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Client does not want to pay

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Media Productions Canada
Client does not want to pay
on Nov 14, 2008 at 2:39:31 am

Hello, hoping I could get some advice from some people here. I have a new client that asked hired me to do some motion graphics work.
The client was responsible for giving me some of the elements to use in the final product. The elements that were given to me were of poor quality and this issue was address with them and they were replace but with a slightly better quality.
The client is now claiming that the goods I delivered was not at a high enough level that he can use and is trying to get out of paying me.

All the Elements and animation that I create was done well and there was no problem with that, the problem that makes the final product look crappy is the the crap elements that were given to me.

The client is now not responding to any of my emails.

Any advice on how to proceed with this problem?


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Rick Dolishny
Re: Client does not want to pay
on Nov 14, 2008 at 3:06:29 am

You should only release the final animation after being paid in full.

If you gave up the animation without a watermark or timecode burn without payment in full, then you just learned a lesson.

Sorry, looks like you won't get paid for this one.

---
Rick Dolishny
http://www.thecreativeprocess.ca


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Media Productions Canada
Re: Client does not want to pay
on Nov 14, 2008 at 3:55:53 am

But if he agreed in an email to my rate
isn't he still responsible for goods delivered?
I have always invoice after final approval on the finish product and never have had an issue up till now.

Can I not take any legal action to receive payment?



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Rick Dolishny
Re: Client does not want to pay
on Nov 14, 2008 at 4:59:35 am

You can go to small claims court for anything under $5K and the court can order him to pay and he can ignore the court anyway. Plus you just paid for your own legal fees out of pocket.

Sounds like you've been lucky up to this point with your invoices after the fact.

Then again, if your work isn't up to standard for whatever reason he has a right to not pay as long as he doesn't use it.

Talk to him and try to negotiate a stipend for the work you did which will be less than you wanted, but perhaps you might be able to amortize a small hourly rate out of the gig.



---
Rick Dolishny
http://www.thecreativeprocess.ca


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Mark Suszko
Re: Client does not want to pay
on Nov 14, 2008 at 3:20:59 pm

Rick pretty much lays it out. While you may be morally and legally in the right, as a practical matter, it may be cost-prohibitive to pursue "justice" for this project. Since we can't fix the past, please let me offer some suggestions as we look ahead to your future gigs:

Payment in thirds: one third at the start, one at first draft, one at final sign-off. You may not know how much this is going to cost in advance with precision, and as you have seen, things can happen, but if you know your day rate, and have some idea of how many days you're going to need if everything goes right, then extrapolate the first third from that. If the work is taking longer, you can adjust the middle third somewhat. A nice thing about thirds is you get paid as you do the work, and if the project stops, you are not shorted for work done up to that point, and the client doesn't have to pay for work not done, so it is fair to both sides.

Never give clients a clean copy of the product until fully paid: always watermark it or burn time code windows over it. If they insist on screening a clean copy, insist on walking it over to their office and playing it for them yourself.

I think where you perhaps lost control of this project was in accepting it with the bad elements in the first place. Once you did that, you committed to a certain expectation of the quality, and to finishing the job. No contractor or craftsperson can promise their work if the client shorts them on the raw materials. The pre-job meeting is where this should have been hashed out, and the work probably should not have been started until you were happy with the raw material. It sounds like not everything was ready when you started and then the client dropped the ball. And you made a diving catch for it.

I think a lot of us fall into the same category as editors or producers: we're problem-solvers, we get a thrill out of being able to make things happen, especially in adverse circumstances, to be the "miracle worker" or "the magician" that brings everythign together in some mysterious fashion. It is very good for the ego, but here we see the bad thing that can happen: we finally come across the knot that can't be untied. After a long string of successes, this can be tough to handle for both sides. The client, used to you making chicken soup out of chicken - well, you know... gets confused and thinks maybe you're not trying your best, since you always came thru before. Because you always manage to clean up their mess somehow, they have little incentive to improve their side of the deal and give you better elements, in fact, they are dis-incentivized to improve and may start getting even WORSE in this regard. I don't teach my kids to keep their room clean by always cleaning it FOR them, even if I'm faster or better at it then them: I have to make THEM do the job, or they never appreciate it or learn it.

