Non-paying client : Bitfang.com Corporate Identity design project


VISIT THEBITFANGFILES.com, show your support, help a designer get paid!

Unfortunately, it has happened again. Non-payment of dues and threats from the client. Actually, the threats are a first – the non-payment isn’t. One of the aims of my blogging about a project that goes bad is to help other designers [ maybe they can pick out some signs of which projects can go bad ] and of course to get paid myself, if the blogging affects the client in any way. In one of the latest emails, the client also mentioned : “Of course you are free to carry out the actions that you may deem fit.” So here we are.

THE COMPANY / CLIENT

The company in question is Red Door Online. They do not seem to have any web presence online and are based in Mumbai, India. Contact details are : Premises of Hotel Beach Garden, Opp. Juhu Beach, Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai 400 049. Phone: +91 – 22 – 2617 7524 and 92233 33015.

THE DESIGN PROJECT

The deliverables that I was commissioned to design : a brand name, a tagline, a logo and stationery including a business card, a letterhead and an envelope. I was thrilled to be contacted for the project because it was one of those ‘start-to-finish’ ones that designers drool over.

The person who got in touch with me on behalf of Red Door Online was the CEO [ a lady ] and would be the CEO of the new brand as well [ this was August 2009 ]. After our initial email exchanges and one phone discussion, she put another person in-charge of the project [ I assume he was the Project Lead ] and from then on, all my dealings were with him, with some emails CC’d to the CEO as well.

Due to the multiple deliverables and the client’s request, the pricing was much reduced – instead of charging stand-along prices, I quoted an overall project cost, 50% of which was paid by the client upfront. Usually when the client pays the money quickly, as given in the terms and conditions, it’s a huge boost to the project as the designer does not have to deal with the anxiety of money not coming in on time. During this engagement, this was a huge plus to bolster my efforts.

BRAND NAMING
I was supposed to suggest just about ten brand names, as discussed. But I gave them more than ten options because there was some really good ideas even after I’d delivered the promised ten names – and they still stuck with the option they had thought of initially. They had already thought up GobbleIT.com They stuck with that for a week and then got back to me saying they would like to change and use the one I had suggested : Bitfang.com

TAGLINE
The tagline proved to be more of a consulting job because the client did not like any of the taglines I suggested, again more in number than agreed on in the terms and conditions. They had some taglines they had thought up and after all the discussions and email back and forth, they came up with a tagline on their own that they decided to use. While there was no deliverable from my side, the work was still done. The tagline they chose is “IT is better here.”

LOGO
With the logo, not only did I go overboard with the number of iterations – way more than those agreed upon in terms and conditions, I also gave them extra design options. This phase in the project took the longest to complete. As in any regular design engagement, sometimes, clients take time to get back with a final decision and then the design takes time work think about a design, tweak it some more and get back to the client with a more refined version – and then there are the iterations with logo placement, typeface choice, colors, tagline placement etc.

Some of the logo sketches that were presented to the client :

Some of the final-looking iterations for the logo that were presented to the client :

Following is the Bitfang logo :

STATIONERY
The stationery proved to be a little more taxing than normal – when I mentioned that extra edits would incur extra charges, I was told, via email that the client did not mind closing the project – they told me they thought the edits were not ‘design’ hence not chargeable – they were layout changes and are normally chargeable. At this stage of the project I did not want to cause any trouble, so I complied with the extra edits.

Following is the finalized stationery :

NON-COMMUNICATION

Towards the end of the project, after the stationery had been finalized, I had to leave for a vacation as I was getting married. The same had been communicated to the client – both the Project Lead and the CEO, who did not voice any objections. I only had to email the final files [ PDFs of the stationery ]. Since I heard from no one, without delivering the final files, I left for the vacation.

After I came back, I saw that I had not received any response from the client [ neither the CEO nor the Project Lead ] to my last email asking about the finalized stationery to be delivered. The Project Lead, eventually, called me up to let me know that he was no longer working with the company and that I should get in touch with the CEO [ which I already had by way of CC'ing her on all emails ]. I also called up the CEO but no one picked up the call. When I tried again after another week, the automated voice told me that the number was currently out of service and I assumed she must be traveling out of the country because she had done so a couple of times during the project as well.

