Silver Hill Arts case – avoiding toxic clients and shady projects

Recently I had a very disppointing experience with a project which was offered to me by my friends. Friends who turned out to be  those kind of people who order a website, actually not knowing what is it that they want, approving the work to be done and then deciding that they no longer like or want what they have requested and refuse to pay. Mostly I blame this on myself – signs were there and based on my 7-8 years experience as a freelancer/employee I should have known better.

So here goes a list of things not to do.

Don’t mix business & friendship

It started out as having this lovely American couple Norvel and Fay as friends. I moved into a nice neighbourhood, got to know them a bit later through my downstairs neighbour and from there on we went out, met from time to time and so on.

At one point Norvel said that he was looking into updating their company’s website and while they already had one option on the table, I offered them another guy to have as an option. First mistake – should have kept my mouth shut.

Don’t take up project that has been started by someone else

If a potential client approaches you and it’s unclear (different signals from client & previous partner) why the project is being passed on to you – there are probably some underwater rocks you’re going to hit. Untolerable client being one of them. At first I thought it was because of bad communication on both sides. Oh boy, was I wrong.

Make sure you know who’s the decision maker

Norvel Hermanovski was the first person I met and he was the one who introduced me to the project. After a while I started receiving emails from a guy named Michael Whiston, suddenly there was some Michael Prettyman getting involved and at one point even Fay was mentioned as person who has given an input. It’s always a bad sign when there’s comittee on the other side and no-one seems to be in charge of making the final decisions. In cases like these everyone wants to contribute and to seem useful in one way or another. Changes and updates never stop coming. Even to the point where a complete overhaul is done and that’s a complete opposite to the initial brief.

Have a contract in place before you start doing ANYTHING

Wish I had done that. If I had done that Silver Hill Arts wouldn’t be owing me 2500€ or there would at least be a realistic way of getting that money back. But me being me, I decided that it was going to be faster to finish the project than to sign a contract with a client who is based in USA. Doing business with people I had know for a long time and found them trustworthy seemed reassuring enough, but looking back I should have foreseen it.

Make sure that client understands what is it that he actually wants

Usually a telling sign that a client is capable of understanding everything he is asking for is when there are not too many additional questions and everything gets approved. As it turned out in this case people involved didn’t have a clue. Good thing on my part was that I thoroughly explained/ did thorough explanation on what was going to happen at each step, but unfortunately that didn’t help too much. When a client approves custom design to be coded onto wordpress it is possible that he/she assumes that it only takes 2 hours of work. This was exactly the case.

Don’t start doing anything without 20-50% pre-payment

This should be a no-brainer for every freelancer out there. If a client is not comfortable of doing this, there’s a much bigger chance that they won’t be willing to pay later as well. This point is especially important if you’re having someone to help you on the project, because if that’s the case you’re not only risking not getting paid yourself but you are also potentially risking not getting coverage on the expenses of other person’s work.

Don’t do business with Silver Hill Arts

This has been the worst client experience in my freelance career. In the end I was called a liar about my cost estimate for the development of website (coding the design & custom fields onto wordpress – 1500€) and offered to keep the good relationship by them covering development expenses I paid from my own pocket – and that’s not counting the hours I spent on the project and didn’t get paid for. Sickening.

What if it’s too late and you’re already duped?

Just write it off, send them fuck yous and move on. You have learned your lesson and such people are not worth your time.