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Advice? Offline Client Threatening Legal Action Against Me

Discussion in 'Black Hat SEO' started by StreamlineWeb, Dec 13, 2011.

  1. StreamlineWeb

    StreamlineWeb Junior Member

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    Mods: Please move if this section is inappropriate for my post. Thanks.

    So here's the story: I have (had) an offline client who wanted a new website built and SEO for various terms. There was never a signed paper agreement, just emails talking about what keywords to target, how much I would charge, etc.

    So I made him a new website, performed on-page SEO, and prepared my backlink strategy. My first invoice went out in October, and I waited 30 days before sending a reminder email. He didn't reply, so I sent another reminder email. Again he would not bring up the issue directly, instead he would just talk about how he's not happy with the SEO progress, etc.

    So I addressed his concerns, told him I would be happy to share my SEO strategy, and results won't happen in just a month or two. He didn't complain further, but still no cheque. So finally I cornered him about it and he said the cheque would be expedited, but by the way, I want this and this fixed. Ok, fine. But this time I didn't do extra work (I ain't no dummy). Instead I waited a week for this cheque -- nothing!

    So tonight was the last straw for me. I put his old website back and resigned in a polite email. Whoa boy, that opened up a can of fun! He retorted back with threats of legal action, and saying I invaded "his" website unlawfully, and the website is rightfully his.

    But he hasn't paid me a dime...

    What would you folks do in my shoes?
     
  2. RMX

    RMX Power Member

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    Good thing you didn't have any written contract - he can't prove anything. E-mails alone are worth nothing and you haven't given him any payment receipt, so you can easily tell him to go fuck himself.

    He only owns a website you create for him if it's paid for. Empty words coming from him, so I'd say - no worries, he can't do anything.
     
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  3. larrydetuvi

    larrydetuvi Regular Member

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    If things (domain or hosting or both) are on his name, go throw some stones at the river.
     
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  4. mrankin

    mrankin Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    Nothing to do, he asked for your service, which you rendered. He did not pay for your services, so you reverted his website to it's state before you did the work. If he does take it to court, file a counter claim for what he owes you for the work done plus legal costs.

    He won't take you to court, he's just venting for whatever reason. Just ignore him, he'll go away. Do not take any vindictive action though (like taking down his site etc.) as then you would be in trouble.
     
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  5. volund

    volund Senior Member

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    Not his until he pays for it.......Tell him if he wants it you want either cash or a cashiers check otherwise he will give you a check, get the files from you and stop payment.

    Pay a lawyer $50 to send him a letter saying if he has not paid you by a certain date You will be taking him to court and you will be suing him for any lawyers fees and court costs as well. While you do not have a written agreement you may have enough with all the emails especially if you have some from him saying he is going to be sending payment, Print them all out as you may need them

    Next time get some cash up front and make sure you have a written agreement. For websites I go with 20-50-25 always making sure I am getting enough money to be close to the amount of hours I have into a project at that point. That way if something goes wrong I am not out very much if any time. If a client is not willing to pay 25% upfront then walk away. For monthly seo work you should always collect upfront.
     
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  6. Crewchief007

    Crewchief007 Power Member

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    He is going to sue you with no contract? Ha Ha! Here is your answer in the video, he wanted it on the house, right?

    [​IMG]

    The bottom line, has got nothing. If anything you should be suing him but you would get far because you HAVE NO CONTRACT!

    Let that be a costly lesson; no contract = no work! And get some money up front on all non-corporate clients. ;)
     
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  7. sixalarm

    sixalarm Regular Member

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    Pretty much what everyone has said. I worked in a law office for about 6 years. We had a case where a guy did pretty much the same thing. The guy who owned the website came in for a consultation and our attorneys basically told him he had no case and to gtfo. Plus even he is does go ahead and files the claim then just do what mrankin suggested. I would bet he would be willing to drop the case to prevent from having to pay your defense bills when he loses.
     
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  8. c0ntenth|ef

    c0ntenth|ef Power Member

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    to save yourself some troubles in the future, if you plan to do SEO for somebody be realistic to them don't tell them oh they will rank #1 or on the top ten soon and better to do the web design and SEO on a separate agreement
     
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  9. StreamlineWeb

    StreamlineWeb Junior Member

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    Thanks guys. That's pretty much what I thought. I'll update this thread if anything interesting happens... at least we can be entertained.
     
  10. beakon

    beakon Regular Member

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    Don't know if you're willing to give details but I'm curious as to what you were charging him and what ranking was the site at its peak?
     
