"Let's have a look at what you coulda won..." - the logo they announced and never paid for

Freelancing as I go is actually starting to work out – with a combination of old clients from London and Europe and picking up jobs from websites like http://elance.com. This has all been fantastic so far, but my very first elance client turned into a complete nightmare and used a logo design commercially but refused to pay for more than a month. My emails were ignored – apart from the occasional vague promise to pay ‘this week’ or ‘by the weekend’ – and they drove me to the end of my tether. Being my first elance job I agreed to do it for an extraordinarily low fee so any kind of legal action seemed ridiculous.

Having looked around for some advice, the only option I had was to try and use the internet to make a bit of a stink and shame them into action. So I created a Facebook group exposing the situation publicly with a fairly blunt title and full and frank explanation of the situation I was in. I’m wasn’t 100% sure if that was a good idea as I was concerned about looking unprofessional airing dirty laundry in this way – but I felt I had no other option.

The page worked surprisingly well and surprisingly fast. Having been impossible to get a response from them for the 6 weeks prior to deciding to take this action, I suddenly started getting instant replies and several messages in the space of a few hours. They were shocked and upset at the page – particularly as it had received a lot of interest and attention – but I had given them a full weeks warning telling them in clear language what I would do. Their incredulity was a clear sign that they were literally ignoring my messages, as to be honestly surprised having read the emails would have made them too stupid to be able to operate a Facebook page.

As well as starting the page I also filed a ‘copyright infringement’ complaint with Facebook – who were surprisingly responsive. This forced them to remove most of the images, and with the page still up and random outraged Facebook users starting to leave messages on their ‘fan page’, they were fairly quick to remove the last few images.

They were most upset about the term ‘thieves’ I used when publicising the problem – and I honestly think they were more rude and disrespectful than actually trying to steal my design. But I explained the legalities of the situation which they chose to ignore – so again their surprise and incredulity was frankly laughable.

In the end I waived the fee (it was the cheapest I’ve ever worked for) and just told them not to use any of the four visuals I submitted (or anything which could be considered a copy). I just wanted to put this incident behind me and leave them behind – I also didn’t think the empty promises to pay me would ever be fulfilled, so it seemed easier to just forget about it and treat it as a lesson learned.

All my other experiences with Elance have been much more positive and I’m starting to get some better paid work through the site. And in retrospect, this horrible experience was actually for the best as there was almost no money in the project and it became an interesting test of how to deal with bad clients. Hopefully if you find yourself in the same situation, some of the above might help!