Help me, please! I'm not getting payed!
Posted 10 October 2004 - 03:04 PM
What my big concern is regards this jerk's rights to my work. He has several jpeg's that were sent to him via email because we were working on it mainly through email. I would modify the mascot, and then he would send me change after change, and then later more changes from his mother and sister. It was getting ridiculous to the point that I just wanted to be rid of him. What began as a small logo became a nightmare. He is now wanting to back out of the deal and go somewhere else because I told him that he cannot go on forever changing things four to five times daily depending on what mommy and sis decide. It has been totally unprofessional - on my side, too, being that I have no signed contract for this deal.
Is this guy going to be able to take the jpegs he already has and use them even without my permission? Do I have any rights to protect my work? I've been paid nothing, I've put a great deal of time into this project, and now I run the risk of having my ideas stolen with no pay at all. Can he do this? The only thing I've done is put together a sheet with all my works for him and gotten it notarized. It states on the page that all creative rights belong to me. I am sorry to make this so long, but I know that all creative individuals cherish their work and hate to have it taken from them unfairly. Can someone please help me? I need to know if there is any way that I can stop him from using my ideas and work with no pay. Thank you.
Posted 10 October 2004 - 04:00 PM
First let me take a moment to welcome you to the forum. I'm sorry we meet within the context of such an obnoxious situation but hopefully your stay here, however long, will eliviate some of the stress :-)
I'm by no means a lawyer nor scholared in any specific aspect of the law, so by no means take what I say as gospel or an informed opinion. It's more a description of what I would do were I in your shoes right now.
Given the outstanding step of having gotten your work notarized I would proceed to severe the working relationship with this client while mentioning both pay and legal restrictions in the same go.
Something along the lines of;
Please be adviced that awaiting full payment of the agreed amount of US $500 all rights to the creative works remain with <insert name>, as witnessed by a deposited and notarized copy of said works.
Don't mention not expecting payment. Send a regular reminder, followed by 2 or 3 months with a payment schedule offer ("... in case of financial duress we're willing to offer you a payment schedule of 5 monthly installments of US $100..." etc.).
Posted 10 October 2004 - 04:21 PM
Agreed. That's an excellent precaution.
Send a copy to him -fedex or certified mail, return receipt requested- along with Ruud's suggested text. You might add that it's a usual business practice to get 50% upfront and ask for that. Odds are you're never going to get a dime but you might keep him from using your work.
Posted 10 October 2004 - 04:25 PM
Your situation is frustrating for sure. All that work put in with no return, plus the fact that this person is 'getting over' on you if you do nothing and walk away - Which is what my advise would be.
It might be difficult to do, everyone wants vindication when they have been wronged but consider this:
$500 is a small price to pay for a lesson learned. Don't ever work without a contract. Don't ever underestimate your value. Even for the most friendly of jobs, always work out a contract that states payment terms, outlines what your deliverables are (the design and files), and what creative rights you are giving up or holding on to.
Also, if you want to give someone a price break, a good idea is to invoice them for the full amount and indicate on the invoice a reduced or discount rate. This way the client will understand your true value and hopefully appreciate the lower fee you are giving.
That said, your work is your work. I belive that you retain copyright for commissioned work by default - I am not a lawyer however. If trying to decide if going after this payment is worth it, you have to try to put a value on the time, effort and stress you will have to spend getting your payment
Again, I am not a lawyer, so if you really do want to attempt to make a claim, consulting with a lawyer is your best option. Sometimes a letter from a lawyer is enough to motivate people into action.
It's easy for me to say let it go, I know. I am not invested in it as you are. I have in the past tried to collect on work that I did not have a contract for and as someone who has been through it before, I can tell you I should have let it go and focused instead on getting more work.
Some resources on Contracts just FYI:
About.com has a few good resources on graphic design contracts with some sample copy and good primers. It is worth a look.
The Graphic Artists Guild's Contract Page also has some great resources and overviews on corporate contracts.
The Graphic Artists Guild publishes a Pricing and Ethical Guidelines Handbook each year that has sample contracts, salary ranges and other valuable material and is fantastic for any graphic designer.
Good Luck on whatever route you decide on.
*edited for spelling*
Posted 10 October 2004 - 04:26 PM
As far as I'm aware, the rights to the work are deffinately still yours to control. So in that case, he can't take the work you've already done and use it in any way without your permission.
Also, though you may not have a signed contract, do you have some kind of evidence of the payment terms? An email or something?
Anything along those lines can strengthen your position if you don't get anywhere with the advice Ruud gives above.
It might also be worth letting him know what your usual hourly rate is, and how many hours you've put into the project. I'm guessing at that kind of rate, it would be a lot more than $500 with all his requested changes?
Though on 2nd thought, that may not be such a brilliant idea, but it's likely the kind of thing I'd say, heh.
Posted 10 October 2004 - 05:21 PM
I don't have any more advice than what's already been given on the legal side of things, but I wanted to say that I hear you on the never-ending changes. I had a big problem with that once when a client didn't describe what they wanted properly at the inital quote, and I failed to ask more questions, and then they thought of new changes throughout the development process - and they were shocked when I said I need to charge them more. In the end, I lost the client - I got the money I'd quoted plus a bit more, but not as much as I would have liked for the work I did.
I guess the bottom line on that is make sure everything is worked out thoroughly at the beginning - which you've learnt from this. Spend a good amount of time talking with your client and telling them what is included in the price they're paying. Put it all in writing, and get both parties to sign it. Tell them you'll charge them 50% of the total amount before you do any work for them.
