That time I got screwed over by the nicest people

My good friend Ned referred me onto Romeo and Mark, 2 guys who were on a mission to do big things with their startup.

They had no idea about SEO (and still don’t to this day) and were keen to get my expertise to help them on their journey.

I obliged, as I always do. They bargained hard on my retainer which I faintly resisted. I was keen to help and the money was an added bonus, really.

I knew they had the money though. They’re just trying to get a bit more bang for buck, I thought. Who doesn’t want that anyway?

On we went.

I worked hard on being super transparent and honest with them every step of the way.

This is how I do things.

SEO still hasn’t been able to shake the stigma surrounding it being some dark art with shady characters involved.

I leave my work open for everyone to see because there’s nothing to hide. And because I want to change perceptions of SEO folks.

Anyway, I digress.

I did my first batch of work and fired off my first invoice. I worked more than I should have but these guys were chill and I figured there’d be some long term benefits to going the extra mile early on.

BOOM. Got paid in less than 24 hours. AMAZING.

This is working out quite nicely I thought.

I powered on, delivering value every step of the way.

I was firing on all cylinders and had ideas for days and was working hard just about every single day.

I amassed enough billable hours to fund a night out on the town.

But I figured many hours were just me being curious and doing extra research and it probably wasn’t entirely billable in the purest sense.

So I issued my second invoice and kept it real.

I got silence.

I issued a reminder.

Then I got a ‘please explain’ email.

Odd, I thought.

I mean, we just spent a lot of time working on the same project together, surely this invoice should not come as a surprise.

It’s not like I haven’t done work (I had done plenty). It’s not like there was any cancellation notice from either party.

Then I got asked to itemise and note time spent on all tasks related to this invoice.

It took me a while to pick my jaw up from the floor.

Surely this couldn’t be the same people who paid me within 24 hours the first time round.

But alas, it was. They suddenly decided to turn the screws on me for some reason.

It went quiet after this.

I said goodbye to my money and pledged to be more vigilant with my time spent in future.

Then out of the blue, I received a small portion of my invoice. And then another equally small payment.

And an email that pretty much questioned my integrity.

“We will pay you what we think you deserve based on our perception of your value.”

Ruddy hell.

When you are upfront, honest, transparent and clear as day about all that you do, it’s quite the kick to the shins and a slap in the face when someone starts to cast doubts on how truthful you’ve been about your work.

Keep in mind, this isn’t a huge amount of money.

So for people who can very much afford it, to not only quibble about pennies but also ask me if I’m cooking the books, well, this is quite a turn of events.

Frankly, it’s made me put up my walls and my rates. And I vow to never work with these people ever again.

It’s taught me to be meticulous and positively anal about every task done and every minute spent.

And it’s taught me that no one gives a damn. People will flip without notice and the person you thought was totally chill is just the worst.

When you delay paying someone, you’re saying to them: I do not value you or your time or your effort.

When you pay someone incorrectly, you’re saying to them: I do not value you or your time or your effort.

When you do both of the above, you’re just outright evil.

Be professional about your work and open with all communication. No one likes to have difficult conversations but you’d rather have a difficult conversations and cut your losses than to simply have bad, toxic, evil blood between yourselves.

Oh I forgot to add, Romeo and Mark and their merry men of thieves booted me from every single account that I had access to. Without notice.

From GA to GSC to the SEO Slack channel.


I’d be sad to part ways in general but to do this behind my back? that’s plain evil.

All I have to say to people who behave like this is that your time in the sun is numbered.

You will get your just desserts.

And justice will prevail.

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