I do freelance seamstress & custom costume work on the side while working at a part-time job and as an intern for a dance costume company. Back in November, the part-time job had significantly cut my hours so I took on a few extra freelance projects to bring in money and one of them was for a friend of mine who was looking to put together a costume.
Client: Hey I know people commission costumes from you sometimes, I was hoping you could maybe make a costume for me based on (character name) from (video game franchise)?
Me: Yeah sure, I have some time right now and if you could give me some more details I’m sure we could figure something out.
She proceeded to provide me with some reference images and we agreed on a time frame as a basic price point. We were both full-time students working part-time jobs at the time so I was willing to cut her a bit of a break on my labor costs and with her permission, I looked into using materials that were a little cheaper in quality than what I usually used. I usually have the client also make a down-payment around half the price at the start of the project but she had bills to pay and I was naive so we agreed on a payment plan for once the project was finished.
Just to reiterate my stupidity at the time, the project was a true full costume including a fair dozen garment pieces as well as some light armor and small accessories/props and I was being paid a pittance. I cannot express how considerably low the price was for the project because I just really needed the work.
Me: (fully breaking down the pricing for the project for her in a level of detail I won’t go into here, which was also explained to her in person on multiple occasions) OK, the cost for all of the materials will be $X and the labor will be at $X, making the total for the project $X. Does that work for you?
Client: I could definitely pay that!
Me: Sounds good to me, I will get the materials tomorrow and I can start working on the project immediately. It will be done in about two weeks.
I completed on schedule
Me: Here it is! If you’re happy with the completed project and there’s nothing else to alter, your payment plan will start (X date) and I will be in touch.
Client: Everything is perfect and looks great! I love you this means a lot tbh
After literal months of contacting her through phone and email and talking to her in person, I never saw a dime of the agreed amount and was beginning to get distinctly frustrated. Finally, she began actually responding to me again.
Me: Hello (Client), it has been nearly half a year since I made that costume for you so I really need to figure out with you how you would like to pay.
Client: I completely understand. I’ve been avoiding it and that’s really sh***y of me. How much was it again?
Me: We agreed on $X as the total but if you don’t have all of that together now, as long as we put together a detailed payment plan I’d completely understand.
I proceeded to brainstorm a variety of payment plans and solutions that could maybe work for her and she put together what she had of the total at the time and we agreed that she would pay me $X amount the next day and the rest on (X date). I thought it was a little weird because she wanted to pay in cash and I usually conduct business through Paypal but I was just relieved to finally at least get back my material costs.
That night, at literally midnight she texted me with a screenshot of my previously mentioned price breakdown from November.
Client: Hey so like, I looked at our old messages at the price we had originally agreed on and it was only $Y, not $X. I took screenshots as proof, and I promise I’m not trying to cheat you out of anything, I just really do not have the funds to pay $X.
Me: It’s not $X because that was the material cost and I charged you for materials and labor because I don’t work for free. That’s what the message says. $X materials +$X labor = $X. I can get my receipts for the materials and tax paperwork for you if you want.
Client: Okay, you just never specified when we first agreed to the whole commission.
Client: Honestly, if I knew the original price was gonna be $X, I wouldn’t have asked for it because I know I don’t have the funds. However, since you obviously already did it, I have to pay for it.
Me: I’m sorry if you misunderstood but I definitely specified right there in the screenshot that you sent me what the cost would be.
Client: It’s fine, I’ll try my hardest to get it all to you.
I had to physically go to her house the next day to get the cash from her, and after I arrived she slammed the door in my face while I stood there, stunned, and came back a few seconds later with the $ amount we discussed and reiterated that I would have the rest by (X date). (X date) came and I contacted her again to make sure she would be paying my the rest.
Me: I haven’t heard from you and it’s the date we agreed on, so I just wanted to ask, when do you think I’ll be able to come get the money from you?
Client: Well since I don’t have a job, my boyfriend has to help me so I have to talk to him.
What kind of actual human adult acts like this.
Despite my attempts, I got radio silence for the next fifteen days.
Me: Hello. I’m checking in again because the last I saw you, you said you’d be able to pay me back and it has been a couple weeks. I really need the money by (X date). This needs to be finished. I think I have been more than patient.
Client: Fine, I’ll get it.
Yesterday, nine months after the end of the initial project, I received the remaining amount in cash and, weirdly enough, a handful of quarters, dimes, and nickels. Was all the trouble worth it for all that? Definitely not. Am I pleased as punch that I never have to see her again? Absolutely.
I’d like to kind of bookend this by saying that before this project and since I have worked a variety of projects for friends and family along with my usual freelance work and I have never had an issue of this calibre with any of them. I’m honestly baffled by the whole thing.