I've generally found that most clients are a pleasure to work with, and I rarely have problems. But occasionly there's the odd one out, who either insists on you doing what they want even if you can't do it or it's not a good idea, or just sends through 10 changes a day in the ignorance that it's paid for in the quote.
So, I totally understand your situation, as I'm sure many more do too - you're not the only one! I hope that whatever route you choose to take, it works for you and that you get your work paid for.
Posted 10 October 2004 - 11:45 PM
Posted 11 October 2004 - 12:04 AM
Seriously though, happy to hear this helps all helps a bit, prepares you for the future and encourages you to come back to help out others.
Ain't life a great place :-)
Posted 12 October 2004 - 05:00 PM
Pretty much everything's been covered already but I thought I'd throw in my 2c.
As unfortunate as the ways it's come about it sounds like you've learnt a very valuable lesson and perhaps over time will actually realise it may have been a good thing to have happen.
A couple of things to keep in mind for the future:
1. Never, ever start a job without a contract. If they've left things to the last minute that's their problem not yours. Never let things like a rush job stop your usual process.
2. Estimates are often hard enough to come up with in the first place. And we've all had the client who wants endless revisions. I always allow some extra time in my estimates to do at least one revision. After that I tell them additional revisions will be billed as extra. You'll notice I said "estimate" and not "quote". I never call them quotes - they're not they are an estimate of the time it will take to complete a job. I also add the following copy to every estimate:
These figures are an estimate, not a quote. They are based on information provided, and may be inappropriate if additional information is forthcoming, or job specifications change. It is valid for 30 days.
3. Getting an upfront payment is important however I recently moved away from the 50% up front. I now invoice 25% up front and then invoice the client on a fortnightly basis. This way if the job takes longer than expected I'm still bringing in money (cash flow is important) Additionally if they keep adding extra tasks they get billed for them. Alternatively if the job doesn't take as much time as expected they're invoiced less. I find it works well for my me and the client - as we both always know where we're at.
4. Finally be prepared to walk away. Some jobs aren't worth it. :roll:
Posted 12 October 2004 - 05:17 PM
I would keep those e-mails that you sent back and fore...if you tend to seek legal matter. This is proof that you did work on a job for him.
Check to see if he is with the B&B if so report him.
On the flip side I learned a lesson my self one day. To make a short story I never asked for a down. I now want a down payment and full payment when the project is over. Make a contract no matter how small it is...
PS I wish you luck in getting the money that you earned...
Please tell us what the outcome is...
Posted 12 October 2004 - 07:00 PM
Have in your contract that high resolutions, black and white versions etc will be provided on full payment.
Posted 16 October 2004 - 11:30 PM
To constitute a contract you need
a) A valuable consideration paid for
B) services or goods
c) over a period of time.
[If you do (B) I'll give you (a) at ©]
[If you draw me a logo I'll pay you $500 upon completion]
There's been no payment... there is no completed contract.
If he wishes to hold or use your work, to prove there
was a verbal contract, let him produce a bill of sale
or a canceled check.
He can't hold what he hasn't paid or 'contracted' for.
Even if there was a verbal contract, he's breached it.
You might want to read through the U.C.C. for
more insight about how contracting works.
P.S. Get it in writting first, then I always give a sheet
or two of thumbnails that they can pick and choose and
mix and match until they have what they want.
THEN they get two revisions. One major, one minor.
Then they pay for any following that. If they're idiots and
can't communicate what they want after getting a whole
menu of ideas to choose from, that's their problem.
I'm sure there's an equivalent to
the Uniform Commercial Code in Australia
Posted 17 October 2004 - 07:30 PM
if not, get a lawyer and sue him.
Posted 17 October 2004 - 07:59 PM
Sue him yourself in small claims court.
Go to your local courthouse there in Cleveland
and ask the nice lady at the front desk where to
go to file a small claims lawsuit.
Then ask the people there for the small claims
packet and see if anyone will help you run
through how to use it.
I've done several and usually if you just show
up for court, you'll win.
You'll get a judgment against him.
If he doesn't pay find his income source
and garnish it. (you can also do that yourself)
If he still doesn't pay, put a mechanics lien
against something he owns. (You don't have to
be a mechanic to levy a mechanics lien. It's just
If he sells whatever it is, he'll have to pay you.
If you like you can also offer to lift the lien if he'll pay up.
That's when most people I've delt with, break-down and pay.
It sounds like a lot of things to do, and I guess the first
time through it, it seems like it. ...But once you've done it,
and have copies of all the paperwork on hand to use again,
it will become rote and hardly any trouble at all. Except for
the court appearance you'll have to make, it can all be done
with a few minutes of paper or phone work.
Posted 17 October 2004 - 10:23 PM
You make an excellent suggestion about small claims court. With the documentation that grapicsgirl does have I bet she has a good shot in small claims court.
Posted 17 October 2004 - 11:21 PM
Why not try having a word with your friend, and tell him the grief his friend is causing you - any good friend would have a word in his mates ear, and sort the problem out for you.
What could happen? Your friend may talk to his friend and find out he is a total b*s*r*d and stop asking mates to do favours for him, or it gets sorted out cleanly, simply and without recourse to any legal matters.
Off course you could lose your friend, thats allways a risk, but is it really a friend if that happens? Some friends you are better of without!
just a thought.
Posted 18 October 2004 - 01:22 AM
Posted 18 October 2004 - 12:06 PM
She has almost a sure shot.
Most people don't even have the guts to
show up to contest it.
That's an automatic decision for her.
Once she has a lawful judgment in her hand
getting a lien or garnishment is a breeze.
She can run rampant over this guy and
the courts won't bat an eye at her.
Posted 20 October 2004 - 02:31 PM
Posted 20 October 2004 - 03:43 PM
she can still do a lien.
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