Argh. Freelancer blues

I’m getting pretty good at this cross-browser/cross-platform thing. I spent this morning developing a site template for a new client. It’s lean, mean, W3C valid for both XHTML and CSS, as well as working on more than 10 different browser/platform configurations with excellent consistency. What I was given by the client as the basic CSS to start from was messy, clumsy and not cross-browser/cross-platform. The XHTML document was poorly structured, completely standards invalid and again, not rendering cross-browser/cross-platform. I made that code sing in four hours, and let me tell you, she’s got a lovely voice!

This was a much longer post, but in the interest of staying as vague as possible on the subject, I’ll just say that the client hired us for several templates, got one for initial approval/guidance that is super compliant and met the requirements, then said they had done some of their own work and wouldn’t need us after all… Fortunately, we had only sent off one template, and not finished the whole day’s work.

They say they’ll pay for what we’ve done so far. I hope so. Part of why we were hired was that they truly wanted to get away from the TABLES structure that currently forms the backbone of their resale template system. I built pure, clean, valid, truly cross-browser/cross-platform CSS and XHTML. I’m not at all mad nor do I feel like it’s a waste of time. After all, I do have a really good basic template from which I can create numerous sites (of course, so can they ;)…). If they pay the bill as promised, then sure, use my template for all it’s got. If they don’t pay…
Either wayβ€šΓ„Γ¬ bummer. I was enjoying the project. I don’t get to be ‘creative’ all that often, so this was a treat. Damn. I shouldn’t have commented that CSS so well :P. Next time I won’t for the initial submission. Live and learn…

A bit of a rant… and a techie boring one too. Now I’m off to the next project… It’s a really fun one and should prove to be a good, healthy client to work for. Fortunately, we’ve got a few of those. They’re my favourites. πŸ˜‰

The template client just sent an apology and again say they wish to pay for the work done. That’s a good start… Probably won’t work for them again, but if so, I think more upfront negotiations will be in order.


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7 thoughts on “Argh. Freelancer blues”

  1. Always contract what you are doing, the deliverables, and the negotiated timeframe. Incorporate into the contract the cost of any additional work to be performed. Never forget to incorporate an intellectual property clause.

    Everything always works out.

  2. Hi Brian!
    Yup, most of the time we don’t get burned. Neil has NDAs and contracts where necessary, but for this little one-day job/trial, it seemed simple and straightforward. As for intellectual property, since I was creating templates for them to be able to resell, I was really giving it up to them. I’m cool with that, just not cool with not getting paid… πŸ˜‰

    I’m new to the freelancer thang, but Neil’s been at it for over 10 years and takes care of the negotiations and contracts. I get to sit at my Mac and make pretty code for now! πŸ™‚ One of these days I’ll have my own clients and contracts, but there will always be the occasional ones that burn you. I don’t think anything can stop that entirely…

    Giving the client in my post the benefit of the doubt, maybe they’re just not very organised and honestly screwed up or didn’t see what they wanted. (I still want the half day’s wages though! πŸ˜‰ ) They had inquired about some other work when this bit was agreed upon, so believe me, if that goes through, they will be managed on a much tighter leash. πŸ™‚

  3. Hey Jen,

    I know it sounds awful, but experience has borne it out – if it’s not explicitly stated in a contract, expect the client to want it for free.

    If it’s in the contract, expect them to want it for free anyway, but at least you’ve got a convenient barrel over which to teach them some good old shipboard justice.


  4. Contracts are all well and good in an ideal world, but in the real day-to-day world of the freelancer (as opposed to contractor) working to tight deadlines, they all too infrequent. In my 15+ years freelancing (90% without contracts), I’ve been caught out with lack of contract just twice, only one of which caused problems for any length of time.
    Instinct tells me these guys will pay for the time Jen spent – in which case it’s a done deal. Disappointing that we were unable to grasp the opportunity for more work, but once it’s settled, they have some work, we have an appropriate amount of money in return.
    In the situation Jen mentioned, by the time a contract could have been established and signed, the deadline would have passed. Sometimes you go with your gut, then build a little buffer in there just in case – exactly what we did by sending ‘test’ work over prior to the deadline, thus minimising any potential loss. As it is, there won’t be a loss… other than one company not having the benefit of Jen’s cracking XHTML/CSS knowledge!

  5. Hey Neil,

    Wow, that’s pretty cool to hear in terms of honest client ratio, maybe I just attracted some dodgy clients :/

    Actually thinking about it right now, that might be the case πŸ™‚


  6. I actually always write explicit contracts and if I don’t get a deposit or some other contractual requirement I state before the deadline, I won’t deliver.

    So far, they all understand and obey πŸ™‚

  7. Great discussion fellas! πŸ™‚ I know the project wasn’t really the right criteria for a ‘contract’ so-to-speak, (given the deadline and nature of why they hired us for a day of work), but it is a shame that there are those clients out there that don’t play fair with freelancers. Time is moneyβ€šΓ„ΓΆ?Γ‘?Β¨ with or without a contract in place. The time spent could’ve gone to another job. I had fun making the template, will use it on some upcoming stuff Neil and I are talking about, and am generally indifferent about the experience now. So, it wasn’t a waste of time or money in the big picture, I just could’ve used that time on the project I’m working on now… πŸ™‚

    Oh and Hi Rob! I was on Skype yesterday but didn’t see you around… Catch up with you when I’m back from the US in a week! πŸ™‚

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