Love your losses, don't get mad, don't even get even
From time to time we all meet the "difficult client". Luckily these are few and far between and in most cases can be converted by trying harder to understand where the problems are and going that bit further to meet their needs. After all, a client who's issues are effectively and efficiently resolved will often come back for more work knowing that issues will get resolved.
There is, however, another class of difficulty that can emerge after a job has been completed. Even when it has been completed to everyone's satisfaction. The non-payer! Seeking to avoid payment for work by any means.
Much of the work undertaken by smaller businesses is of a size that means that lengthy contracts and legally binding agreements are too much of an overhead. So in these cases, less formal agreements are usually the norm. Also, attempting to get a client to sign their life away for a small piece of work will most likely put them off anyway. A verbal agreement feels more personal and is more in-line with building client relationships for small pieces of work. This is also the way that many of us prefer to work.
BUT there is the non-payer.
An example, we shall call him "C" although his name is Chris.
"C" was involved in a start-up business that was to supply a customisable product via a web site. There were problems with the web site hosting and some of the site's functionality. So "C" turned up at my office in real need of assistance with a tight deadline for the site to go live. "C" gave me access logins to the hosting and the site and agreed to pay for the work done. I resolved the hosting issues and started working on the site functionality issues. I reported back on progress, a number of e-mails were exchanged and a meeting was held. I brought it to "C"s attention that the site problems were more severe than originally thought due to a number of "short cuts" made by an "offshore" web developers. "C" concluded that a new site, developed from scratch, was required and agreed to pay for the work conducted so far. I prepared an invoice, only charging for resolving the hosting issues and the start of investigating the site problems. I sent the invoice via e-mail. A month passed. "C" said he didn't get the e-mail, so I printed a copy and hand delivered it. More time passed and I started to hear of problems. Then a moonlight flit and "C" went to ground leaving a business partner holding the baby.
Then, some six months after the work was done, I find "C" is in business again, a very different business this time. I e-mailed him asking that he pay the invoice. A short e-mail exchange took place during which it became apparent "C" had no intention of paying. "C" denied I was ever asked to do any work and says I was trying to extract money from him on false pretences. There were other accusations made that I won't go into. I realised I could not produce any formal agreement regarding the work.
All of which had a greater affect on me than I expected. I became very angry over the situation. Far more than was warranted by the amount of money involved. And then, as I became aware there was nothing I could do about this, my thoughts started to move to how I could have prevented it in the first place. Should I have insisted on some formal agreement?
I concluded that I was right in how I approached the work in the first place. I don't want to move to the position of over zealous formal agreement just because of one rotten apple. So back to the Share Trading maxim "Love your losses". In other words, realise when you have a loss, realise it's not going to recover, accept it, learn from it and move on.