client told he will provide the design himself. A week passed by. Whenever I asked him about the status, He would say the client didn't design the website yet.

One day, he replied me that the client provided him the design and now I have to implement that design with my code. I was shocked when I saw the stylesheets and HTML pages he sent me. It was clear that the client just saved another website from his Browser. He didn't even bother to change the copyright text on the footer. Anyhow, I just implemented the code into that so-called design template. Again a week passed. After that he said the client didn't like the design this time. After a chat session, I came to know that he was the one who copy-pasted the webpage. He said he would redesign the webpage and so he asked me to wait for sometime. The same story repeated for a few months (From December 2014 to April 2015). Whenever I ask him the status of the project, he would say something like "The client didn't check it yet", "The client told me redesign the site" and so on.

On April 22, 2015, I sent him a message on Hangouts again inquiring about the status, He said the same usual thing. After that I was busy with my model exams, so didn't care much about it. A couple of days back, I tried to send him a message asking for the status of the project. That's when I realized that he has blocked on both Skype and Google Hangouts. Moreover, he didn't reply to my mails too. I don't know if he got paid by client or not.

I feel so depressed now. I wonder if I can take any legal action against him for not paying me after I have done all the work. Can someone guide me through this?
 

krishnandu.sarkar

Simply a DIGITian
Staff member
I believe you can report it on the Freelancing sites from where you got these projects. But wait, as per your story goes, it seems that the project you got from the freelancing sites went without any hassles. But the projects for which all these happened, are not won by you from those freelancing sites, instead he gave you directly over mail / other communication this time.

So, if the project for which these dispute arised, doesn't belong from Freelancing sites. So chances are they will not entertain your mails even if he belongs from that site only. Because ofcourse the project he offered on those sites went without any hassles. Outside that site, if he fix up something with some developer and if the project is not won from that site, they won't be doing anything.

I don't think you can do much in terms of legality as you both didn't signed any contract.

I have started a startup of mine, and these are the basic things that I always do. Signing contract with the client, signing scope document (so that tomorrow he can't say that this is a feature and it should be included) so that I can charge separately for everything out of that scope document, signing NDA's with the developer (without this, I never disclose a single information about the project).

Well, I know, these are very small things which are overlooked by many professionals and freelancers. Though we might be some tiny creature in front of them, and even if some dispute arises we won't even win the case if we choose to do so. But still it helps me (and peoples like us) to atleast approach something in case of dispute.

Though it's out of context of your question, but as a developer I have always seen, what is general or common for client or end users is not common for us (technical persons) at all. Because we don't think in terms of end user, we think about terms of feature and charges for the modules. Like for a public facing site, login via social media, or authentication of email and mobile (via auto email / OTP) is very common for the end user / client, but for us it's a set of work which we need to do. So fixing a scope document is always a must. Else he'll always keep saying "this is a common thing and you missed it, so no seperate charge". This is problem for you and him both. Because for you, you'll be loosing the final amount / next milestone amount that he was going to pay. For him, as a client, he goes back to ZERO. Because that piece of work you just delivered (with fewer milestone payments) has no meaning to him. Because the new developer will say "this is ****, I need to work it from the beginning", so he needs another investment again.

So in case of dispute, if both the person is genuine, it's loss for both. For both of us, we won't get richer with ones money, but if one of us dupe another, then we loose the network. We both came into contact for business right? So networking is more important in business.

Anyway, I just shared this as I felt you might be thinking many things now. But don't be depressed, may be you won't be able to do anything to him in this particular case but be alert in future. My 2 cent from basic experience of starting a startup and experiencing different kind of peoples out there in the market.
 
OP
Shah

Shah

Cyborg Agent
[MENTION=32490]krishnandu.sarkar[/MENTION] Thanks for the reply. It meant a lot to me. I am actually now analyzing what went wrong and what I shouldn't have done. So, I have come up with the following decisions.
  • Signing NDA and other documents before the start of the project like you said
  • Payments on milestones
  • Not disclosing the source code until all the payments have been cleared
  • Working on my own server space and then moving it to client's server after payment

A bit of googling, I found out there are lots of freelancers who have got cheated by such clients. Unfortunately, there isn't any law to prevent such actions.
 

$hadow

Geek in making
You can't do much on issues like these. Just try to be sure about doing it next time. I like your decisions and you better stick with them.
 
OP
Shah

Shah

Cyborg Agent
You can't do much on issues like these. Just try to be sure about doing it next time. I like your decisions and you better stick with them.



:) Thanks. I know nothing can be done. At least this thread will help some other freelancers to avoid such clients
 
[MENTION=129731]Shah[/MENTION] It is better to pick yourself up and move on.
You learnt a valuable lesson, Life isn't fair.
Now you won't make same mistake twice.

BTW you should post that client name so that other users won't duped by this client
 
OP
Shah

Shah

Cyborg Agent
[MENTION=129731]Shah[/MENTION] It is better to pick yourself up and move on.
You learnt a valuable lesson, Life isn't fair.
Now you won't make same mistake twice.

