Here is a long story about getting stiffed by a client. If you're an independent consultant, it's worth taking the time to read it all the way to the end. If you're one of these people that is always on the lookout for ammunition to use against the current Liberal government of BC, it's worth reading the last page.

I hung out my shingle as a free-lancer over four years ago, and am always on the lookout for more clients. I responded to a notice in the newsgroup for a PHP/MySQL programmer in February, 2004.

The ad was placed by Mark Pratley, who has a company called Coast Internet Publishing. When I got together with him, the story was that he had a client named Wayne Stripp, who had a company called Empery Software, and a product called Sales Sniper. Sales Sniper is advertised as a “contact management” program. A more accurate tag would be “tracking of email advertising campaigns”. It does email broadcasts, and tracks who has read the emails, and visits to advertised web sites. I wouldn't classify it as a spamming program, because there isn't anything in it to hide the identity or location of the sender, and a user of Sales Sniper is responsible for acquiring his own list of email addresses.

I worked up an itemized estimate of how much the improvements would cost. It was about two months of work, which, of course, Stripp wanted done a month ago. Pratley reduced the estimate a bit, a contract was signed, I got an advance for $805 (Pratley got an advance, too), and I started programming.

The biggest problem that came up at this stage was, although most of the product was written in PHP, there was also a Windows desktop program that the email broadcaster runs, that gives him real-time notification of when an email is read or a web site is accessed. This program was written in Visual Basic. When I told Stripp that I needed the VB source code to do any work on it, neither he nor Pratley had a very good idea of what I was talking about, but the bottom line was, the source code wasn't there. Pratley suggested disassembling the program, a technique that worked 20 years ago, but is no longer practical.

So, the program had to be written from scratch using C++ Builder; not a huge job, but this obviously blew the original estimate out the window. However, a much more serious problem soon manifested itself. I received another $500 from Pratley, which meant that I had received $1,305 for about $7,500 worth of work. I took the attitude that no more development would be happening until I started seeing money. This led to a conversation with Stripp, who said that Empery Software had given about $5,000 to Pratley, and he had pocketed most of it. Stripp said that I could cut a new deal with Empery Software, and I would get paid what I was owed.

The specifications I had been getting from Stripp were pretty good, and I thought this project could go somewhere, so I agreed to this, and received $1,500 from him at the end of April 2004.

It was after that when things started going seriously off the rails. I started putting some long hours into this project because of an upcoming demo that Stripp had told me about. I made a raft of changes that he requested, but when I asked him about keeping the financial commitment he made, I kept getting told, “tomorrow”, or “as soon as this big demo for investors happens.” The date for the “big demo” came and went, and still no money. I dropped this effort to spend time on clients who pay me. After a while, I sent Stripp an invoice by registered mail. The invoice was returned by Canada Post. It was time to go to small claims court.


0 #2 Guest 2005-11-26 03:46
I was partners in a magazine in Australia about ten years ago with an old high school friend. When I decided to move to Canada, he agreed to buy my share of the business, for about 20c on the dollar I might add, and pay me in installments.

Of course, as soon as I was out of the country, the payments ceased, and since I was supposed to be living on them as I got myself settled in BC, I was kinda screwed six ways from Sunday. Short of flying home and taking the guy to Small Claims, I had to just write it off after a few lawyer letters were ignored.

The bottom line is that, in business, you can trust nobody. Absolutely nobody. And as a freelance writer, I only take jobs in which I've received at LEAST a 50% down payment in advance.

Sure, you lose the occasional job over that demand, but chances are you're better off not dealing with someone won't lay down a big slice of the job up-front.
0 #1 Guest 2005-11-02 00:46
"There are now no residency requirements for directors at all"

Well that ought to make it easy for money launderers. I thought they were trying to make that more difficult. That's the difference between what they tell you and what they do.

My sympathies over your predicament. Sometimes you just have to cut and run before you've invested so much time. This sort of thing happens to everyone, at least once, I think.

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