I was working as a freelance web developer.  I signed a contract with a client for an hourly rate because he changed the project requirements often and I saw big red flags each time the client discussed his requirements with me.

Client: Please sign the new contract I sent. It’s identical to the last contract we signed, but I had to change it to show my new company name. I need you to start working this afternoon; I’ve already missed critical deadlines!  

I sign it on rightsignature. It’s the seventh new contract, due to the client’s constantly changing company name, project requirements, and schedule.

A few hours later, I notice a discrepancy in the contract.

Me: I signed contract on rightsignature, but after reading it word for word, I cannot agree to work under the terms of your newest contract. You changed the payment terms to be “per project.”  I can only agree to hourly payment terms due to the shifting project requirements.

Client: Oops, sorry! I sent you the contract I have with another developer. Ignore it and we will work with the last contract we signed.

I worked for a few months and often convinced the client to stop changes because of the costs for my hourly rates. I was paid on time and as agreed for the first few months.

Some time later, I noticed my payment was not deposited and the client was giving me a new excuse each time I reminded him his payment was overdue. I was in the final phase of the project and working very long hours - it was going to be completed any day. However, the client was taking up a lot of my time talking about how all his other developers left him for no reason and other odd personal drama stories. 

With the project being so close to completion, I knew I could be done with all of this drama if I stood my ground and insist I was paid what I was owed. The client’s excuses for not paying me started to get stranger and more comedic, e.g. the bank made a mistake, the client was sick, the client forgot, the client would pay tomorrow, etc.

I stopped all work and the client actually started crying on the phone with me as he begged me to just finish the work that night so that he could pay me the next day.  I refused. The client owed me for more than five weeks of pay at this time.

I finally hired a paralegal to help me mediate with the client and to help get the money I was owed for my work.

The client suddenly changed his story and told the courts that he expected me to pay him $50k because I did not complete the project according to that contract that he previously told me he was going to delete off of rightsignature.  The client screamed “you are a liar” in the court room, put on a very dramatic show and told stories about how he was very generous when he did pay me for my work.

He’s now suing me for $50k, with his brother-in-law as his lawyer. Please, learn from my mistake.