When Good Clients Go Bad

Remember when I said I felt bad about billing my client such a lofty amount? Well, as it turns out things only went from bad to worse. Let me rewind a bit to before I sent the invoice…I hadn’t heard from them in a few days so I asked if they still needed me and they said they didn’t that everything was great then they thanked me.

Later that day, I sent them an invoice for the remaining balance which they promptly rejected. I was pretty confused because I believed everything was going just fine. I thought that I was just being nervous for no reason. My intuition must have been trying to tell me something because then they sent me a fairly unfriendly message noting all the things I did wrong and how they weren’t going to pay that much because they thought they were paying $50 for the entire job, not per hour(I had offered to do it for $40/hr in my bid because it wouldn’t let me bid any lower).

Here is the majority of our conversation:

ME: I am extremely excited right now! I pitched this guy I’ve been following for years on a whim and he says he is interested in hearing more about what you need. His name is ____ and he’s been featured in TIME, Entrepreneur, Fortune and several other business magazines. He is literally a business genius! I believe he would be exactly what you are looking for and then some. He asked me to make the introduction so here is his information:
__Very Important Person’s Information__

  • 12:10 PM

Me: Here are some other people I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with that are also interested in hearing more about what you need:

___Person1____

___Person2____

___Person3____

03 Jan 2017

Client X: Bravo this is great!!! Thank you so much!!! Sorry for the delay, I’ve been out of town, this is really great. I’m going to check out all of these people, they are a great group!!! Very much appreciated!

03 Jan 2017

Me: You are quite welcome!

Sat 2:50pm

Me: I just wanted to check in and see if I need to continue searching? I’m happy to do so if needed!

Mon 8:51am

Client X: No we’re great, thank you very much! Do I need to do something to close the case? Thanks

  • Invoice sent for 8 hours @$40=$320

  • Invoice Rejected

Mon 10:32am

Client X: Fuck. I fucked up and put $50/hr when I mean to put $50 for the project. That’s why you kept researching and researching. Look, the truth is I just wanted the project to be done because I wasn’t getting what I wanted. First of all I didn’t want you to research ____, I can do that.

  • 10:33 AM

Client X: Then you got me one guy who does the kind of marketing product development and other guys who do marketing content, which isn’t what I’m looking for.
I don’t know what to do. You can advice me. But this is out of pocket and $320 won’t work for me.

  • 10:34 AM

Client X: I’m sorry about this. I’m willing to find a solution, but it’s got to work and paying for you to have gone on _____ and find me people I wasn’t looking for can’t work for me.

Yesterday

Me: Frankly, I’m not working for less than my hourly rate which would total $176. Otherwise, I’m disputing the claim and I have plenty of information to back me up considering you had no issues until I raised an invoice. I’m not sure you understand how research works. You ask for something and then you review what is given and then proceed to accept or decline and then I continue to search unless you tell me otherwise. At no point did I keep researching and researching. I put in 4 hours for two days and waited for further instruction. I’m happy to provide the email documenting all the people I contacted in reference to the job. Which involves finding those people and their email address and then pitching them the idea. I find it more than a little offensive that you think I or anyone else would do that job for $50. I don’t put my own personal reputation on the line for less than I am worth and I’m not about to start today. According to you up to this point everything was “great”. If you had an issue, you should have brought it to my attention then and I would have been more than willing to correct it. I am not billing you for the time I searched on _____. Though you didn’t provide implicit instructions as to what you were looking for until much later in our conversation so the fault does not lie entirely on me, still I accepted that as the cost of doing business.

4 hours ago

Client X: Fine – bill me for $176. Done.

  • 10:28 AM

Client X: I’m sorry I screwed it up.

4 hours ago

Me: I’m billing you for $150 and we’ll be square. I will not leave bad feedback unless you leave me bad feedback. I would be happy to work with you again, despite this debacle. I’m more than willing to negotiate prices, before I start working and I am fairly flexible especially for repeat clients.

I know I probably could’ve handled it better, but I was pretty angry that all of a sudden what I had thought was a job well done turned into the exact opposite once I sent them a bill. I know this type of thing happens, but it had never happened to me until now. I asked a friend what he thought about my response before I sent it and he said it sounded crass, but I didn’t care. I let my emotions cloud my better judgment and sent it anyway. I’m happy to report that at least it ended on a more positive note. They left me some good feedback and I responded in turn as promised. They also promptly paid the remainder of their balance(Thankfully!).

I would never recommend cussing or saying derogatory things to a client, no matter how poorly they handle the situation. I do, however, recommend standing your ground. I feel like I was being generous by offering to settle the account for less than half what they owed me. I could have disputed the claim and most likely gotten the entire amount, but I chose not to do so because if they genuinely did make an error in their proposal(I don’t believe it was) I wanted to show at least some measure of grace even though that wasn’t my initial reaction.

I would love to hear your thoughts! Was I too harsh or did I do the right thing? How would you have handled it?

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