They say mistakes are like assholes, everyone's got one but no one likes to talk about it. Well… today I am going to.
Wait, wait… my mistake… not my, um…
April has gotten here and one of those Facebook memory posts caught my attention— my first “business trip” to Granbury. A memory I don't really want to be reminded of.
One year ago I was living in Gainesville, TX hoping to one day move to Granbury (where I currently live). I had begun marketing in Granbury hoping to get a head start on the eventual move back in January of 2018. Late March I got my first good lead, and headed 2 hours down the road to meet with this prospect in person.
The meeting went fantastic. I remember talking to my buddy Matt from the parking lot of Starbucks just after it wrapped up. I was telling him how I “totally nailed it” and will “definitely get the job”.
Got home, wrote up the proposal and sent it off sure that it would be promptly signed and work would begin shortly.
Unfortunately I got a response back that I didn't expect.
Her startup company was low on cash, and while a website was a pretty important part of her new business (an ONLINE business) she hadn't quite accounted for, you know, paying for it.
She had asked me to finance the website— something I had never done nor considered before.
Another phone call with Matt (that I remember SO vividly— strange how these wrong turns can stick in your mind) to discuss this arrangement and if it was a good idea or not. I also asked for feedback from Lee Jackson and his group.
The consensus from Lee, Matt and the group was just about unanimous— no way. “Bad idea” I heard. “You'll never get paid” another said. And the quote I remember most: “Are you a bank?”. Jeez, those words are stinging again.
So, as an anxious, go-getting, hard working, wanting-to-please business owner, what did I do?
I financed the site, of course!
Well, not all of it. I actually countered her offer with one of my own.
She would pay 50% down and then finance the remaining balance over the next 12 months (cue April of 2019!).
If the fact that she all of a sudden didn't budget a website for her online business wasn't a big enough red flag— after the contract was signed and the deposit was made she casually mentioned in conversation “we have the money, we just don't feel comfortable spending it”. Really? I'm going to carry the risk of this because YOU don't feel like it?
Red flag #2.
The website construction begins… Site is pretty and shaping up in no time. We're damn near ready to launch the thing when I just stop getting a response from her. First a week goes by, then 2 weeks, then a month. At this point I'm getting a bit nervous.
Finally, word back— “I'm so sorry I have not responded, my husband and I split and we're getting a divorce and I had to move”.
Well, that sucks… but what am I supposed to say? Being the nice guy I am, I told her that I was “so sorry” and if she “needed some time” I could “put the project on hold”.
Over the next 11 months I heard from her about 3 times. After faithfully sending invoices each month (that were going unpaid) she finally reach out and wanted to “catch up”.
A month or so later I got the voicemail that her “business model had changed” and she would “need to make some tweaks” to the website. Again, we get caught up on payments and again she goes silent.
So— April 2019 marks one year from when we signed the contract. I still lack 3 months worth of payment.
I'll probably never get it. And you know what? I hope I never do. If I never hear from her again that will be a blessing.
The other blessing I received from this is a BIG amendment to my contract. Essentially it states that if the client should go silent for a specific (and measurable!) period of time I will consider the project completed, bill it in full, and a new job will have to be quoted to begin any more work.
Boy, would that have saved my ass from this year-long mistake I made.