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  11. StreamlineWeb

    StreamlineWeb Junior Member

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    We agreed to $100/m for website updates, with 24-hour turnaround, nothing major or structural, just content updates for his business. He even talked me into making this pay for the website over time, instead of the $1500 for the site I wanted. His argument: There will be some months when there will be no updates at all, so I will make more in the end. (The more I look back, the more I realize he was a sleaze).

    And we agreed to $290/m for SEO for 6 terms. I had not begun a backlink campaign. I did however create web 2.0 sites/accounts, have content written, and spent time spinning it for AMR. There was no way I was going to start ranking him without getting my first pay cheque.
     
  12. StreamlineWeb

    StreamlineWeb Junior Member

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    Yes the domain and hosting was his, the but site I created was my intellectual property. I happened to upload it to his site in expectation of being paid. Since that wasn't happening, I took it down and that's when he threatened me legally. His argument is basically that I went on to his site and made unauthorized changes. My argument is that I'm taking back my intellectual property until he pays for it.
     
  13. blackfairy

    blackfairy Regular Member

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    He's full of shit. But he's a customer with money and maybe you can still remedy the situation.

    If I were you I would call him or better meet him directly if possible and try to talk to him for the last time. I would politely ask him why he's expecting you to work for him for free. You did all the work and got nothing for it, ask him if he thinks that's fair business.
    If you get a feeling like all that won't help at all and the guy's still acting like an asshole, tell him to fuck off and forget the whole thing. There isn't anything he can do to you without paying the invoice first.
     
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  14. marusia

    marusia Senior Member

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    If I were you, I'd initiate a court settlement. Even oral contracts can be legally binding, and providing you still have the emails, it should be a pretty cut and dry case.

    Either that or just tell him to stuff it.
     
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  15. chad362wiley

    chad362wiley Supreme Member

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    go to h*ttp://ww*.thepiratebay.or*/legal.php and do what they do
     
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  16. Gofree

    Gofree Newbie

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    Lesson learnt, take upfront payment always and don't get too excited with the figure.
     
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  17. JakkOne

    JakkOne Newbie

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    I had something very similar happen. Someone didn't pay.. gave them many chances, many emails, tons of banter back and forth and eventually ended up taking the code off of the server.

    Honestly, this "customer" is the worst to deal with. Right now, you are out the potential money you could have earned working with a non-dbag AND you are out your time that has already been spent. Not to mention more time will be drained in communications back and forth. I'd just fire him as a client; let him know if you aren't going to get paid, there's really no point in moving forward.

    Next time get 1/2 upfront. 1/2 upon completion. I learned this the hard way too :(.

    sorry to hear that you got screwed.. wouldn't be surprised if the client hoots and hollers for a bit .. lol
     
  18. StreamlineWeb

    StreamlineWeb Junior Member

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    Thanks for the input everyone.

    I agree this was a great lesson for me. I learned a lot:

    - Get money up front
    - Have professional contracts signed that protect myself and clearly state deliverables
    - Trust your GUT (I never trusted this guy from the get-go, should have walked away)

    I'm not pursuing an offline business any longer. I'm strictly going for affiliate marketing and maybe CPA. I'm already seeing better results with my online retail sites, and you have less b.s. to deal with!!

    I'm not going to chase this guy for the money, even though I feel he owes it to me, because my time is valuable and I chalk this whole deal up to a lesson learned. I don't want any further involvement with the guy. That being said, if a cheque for $1500 shows up without any further effort on my part, I will gladly put the pretty site back up :D
     
  19. Jesse550

    Jesse550 Regular Member

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    You guys have a contract. The email exchanged actually constitutes a contract when you guys agreed & it is enforcable by YOU (the damaged party) and YOU can recover damages for the work you did and were not paid for. Emails CAN be used as evidence since they CANNOT be altered like instant messages. If the judge has any suspicion of edited emails, you may be asked to show them emails on a computer as evidence. He does not have a case, however you do. Just threaten to countersue for compensatory damages.

    Just remember, YOU have a case. He does not. He authorized you to use his site, and the emails should be more than enough evidence. Anyways, if he doesn't sue you still have the case if you want to sue for breach of contract. Don't know if in the end it would be worth court fees, but the option is there.

    Edit: At least considering if it is in the USA, New York especially is where I am certain this applies. Other states & countries is most likely similar.
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2011
  20. oxonbeef

    oxonbeef BANNED BANNED

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    Charge upfront in future?