BTW you should post that client name so that other users won't duped by this client

The links to his profile are inside the spoilers.
If it is against the forum rules to post such links, Mods can remove it. I don't mind.
 

krishnandu.sarkar

Simply a DIGITian
Staff member
[MENTION=32490]krishnandu.sarkar[/MENTION] Thanks for the reply. It meant a lot to me. I am actually now analyzing what went wrong and what I shouldn't have done. So, I have come up with the following decisions.
  • Signing NDA and other documents before the start of the project like you said
  • Payments on milestones
  • Not disclosing the source code until all the payments have been cleared
  • Working on my own server space and then moving it to client's server after payment

A bit of googling, I found out there are lots of freelancers who have got cheated by such clients. Unfortunately, there isn't any law to prevent such actions.

Yes this is what everyone should follow. I always follow them.

Along with NDA, you should always sign commercial contract, sign on scope document with your client. Contract should contain milestones and details of everything that will be delivered on each and every milestone.
 
OP
Shah

Shah

Cyborg Agent
Yes this is what everyone should follow. I always follow them.

Along with NDA, you should always sign commercial contract, sign on scope document with your client. Contract should contain milestones and details of everything that will be delivered on each and every milestone.

I wasn't serious about contracts and agreements as my other clients have paid me on time. I'll start following them from now on.

Also, If possible, can you provide me a sample template of the contracts and documents you have mentioned?
 

Faun

Wahahaha~!
Staff member
Next time add few lines of code that will break their website after few days of expected payment date. That will keep them on their toes. And obfuscate your code too so that it will not be easy to find it out right at glance.
 

krishnandu.sarkar

Simply a DIGITian
Staff member
I wasn't serious about contracts and agreements as my other clients have paid me on time. I'll start following them from now on.

Also, If possible, can you provide me a sample template of the contracts and documents you have mentioned?

You'll find such templates a lot if you google. Though here are few...

NDA :
https://www.google.co.in/url?sa=t&r...=PKKVxDZMcG7ZvqdByJ-NLg&bvm=bv.92885102,d.c2E => UPDATE : I just found google works always same. This is the same document that I used for part time employees.

https://www.mycapital.com/companies/non-disclosure-agreement.php

Scope Document :
Defining project scope in IT Projects

https://www.google.co.in/url?sa=t&r...=vbhDP0ESrVPUFKjyfskSBw&bvm=bv.92885102,d.c2E

Proposal / Quotation Template:
https://www.pandadoc.com/software-development-proposal-template -> I find it really great.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/lxgofjcdhx21yxc/Quotation_With_Milestone.doc?dl=0 => This is document I use for quotation for my company. Very basic but till now this one document serves my purpose with a generalized NDA document downloaded from internet :p

If you are reluctant to do all these on your own you can try http://www.indiafilings.com/ for writing all these according to your company. We did all this on our own but for registering my company and getting the stamppads and all I used MyOnlineCA. Both of their charges are almost same. But IndiaFillings have good amount of resources to read. But I won't recommend these professional services now, as you are just getting work as a freelancer there's no need for these. But I have just given you for your reference.

Though you might not need this, but once you start to grow or think of creating a company, use QuickBooks for A/c. It's great. You don't need to have any idea of A/c terminology to maintain it. IndiaFillings offer it on their registration package.

My another 2 cents with, always start with LLP, if you really don't know the advantages and disadvantages of Pvt. Ltd. If you don't know, then you might not need it right now. It's perfect for startup's.

And from my personal experience, if anyone of you looking forward to start a company, don't do it singly. It never works, and you'll have a hard time finding investors. [NOTE : The statement, "It never works" have many aspects. If you don't fall under that category then probably you don't need my opinion even. As in that case you are a great businessman then, I'm just a startup and have no idea about business, just saying what I have seen]. Actually I'm saying this as from your statements I believe we all are like minded peoples and are almost in same stage. One must be a Seller / Marketting guy while another one must be Technical guy.

The problem with us, technical guys, is that we always think of doing business, but faces a lot of problem, selling product / finding client whichever it be. Do it in partnership. Yeah I know it do have it's own disadvantages, but you have advantages too. Try to see the positive ofcourse after creating a plan for the negative :)
 

cute.bandar

Cyborg Agent
I have potentially lost over 300$ to various 'people'.. what can I say, I am a slow learner ;)

But what I have learned :

1. freelancer.com sucks.
2. The agreed upon amount means nothing (at least on freelancer) In my case- the client simply stopped responding, I filed a dispute which was only valid for the amount funded in escrow (1/5 of the total). freelancer took NO action against the employer.
3. Don't submit final work till full escrow as has been funded.
 

krishnandu.sarkar

Simply a DIGITian
Staff member
I have potentially lost over 300$ to various 'people'.. what can I say, I am a slow learner ;)

But what I have learned :

1. freelancer.com sucks.