Maybe you get upset because in order to make deadline, you have to re-create a bad element from scratch and rack up serious overtime because of it, which you may or may not put in for. In a fixed-price gig, you usually have to eat that overtime and a job could end up losing you money, at least on paper. That's why I prefer to never work to a fixed price, but to an hourly rate, within an overall estimate, and progress payments at major waypoints in the life of the job. That way I'm not asking for a blank check, but I'm leaving room to be flexible and even to bring things in slightly cheaper sometimes.

Every so often, the client relationship probably needs to revisit a discussion of the time/cost/quality triangle. Usually you can say something after a project is finished that can put a bug in the client's ear for next time:

"I'm glad you liked the final product, I know I could do some even cooler things the next time, if you can get me the logos in what we call 'vector format'. Could you ask the company graphics person to get in touch with me some time about that, because I can get some of those kinds of things directly from them, and keep them on file here for your future projects. Then we don't have to scramble so much on the next one, and the shorter time spent will translate to a better product with a smaller bill."

See, what you did there was gently remind them to get more organized, you offered a way to help them do that, you upsold them on the next project and subtly committed them to bringing it to you, plus you hinted that doing these things can lead to a discount from saving wasted time, and being sloppy is going to cost them more. Better quality at lower cost the next time? Heck yes, they are probably going to come back. Every positive client experience reinforces the good things they do.

Most magicians work with an assistant. That's the client. You may have to teach them how some tricks work, in order to dazzle the audience successfully.


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Client does not want to pay
on Nov 14, 2008 at 4:37:53 pm

[Media Productions Canada] "But if he agreed in an email to my rate
isn't he still responsible for goods delivered?"


Possibly! Give me an idea of how much the guy owes you please, as that really makes a huge difference in the advice I'll give you.

Also, do you know if the guy if using any of the stuff you created? That's crucial in your case at this point, and your answer will also affect my advice to you.

[Media Productions Canada] "I have always invoice after final approval on the finish product and never have had an issue up till now."

When dealing with people you don't know that's just not a good idea. Once you get to know them it's still probably not the best practice, but at least you have something to go by.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.


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Brendan Coots
Re: Client does not want to pay
on Nov 15, 2008 at 7:40:06 am

Well, I don't agree with ANY of the advice on this thread.

There are no "legal fees" associated with taking someone to small claims court. There are no lawyers, it's just you and the defendant. The only fee MIGHT be hiring someone to serve the defendant notice that he is being sued, but anyone can serve notice, it doesn't have to be a paid individual.

If the poster has written proof (i.e. emails) documenting that the client agreed to pay x amount for services rendered, he can sue if he does not get paid. It wouldn't be tough to win either, if you think about how the judge might approach such a case:

Poster: "here is an email in which the client agrees to pay for the work I performed."

Client: "Yes, but I didn't like the work he did!"

Judge: "Where is your documentation, client, saying that pay was contingent on the quality of the work?"

Client: "errrr...."

Judge: "Pay up, buddy."



Of course, collecting on that judgment is another story, but no one should EVER let a deadbeat client get away with it just because that client MAY disobey a judge's order.

Brendan Coots

Splitvision Digital

http://www.splitvisiondigital.com


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Client does not want to pay
on Nov 15, 2008 at 9:39:56 am

[Brendan Coots] "Client: "Yes, but I didn't like the work he did!"

Judge: "Where is your documentation, client, saying that pay was contingent on the quality of the work?""


Brendan,

If goods or services cannot be used because they are of inferior, or less than professional quality, a "buyer" is absolutely entitled to challenge an invoice and withhold payment. Every transaction has an implied obligation to deliver goods or services at reasonable standard of acceptable quality, which needn't be spelled-out in writing. Both sides are free to challenge whether that standard has been met, but to say it has to be spelled-out in writing is just not correct.

David

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.


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