Don’t let the big guys screw you

I recently accepted a job building some websites for a client. I did this out of desperation more than anything because I had long decided I would no longer take that type of job as it’s next to impossible to find people who will respect the time and effort you put in on their behalf, especially in this industry. Clients know you’re just a little guy desperate for money to pay your bills. They come out looking for you specifically, the little guy who’s going to give his all to provide a high quality of service while accepting what amounts to a handful of bread crumbs for payment. But my financial situation was desperate enough that I had to undersell myself to try to get the project. I figured whatever I had to do to help keep the bills paid I had to do.

Unfortunately I’ve had to wait more than 5 days to receive payment for the first site I completed and as far as I’m concerned that’s not acceptable. When I work with a contractor on payment on completion basis, when that contractor completes the work I pay immediately. I don’t make him/her wait for payment. I don’t tell them I’ll send payment today, but not send it. The client told me he would send the payment about 5 days ago. He didn’t send it. I waited a few days then sent another request. He wrote back what was intended to be a demeaning response pointing to the fact that he’s running a large business and only agreed to pay me per site for each site completed because he knows that “small contractors” don’t like to wait to be paid.

In the first place I was originally seeking to be paid on a bulk production basis. The client insisted since he was not familiar with my work that he preferred to do one site at a time and to pay once the individual sites were completed. I was not happy about this as I knew it would present some problems for me but I agreed because I figured I would demonstrate my capabilities with the first few sites and then we would renegotiate based on his familiarity with my work.

In any regard, I sent the client an email expressing my concern over the problems that would arise as long as I had to wait beyond the expected time frame to be paid once the sites were completed. Because it had taken so much longer for him to pay (to this moment he still has not paid) I did not feel I could possibly build any additional sites under a payment on completion basis. I said to him that I needed to be paid fully upfront or 50% upfront. He wrote back with a firm refusal, insulting me in the process by calling me a “small contractor” and agreeing that I am impatient.

I replied back that yes, indeed I am a small contractor and being small I cannot afford to wait to be paid because I depend on every cent. I’m not so fortunate as the owners of big businesses to have reserve funds I can put to use while waiting for clients to pay me.

Frankly, I think just the same way one can insist that I could have or should have waited, one can also insist that since the client would probably not have taken that attitude with another business person he considered his equal, he should not take that attitude with any business person however small. It is not as if I was trying to ask to be paid sooner than I was told I would be paid. I was told I would be paid days ago and I was not. I allowed a few days to pass before I decided to contact the client about being paid, and I doubt had I been a bigger company the client would have chanced to let me wait.

Why should I be okay with being treated any differently than he would treat a larger company? I am a small, independent contractor, yes, but doesn’t mean I don’t deserve the same respect. So I thanked the client but withdrew from the project. At the rate we were going I would be making $125 every 2 weeks. It just wouldn’t have been worth the hassle.

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