NEW PERSON IN THE PICTURE

The gentleman I am currently communicating with – I am unaware of what his relationship with Red Door Online is – I assume he is the owner or Managing Director. I had his number with me from previous interactions with the CEO and when I did not hear from her for almost two months, I decided to call up the Managing Director who told me, on the call, that he had no idea about the project as he was not involved with the same. He advised that I should email the CEO once more – this was after I’d already written thrice to her, with no response.

I called up the Red Door Online office and was told that the CEO is not in India currently and that she is traveling in the USA. I sent another email, this time CC’ing the Managing Director, who’s email I got from the WHOIS page of bitfang.com. Screenshot below [ click on it for a larger version ].

After I emailed the CEO and the Managing Director that I would be blogging about this case unless someone at least got back in touch with me to tell me what is going on, the Managing Director got back to me telling me that he was shocked by the email and, “You have failed to deliver on Tagline, Logo Design and Stationary. The status on your file says “incomplete due to lack of timely deliverables”. This has been on account of various reasons attributed by you eg. “busy with other work”, busy with personal errands” “busy with marriage preparations” etc.” and told me to return part payment.

I was also told that “ and are no longer associated with the company.” mentioning that the CEO and the Project lead are no longer working with Red Door Online.

I’m being covertly threatened with stuff like, “The company also reserves its right to take various measures to safeguard its interests.”

All the invoices emailed to the client mention that copyright for all deliverables rests with me until full payment is received.

DISCLAIMER : This is a completely as-is post where I have not used any suppositions or adjectives to color opinion or create speculation. All proof of above dealings is available as emails to and from the client. Images used are for reference only. This post is in no way a reflection of the functioning of Red Door Online as a company. I am not an employee with Red Door Online and neither am I well-versed with their industry / sector. In fact, for all I know, Red Door Online could be one of the industry leaders and good luck to them with that. This blog post is based only on my interactions with them for this particular Branding & Logo design engagement and is not meant to berate any of the three people I have interacted with at Red Door Online. I have deliberately left their names out. This case study is meant to show how even the best of assignments that start out on a high tempo, with enthusiasm and a good creative brief can turn into a nightmare. This project is classified as “PAYMENT PENDING” and closed from my side. If there is an update, I shall accordingly update this blog post. SHIT HAPPENS sometimes I guess!

February 11, 2010 @ 4:22 pm

I hope things work themselves out and this doesn’t happen too often…… stay well

Naina said,

February 11, 2010 @ 4:27 pm

I’ve blogged about a previous non-paying client like this just once earlier – twice in a career of five years isn’t bad but it is beyond pathetic that both times it has been Indian clients. Thank you for the support Rajesh.

February 11, 2010 @ 4:38 pm

Sad story, but all too familiar. Has happened to me in one way or another and this is why I now only take on overseas clients with full payment up front. If a overseas client fails to pay, there is little one can do…

I have so far seen clients happy to pay up to £1500 for a logo project up front without any question or hesitation, so there are clients prepared to take this route.

For me, if a client has a hard time dealing ith payment upfront, they are a likely candidate for payment problems at final invoicing. It’s worth considering as the sheer relief of getting payment up front is amazing, being able to fully concentrate on a project knowing you will not have any difficulties further down the line.

Hope you are able to salvage something further from this,

Graham

Naina said,

February 11, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

Graham, thank you for the support. With me, the strange part is that overseas clients don’t seem to have issues with the money bit. I prefer straightforward dealings and it helps immensely to know that a client was prompt in paying the 50% in advance without a hitch – but I have had local clients who simply refused to pay the balance even after project final approval – and these are clients who has paid the advance promptly. Unfortunately, there seems to be no way to detect who’s going to turn out which way eventually. How difficult is it to see that if we buy something, we pay for it – else it’s called stealing. But for the design profession, the lack of physical deliverables seems to allow loopholes. I doubt anything is going to come out of this particular client – more because they do not have any online presence.

