Darren "Dag" Cox of CaSTT (http://www.ucastt.com
) hired me to write an SEO manual for a presentation he was giving at the University of Michigan, after firing a full-time employee due to his dissatisfaction with the manual he'd spent several months writing.
Darren was aware of my hourly rate, as we'd had a meeting previously about me doing some other work for him. He offered me a $1500 flat fee to write an SEO manual, with a $500 bonus if it was completed within 3 days. We had a verbal contract.
After a prolonged five-hour meeting, in which Darren would literally pause every minute or two to have long discussions with his coders, who were at his beck and call (he'd call them in the room to look at bugs in his system over and over again, leaving me to wonder how they actually got any of the work he requested done amidst these long conversation...luckily I had other work to do while waiting for them to finish their numerous prolonged conversations), I walked away with a very vague outline to use for the manual, which I read back to Darren before leaving to make sure it was complete.
Amount owed: $845.00
I set up a shared Google doc so that Darren could see what work I was doing, since we were on such a tight deadline, thinking that this would allow him to offer suggestions as needed. Unfortunately, he only offered vague and unhelpful (not to mention confusing) suggestions such as "add more meat" and "I need more limbic system why stuff." He also asked me to use Google images, despite my concern about the very clear copyright violations.
I spent six hours putting together a manual based on every piece of SEO information I had that would fit into the outline Darren and I had put together in our prolong meeting, but was not too specific (as he asked for it not to be too
technical.) Instead of answering my questions about what else to include, Darren accused me of copying and pasting the text directly from documents that he sent, which is not only inaccurate but is also impossible, since the documents that he sent were largely irrelevant (one was a manual for an outdated product, and one was an extremely vague PowerPoint presentation, much of which was material he asked me not to include in our meeting. All the material I created was original, or paraphrased from previous SEO work I have written.
After I told Darren I needed specific instruction, Darren decided to write the manual himself, and when I let him know I'd bill him for my hours so far (which include a 5-hour meeting (not including the time I had to sit and wait in my car, as he was late), 2 hours of transportation and 6 hours of writing), he refused to pay and pointed out that any complaint I filed would not be taken seriously due to a lack of a written contract.
I am not sure how much of my writing will make it into the final manual. Darren removed himself from the Google document, but it is very easy to cut and paste a document or save it as another file.
Either way, Darren was very much aware of my hourly rate and has simply refused to pay it. At no point in our meeting did he mention anything about writing for free or writing on spec as I would have refused.
I'd be happy to forward e-mails, the outline, the document and our Google doc chats about the piece.