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I have had many clients send me very similar emails. But I also work with mostly brand new startups and small businesses.

It seems to me like maybe you over analyzed it. I don't know if the contact you are dealing with is the owner or just the A/P guy, but regardless I would assume all of the reasoning with the distractions and half-truths are mostly from embarrassment.

Thats why when a client needs to do a payment plan, I just let them.

Good thoughts here, K, you're probably right - it was out of embarrassment. Still whether you are working with startups or not, if you make a deal with someone, you need to come through. These guys didn't hold up their end of the bargain.

Perhaps what ticks me (and most other designers) off is that clients that owe us money often try every trick in the book to get out of just being honest: avoidance, flattery, guilting the designer, distraction, excuses - the list goes on and on. And yes, a good portion of the time it is out of embarrassment.

Designers (me included) bear some responsibility in this as well. Doing a load of work for ANY client without seeing a good percentage of the revenue before one completes the project is at best risky, at worst it's foolish.

Great thoughts; thanks again for your insights!

Several years ago, I had a similar situation with a client. I agreed to complete a website and bill my hours within a few months. During the entire process, they were happy with the work. When I sent the invoice ($5,000), no word from the client. Phone calls ... emails ... all went without answer.

When I finally heard back, the client also wanted a breakdown of the billable hours. When the new invoice was emailed, the client nitpicked the invoice and hours. When I showed the contract, to which they agreed before starting the design,and the detailed hours I kept, they said they would send the payment.

Again, several weeks went by without hearing from the client. Finally, the client emailed and said bookkeeping "lost" the invoice, but the check had finally been mailed. I waited a week, but the check never arrived. I contacted the client. They responded that the check had been returned because the wrong address was wrote on the envelope. I asked them to pay through paypal and they agreed. Another week and no payment. No communication from client.
Mind you, this entire time they were using my website to make money.

Unfortunately, I finally had to contact a lawyer. The client received a cease and desist because, until they paid, they were using my intellectual property. I felt horrible, but the entire ordeal (from the time I sent the first invoice to the cease and desist letter) lasted for three months. Or, five months, if you include the months before I sent the bill.

I wish you the best. But, from personal experience, the email you received is eerily similar to those I received from my client.

Sorry to hear about this, AJ, it seems like a lot of freelancers have gone down this road.

A handful clients intentionally try to screw over designers; however, I think most of them just end up in a bad spot. As a result, their behavior goes from odd to argumentative, and then to reprehensible. Like your clients, the clients I described in this story were using my work to build revenue - without paying me.

When I was trying to collect for the invoice, they tried to give me some line of crap that in the interest of "good relations" I should forget about the bill (and let them continue to use my work). No kidding, one of the partners actually emailed this to me.

I opted for "bad relations" and to get the money they owned me :)

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