February 11, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

It is really shameful that companies in India sometimes fail to be serious about their own online reputation. The company is literally doomed without even starting off.
While I am from Delhi and this has not happened to me yet, the reason being that I almost every time take half of the payments and provide PSD only after receiving the complete payments. Also the clients I normally deal with are very often people I happen to know or have a very strong online IMAGE, so they understand that such a situation is not good for either of us.
But yes, if it ever happens it would indeed be a sad thing.

Naina said,

February 11, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

I hope it doesn’t happen to you Tuhin! It shouldn’t happen to anyone – but it does. And there’s a lot that can be done to salvage such a situation – one needs to be willing to forget about peace of mind then – which I’m not willing to. I totally agree with you on the point that they are doomed even without starting off. But then who’s to say what they’re going to do. Straightforward professionalism seriously lacking in most Indian operations. I did work on this project through someone I know decently well – unfortunately – the Project Lead has quit the company. I do not normally deliver final files without the balance payment – but in this case, I emailed all final files for the logo to the client because they asked for it nicely. Imagine my surprise now that they are asking me to pay them back!

Sunil said,

February 11, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

OMG! This is crazy. I really hope that you receive your payment.

Vunky said,

February 11, 2010 @ 4:54 pm

Great article. Thanks for writing this up.

I find it regrettable that small companies often get screwed like this. The flexibility and effort from the freelancer is not appreciated.

At least you got a 50% payment upfront :)

Naina said,

February 11, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

Sunil I doubt they’re going to so much as move a muscle – forget paying up :) Thank you for your support!

Naina said,

February 11, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

Vunky, yes, I did get the 50% advance upfront – which the client is now asking me to return! I don’t often get screwed like this – it’s happened twice in the past and blogging about it solved the problem. With this client, I doubt that is going to happen unless they realise they’ve had some misunderstanding or miscommunication. Thank you so much for the support!

February 11, 2010 @ 10:40 pm

Such clients are everywhere. In India and outside. I normally tell them to GO TO HELL. hehe

February 15, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

sad to read this story happened to you. most often freelancers becomes victims of such stuff with no options to do.

v-render said,

March 3, 2010 @ 5:19 pm

This incidences happen many times with freelancers. I also go through these kind of clients. now a days I do written contracts with clients whatever they may think. I clearly mention my terms [ copyrights clause will be added after this reading post.] It may sound more legal but its required now a days. I even do not receive reference files or raw files without advance too !!
or

I do not take project.

sumayya said,

March 6, 2010 @ 10:17 am

Hi Naina,
It is awful that you have to go through all this. A designer really needs to focus all creative energy in the right direction. These are real downers. Try to learn something from the experience and ensure it doesn’t repeat. Meet the clients personally and learn a bit more about them. As of now you are interacting with a new person altogether. The CEO & the lead both have to be answerable you can’t go in circles locating them. Try connecting with them on social networks in the beginning of the project itself. I don’t know what else can help you in such a case. Hope it doesn’t deter your creativity.

May 8, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

Hi Naina,

Sorry to hear about this. But am curious to know if they have paid you yet?

Am the founder of an online lead generation company based in Bangalore. Almost all the time my customers have paid on time and are great to work with, but there are a few bad ones who haven’t paid – 2 of them.

I am considering legal action. There is an easy solution to this problem. Shall keep you updated.

Cheers.

Arjun.

Ajay said,

May 31, 2010 @ 5:56 pm

Hi Naina,

I had written a post on almost similar scenario (http://india-website-designer.com/client-not-paying-money-after-getting-work-done-how-to-get-my-dues.php). Getting payment out of clients is little difficult for service providers specially in creative and web / IT field.

Best of luck with your efforts.

Nuttyzen said,

June 8, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

Amazing read to know about the bad experience. You have very appropriately put the story on the blog. Hope it makes those guys move and pay your dues if they really have to come clean of this.

Dhakkanz said,

June 30, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

Naina:

It is really bullshit to not pay for the work that you get done. Employees do keep coming in and going out of the firms, but that cannot be a reason for the company either to NOT KNOW what project is going on nor a reason for NON PAYMENT.

But, on a different note, I really liked this medium of communicating and making aware the virtual world about such cases. ‘This’ medium might make these guys make the payments.

