Client wants to reneg on payement

I need some advice on how to handle this situation.
Recently I did a design project for a company that asked me to come up with several concepts for a kick off meeting they were having in one week. This was a trial type project for more work in the future and possible full time employment down the line. So we agreed on a pay structure and off I went.

Over the week I worked full time on this project and invoiced for 40 hours of work. Turns out the client is not happy with what I provided and don’t see how what I did was 40 hours worth and wants to pay for only 25 in addition to giving me another shot at a different project because they are shorthanded.

My initial reaction is that I think its unfair on their part to ask me to discount my invoice because to them its not a 40 hour effort as I wouldn’t have asked them to pay me more if this was a per project job and It took me more time to finish then I estimated. Their decision to hire me was based on my experience in the industry and my portfolio and i can’t see how what I gave them was so much worse then what they saw in my past projects.

I was hoping for this opportunity to work out as I’m barely making my bills, and this seemed like a nice gig, But at the same time I don’t like the idea of getting shorthanded on an invoice that I felt was fair for the amount of work I did.

So do I bite the bullet, take a paycut and hope the next project will turn out better, or insist on getting payed for what was agreed on and risk of not getting more work from them and possibly burning a bridge?

If you bite the bullet, it will set the tone for your relationship with that client…

If they agreed to the structure, and you have delivered exactly what the structure states, then I wouldn’t budge on it. Maybe ask them what it is that they don’t see as being 40hours work as opposed to 25 hours, and see how long they stutter for. Fact is, if they were really that unhappy with the work they wouldn’t use it, so they’re just trying to post-negotiate on something that was already agreed on.

Add that to the fact that they want to hire you for another project… sounds fishy. I’d think they’re trying to underpay you. Find out why your deliverables weren’t up to par. A non-designer’s (I’m assuming) opinion that what you gave them didn’t take 40 hours is an attempt to devalue your work, and pay you less, plain and simple.

As mentioned, if you budge now, you may as well just lower your rates for this company. Good luck.

yup, dont take the cut. you can perhaps arrange a meeting for them to review the work with you to better understand the situation, but bottom line dont back down on the agreed payment. hopefully you have it in writing.

that being said, of course it is difficult to really comment without seeing the work, knowing the client/project or your portfolio and the basis they hired you upon…of course there is always two sides to every story, and while it does happen that freelancers sometimes get screwed, it sounds a bit odd to me that an established design firm would nickel and dime for what i would guess they likely bill out in half a days work.

them asking you to work on another project because they are shorthanded, also seems strange. if they didn’t like your stuff, why would they want you again? if they are indeed in need of you for this next project, hopefully you can use it as leverage. obviously, if they dont pay (in full) for the first work, they are on their own for the new stuff.

if you insist on the full amount, you are not burning the bridge, they are. sometimes the key to client relationships are knowing when to walk away from difficult clients. they sound like they could be one, and not working together is likely in your own best interest anyhow. of course don’t tell to screw themselves, but handle it diplomatically and calmly.


How much time did you think the project was going to take you? And is that the amount/ rough estimate you gave the client?

I wouldn’t take the pay cut unless you knew deep down that it really shouldn’t have taken that long.

I’d have a chat with them about why they believed it didn’t take 40 hours. Is the person telling you this know what they’re talking about?

I had a hard time hiring freelancers before because the “sales guys” were the ones that had to OK the project and didn’t think designers should be paid so much money. Sad, but true.

Also they want to hire you again for another project? Seems sketchy to me…

I concur. Review the work with them and find out what is what, request the full amount as per your agreed upon terms.

But, I would probably turn down their request for more work. I’m guessing (like others) that they just want to bully you around to establish a cheaper working relationship.

After discussing a project you should return with a design time estimate based on criteria and get all parties to agree. Set the proper expectations next time. Tracking what you do during the hours you work can also help to justify your invoice, more detail the better.

Just to clarify some things: The person with who hired me for the job is head of the design dept in the company, a designer. It was understood from the get-go that one week is a tight deadline to pull off and I would have to devote all my time to this project (ie putting aside other work I had going on at the time), so he was aware of that part. in addition, we were exchanging emails and phone calls daily as I was working on this, so I would think he would be aware of the time devoted to this project.
Thank you for your comments, your opinions validate how I felt about the whole situation.