Client disappears off face of Earth


New Member
Hi folks,

In the spring I was asked by a client (one who I'd done a little work for before) to design two PSD web layouts which he would then develop into working sites, one for his own business, and one for another local business. Both were existing sites, and I was merely giving them a redesign. I worked on the layouts for a few days, checking along the way if the layouts were to his and the other business owners liking, which, he said, they were. He suggested a colour change for his own site, and other than that was very happy, but did not confirm the work to be finished. The following week, he sent me another email asking me to do a "rush job", which I confirmed I would do. I worked long into the night on this "rush job" and he called me the next day to say he liked it, but the business owner for the "rush job" had been taken ill and was in hospital, so we would have to cease work for the time being.

This is the last contact I have had with him. I've sent numerous emails over the preceding 4-5 months, with no replies forthcoming. I assumed he had cash-flow problems, and was largely relaxed over the situation as he was a small business owner and I was sympathetic to his "plight". I had held back from sending an invoice as I didn't want to assume the work was finished (I now realise this was pretty naive - I am a first year freelancer after all!). Anyway, I decided that after countless emails that I would send him an invoice. In doing so, I double checked the URL of one of the sites (not his) and clicked on it and a new website, not designed by me, had appeared. The other site is still not live.

I'm going to send the invoice and see what happens (probably more silence). Does anyone have any advice? I feel half anger and half pretty dumb.


You should've asked for 50% upfront, you would've at least walked away from something. But you're new to it, and everyone makes mistakes. Just remember it next time!

If this guy hasn't contacted you at all, then I'd say it's pretty clear that he doesn't give a shit, and will most likely not contact you again. He also has your work, but he hasn't used it yet so there might be something you can do there in terms of ownership.
Cheers Mitch,

I suspected as much. I feel like a massive douche now. Ah well. There is one thing I left out; this guy is married to a friend of my sisters. My sister has said she doesn't want to get involved as it's her friend etc, but I think the time has now come. Thanks again.
Ah, I wasn't aware you knew him. If it were me I'd confront him about it. Don't feel bad about it either, we've all made that mistake. Just learn from it. :)
It's one of those friend of a friend of a friend things. Well, at least I won't make this mistake again.
Not knowing the sum involved makes a difference from a recovery perspective - assuming the sum is say £800 - send invoice / reminder / reminder / call / 7 day letter / small claims. But... talking with him (if you can) is always the best route for recovery.
You can choose to learn a lesson from the whole experience but I think you should also aim to teach one, i.e. if you ask me to do something in a professional capacity, you pay for it.
Thanks for all the advice folks. It's good to know there is a real sense of community amongst graphic designers, as freelancing from home can feel quite lonely/alienated. It's a tough learning curve, eh?
I am in the process of setting up for the first time and i agree a 50% deposit is a good idea. Maybe its a good idea not to give them the whole product until they have paid (for example watermarks on the design work and don’t allow them access to websites). Just saves them making a run for it. We are all skint :icon_smile:
Another thing I do is when allowing the client to preview the page instead of using “index” I will title the page “TestPage_EmmaDesigns” and upload it as that until they have paid. On the index page I upload my logo and link back to my website as a holding page. So if the client sods off they are left with TestPage_EmmaDesigns anyone that goes to the root will have a nice link back to my site plus the name of my business in the url. The site gets directed to the root once I receive the funds in my account. It’s not fool proof of course but it makes it less simple for them.
That's one of the things I had an issue with when web designing for a client. How can they preview the site without me uploading it all?

In the end I decided on Wordpress, and I registered the site for them, so I basically had all the access, but if it was on their server, I imagine that'd be a bit of a nightmare.