Best of luck!
Dhakkanz

Naina said,

July 3, 2010 @ 12:59 am

Mohit, yes, one would think it is logical – to know where your company’s money is going and hence know every little detail. But I believe the client has decided he will not do anything no matter whether I blog or send in a DMCA notice to him. So I’m talking to an IP lawyer right now – maybe I’ll get the client to pay damages on addition to the money he already owes me. Fortunately, the IP lawyer is quite a good one – got connected via friend and hopefully, he will be able to recover his fee from this client as well. After this blog post, the client called me up on my phone asking my why I was making this an ego issue and I mentioned to him that it’s a contractual issue and that all details are mentioned on the invoice and hence he is breaching a contract. To which he said he needed to go back to the emails to see what the whole deal was and said he’d get back to me – which he hasn’t. I will update this blog post as and when things progress or go to court. Thank you for your support.

July 18, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

Recently I have had even worse experience from a very popular US based agency.
They wanted me to code their design for a big client. There were about 19 pages to code. The design was extremely complex to code + every page had unique layouts + dynamic options for different resolutions. I was so excited that I have estimated for a very cheap rate and they were not ok with paying me 50% advance. I had a blind trust in them. So I did not ask for it then and coded all the pages and delivered. They were keep coming back with modifications and feature additions and promised me that they will pay for the extra works as well. They started it by describing the project as – HTML/CSS3 project – they asked me to use CSS3 wherever it is possible. After the delivery they wanted IE6 compatibility as well! That too for the same estimated amount. I did not find it’s a good idea to commit on that considering the complexity of the layout. I have asked them to find someone else for that work. They agreed. But they were not ready to pay until the work is completed. I had to agree. After two weeks I asked them about the status. The reply was shocking ‘the coding you did was not up to the standard.. we had to redo it from scratch and so we cannot pay you the estimated amount. However considering the amount of work you put in, we are ready to pay you $150′ It was XHTML1.0 Strict validated pages plus couple of jQuery effects and they were happy with the code until the day of final delivery. It was two weeks of my work and I did it with the help of another developer. In this case client did not pay anything + I had to pay the other developer from my pocket. How’s that?

Naina said,

July 18, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

Aravind, first off, don’t start without a signed contract – and put down all your terms in the contract. It has taken me five years to get the balls to create a contract and ask clients to sign it – but it’s better late than never. It’s business – no blind trust in someone you’re working with for the first time. Secondly, name the client, blog about them and tell the world. If you’re not in the wrong, there’s no reason for you to not make their name public. If it is a popular US based agency, all the more reason you should talk about them so that they don’t swindle other designers and their clients know what kind of an agency they are dealing with.

Amar Chakravarthi said,

November 7, 2010 @ 8:33 pm

You have taken a good step. everyone has this kind of problem. at-least after seeing this no one would do this again and get their name spoiled on the internet.

Naina said,

November 7, 2010 @ 8:38 pm

Dear Amar, thank you for your support and yes, companies like Red Door Online need to understand that this is not acceptable. While I am not sure where this Bitfang case is going to go, I have been fortunate to receive support from the design community and am also working with a lawyer to get this resolved.

Viresh Wali said,

November 9, 2010 @ 7:04 pm

Grab them by their necks Naina…
this was the very reason i quit my good freelancing software development life. People dont pay and for heck they want to own everything. Once things get past the last phases, accusations start coming out of thin air with things like not committed, bad quality and u know what. I cant say for others at TAPS bunch but i am with you on this. Who knows if i had taken this voice some 8 years back maybe i would have had a lovely development company of my own today.
squeeze their balls girl…

January 10, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

Its bad news.I hope you get wht u deserve.Dont rely those fake people in future and beware of them.

TJ said,

January 15, 2011 @ 10:54 am

I was about to place an order with BitFang.com and found this blog while Googling for some reviews about the company. It is sad that some companies like this – but I don’t think it is restricted to India though, I’ve had bad experiences with foreign clients also.

I support your decision to take them to court. And I will not buy from BitFang.com and I will email them and let them know that they are losing business because of this.

Hope you get the issue resolved soon.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment