November 18, 2013

My Crap-O-Meter Was Pegged by a "Friend"

My Crap-O-Meter Was Pegged by a "Friend"
[Author Note]I don't really expect a whole lot of attention to this post, but please realize this is being written for me, not for you. I've been bothered as of late about a situation that has been ongoing and I have a need to vent that isn't going to degrade into a shouting match with my wife, who has absolutely no horse in this race other than the misfortune of living with me.[/Note]

Earlier this spring I was asked to collaborate on a "website" that a "friend" wanted to have made for his company. He is an officer of said company, not a rank-and-file employee. He had some ideas that he wanted to turn into something, but he just didn't have the time. He proposed an "experiment" where I would take his rough ideas and do all the grunt work towards the website. When I was done he'd come in and edit the work to his liking and get that site up & making money. He made it clear that this could lead to more work for me down the line as he had more ideas. Since I had my own website ideas as well, I made it clear that this "experiment" worked both ways. On some level he would be evaluating my work, but I would be evaluating the whole set-up as well.

While no discussion of payment was made at that time, there was no mistaking this was a for-profit project. I know that the company has established payment guidelines for other similar work. I also knew this was a departure from the norm and, quite frankly, in negotiating a price it is often the first person who brings up money who gets the short end of the stick. I'm more focused on the longer-term goal of being able to replicate this initial effort multiple times down the road. This isn't the kind of work that gets you rich in the industry, so my expectations were nothing more than fair treatment from my friends at this company and the opportunity to evaluate whether I really wanted to doing these side-line projects.

I was given a six week deadline which I had no problem making. It took me maybe two days of decent effort to write up the code, and that is more because I put a bit more effort into things than I needed to. Not only did I do the writing, but I ended up doing a lot of extra CSS that wasn't originally asked for. I also had some fun with Photoshop working on the graphics for the website....again, not something that was required for the project. One of the extra graphics required a lot of extra work and was submitted a week after the deadline, but it was submitted.

I know this above-and-beyond was all on me. I wanted to show I could deliver the full website in a style consistent to the others the company had been using.

Once everything was submitted came the long wait. Communication was non-existent. I'm 100% certain there were tons of other projects on my friend's plate. Regular work still had to get done and there were a couple of industry conventions over the summer. Five months later I find out the website is finally going live. Great! I was able to go online and check things out...look at the source code. Much of what I had coded was used verbatim and as-expected there were large edits here and there. My graphics were used with minor modifications. At least one modification seemed to have been made just for the sake of making a change (I'm biased & think the original was so much better!).

This was two months ago.....

I've yet to see so much as a check or hell, even a "thank-you" or any other follow-up. Two weeks ago I stepped up and called, asking if they were planning on paying me for my work. The immediate response was, "Well, we didn't discuss payment before....."

[If you want to read my NSFW thoughts at that moment you have to highlight the text...]
First off...fuck you. Yes, we didn't "discuss" payment six, almost seven months ago. You knew I was unemployed and you dangled this prospect of some work in front of me. If you wanted me to do the work gratis, you should have asked. I probably would have done it anyway, just for the educational opportunity. The fact that this was offered as a an introduction to more work down the line.....well, this is just shitty that you not only thought I'd be your bitch once, but you thought you could get me...actually I've volunteered for you company a lot in the past, spending quite a bit of my own resources helping you make money. Guess I was already your bitch.

He told me he'd talk to his boss and they'd try to get me out a contract. My payment would be much, which I knew already, but he'd get back to me. Of course I thought, "why start now?" We pretty much went straight from my submission to a last-minute head's up before the website went online. I never signed any releases for the company to use my, what I thought was still a work in progress.

Of course it has been a bit more than two weeks and I haven't seen or heard a thing. Meanwhile I discover that a larger website has gone up under the same (?) arrangement that the one I worked on. I've seen some messages regarding the new site that clearly indicate that it was my "friend's" initial proposal and someone else did the grunt work.

So here I am essentially having my worked conned from me. Obviously this "experiment" was a failure on several fronts. Not only did I waste my time, but I really haven't had the opportunity to learn from the experience as far as my coding goes. Even without being paid the opportunity to learn about making for-profit websites could have been invaluable, but I was robbed of that opportunity. There is also the loss of a friend, unfortunately one of several from that organization.

The one lesson I think it is safe to take away from this is that people only value what they pay for....

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