First client's partner demands free website redesign, wants deposit returned - moral dilemma


Sorry in advance for the long read.

I'm 22 years old and just finished university for graphic design. I was approached by a small business which wanted me to design them a logo, stationery, and a website. I was only charging them $20/h NZD because it was under the table and my first client.

Anyway, I've finished everything. They're happy with the logo and stationery, but not the website. They think the whole website needs re-designing. They only told me this a month after I finished (once her husband started to get more involved with the deal). So I came up with another concept and sent them the wireframes for it, told them it would take roughly 50-60 hours. He sent a long email filled with analogies about flooring and how he wouldn't want his floor tiled twice, etc (it was an entertaining email). He left me with an ultimatum: do the re-design of the site for free or return the deposit he paid and walk away (after the hours already gone into it).

I would LOVE to hear from other freelancers and hear what they would do in this situation as I'm new to this and can't tell if I'm in the wrong or not. An important piece of information to note is that I didn't send them the wireframes of the site in the beginning (which was a mistake I now know) but does this mistake really have this much of a repercussion? And yes from now on I will use a contract.

If you read to here I would love your input, cheers.

Update: I took the advice from the answers below and told him I would need payment for a re-design or I could take it down and we part ways. After some discussion he said never mind and is now going to live with the current design and pay what he owes. (Sounds like he was trying take advantage and get extra work for free).

2/10/2016 11:54:00 AM

Accepted Answer

Okay, it depends on this:

  • If they saw proofs or any other mock up and signed off on the design before it went to code, then I think you are in a good position. They should pay for it, propose that they pay you some money and walk away.
  • If they never saw proofs, just walk away and keep the deposit (they are happy with the logo and stationary, they should pay for it).

Either way, walk away from the relationship, it's going to be toxic from now on and you don't need that in your life when trying to start a business as a freelancer.

2/9/2016 10:10:00 AM

You say:

Work was completed as per our agreement. Any concerns about the work came one month post delivery. While I am happy to work with you to reach satisfaction, this is a new job and one I must charge for.

If they respond with more demands, have a lawyer write a reply for you. It shouldn't cost you too much to have a lawyer do an initial consultation and deliver a letter.

Welcome to business!

BTW, some lessons to learn here:

  • always have a contract
  • avoid low-paying gigs due to the fact that (as you've found out) they typically involve terrible people to work for.