Yes bro. I never got a project from there. To get project you need good ratings, to get good ratings you need project :( Loop. Well I try to find my own contacts.

Though it may seem odd, but all I started with was, working singly, running on shops saying "Bhaiya website banalo, zyada bikega". Ofcourse you need to convince. Now I work upon my networks.

But do create your ID's on every freelancing and startup site. You'll get many jobs from there. One more tip, look at Linked In, it works sometimes based on networks.

2. The agreed upon amount means nothing (at least on freelancer) In my case- the client simply stopped responding, I filed a dispute which was only valid for the amount funded in escrow (1/5 of the total). freelancer took NO action against the employer.

Well, sorry to hear that freelancer like good platform doing this too.

3. Don't submit final work till full escrow as has been funded.

Yeah. This is very important. I never made mistakes like this. As I had already came upon such issues many times. I have my own Cloud setup at Vultr and DO, where I host it show it, after full money, I transfer the site (if client wants it on their server).

But in most cases, I needed to do the hosting. So this thing didn't got a chance to affect me much.

- - - Updated - - -

The thing is, in my case, my luck worked and I got a good US client reference. Now I work for his multiple projects on daily basis. It's keeps on running. Though I do have other projects too, but very less.

But, by working with US Client, now I got reluctant to work with Indian clients. As they have very low budget and they want high output. They keep doing khitpit all the times. Also there is much low breathing space (in amount of money) with them.

You see, scope document is what I find very important, because what is normal for him, is not normal for me. Very small things like Social Logins, Email Activation, Chat etc. comes into picture. They keep on asking add this, add that, this is normal you missed and all this jhikjhiks. Now if you have a good breathing space, then you don't find problem. But if it's a budget project then all these becomes a issue.

See, you don't want t loose the client, and for him, it doesn't matter anything, if you don't deliver the whole project. As he can't do anything with something incomplete. Because then his investment is total loss. He needs to invest again for the whole thing with a new developer. For you, you loose the network.

As I said before, neither of us gets rich by that 20k or 50k. But in the end that network matters. So to avoid all these hassles, you always need scope document to be agreed upon.
 

cute.bandar

Cyborg Agent
Yes bro. I never got a project from there. To get project you need good ratings, to get good ratings you need project Loop.
Yeah I too was stuck in it for atleast 6-7 months
The way I broke the loop:
1. Looked for small 20$ jobs that you can finish quickly (in my case it was scraping), show demo/sample to client, he may award you.
2. More importantly really know your skill/thing/job and show it(talk like it) when you bid.
3. Make something - opensource / website / portfolio of your work. Easier said than done though.

Though it may seem odd, but all I started with was, working singly, running on shops saying "Bhaiya website banalo, zyada bikega".
That is quite awesome actually. Someone suggested me to do something similar, but I was too shy for this..
[MENTION=32490]krishnandu.sarkar[/MENTION] Can I ask which technologies you work on ?
 

krishnandu.sarkar

Simply a DIGITian
Staff member
[MENTION=88350]cute.bandar[/MENTION] I work on Microsoft Technologies. And this why you can say that, I can't look for small jobs. Because there are almost no small jobs for such things.

But at my startup I take every kind of projects. I don't limit it to MS Technologies. Specially I focus on Android and iOS Development but we did some Node JS, PHP, MySQL work too.

But for me personally, I know PHP MySQL, but not Android, iOS and NodeJS things. Ofcourse I can learn, but learning and finding projects and doing work personally, is too long story. Infact this is the reason for my startup, where I can accept projects based on any technologies and hire people to do the job, instead of limiting with MS Technologies.

Actually in freelancing world I have seen PHP + MySQL, Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal based works mainly and max works are on Design, SEO etc. on which I don't have much idea :(
 
D

Deleted member 118788

Guest
[MENTION=32490]krishnandu.sarkar[/MENTION] Thanks for that informative post. [MENTION=88350]cute.bandar[/MENTION] I too had zero luck on freelancer.com. But, after reading this post, I never logged into that site again. https://omnipresentwords.wordpress....isgivings-and-apathy-of-freelancer-com-staff/ From my personal experience, most projects on Freelancer.com and Freelancer.in are fake or just spam.


I do not much agree with you about freelancer.com. You need to find out which projects are worth bidding and you should concentrate on a specific niche. Some tips from my side:-

1. Try to bid on jobs posted by Americans, Britishers, Australians and Germans.
2. Only bid on client's job who already have high reviews and good paying rate.
3. Concentrate on a particular niche and just focus mainly on it.
 

krishnandu.sarkar

Simply a DIGITian
Staff member
You can even try https://www.fiverr.com/, but again as I already said, if you only know software development, you may have a hard time finding projects on these sites. As it's hard to find low value development projects. But if you know CMS Tempalte Designing / Editing / Development like Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento etc. then there are great scope.

If one knows Designing and SEO then it's great.
 
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