Before I share this story about whether to refund the deposit, I want you to know:
If you hire me for a project, I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to make it a success.
With that said—I’m writing this because it’s relevant to many of my clients who are creative professionals, like me.
A few months ago, I got approached by a prospect for a very large project.
This client posed no red flags at the time—except maybe that it all sounded too good to be true. I knew I could do a good job—and I was excited. And after sailing through my client intake process, the client signed my contract, gave a deposit and we began work.
When I delivered the first round, the initial WordPress development of the site, the client came back saying they weren’t happy. They wanted it to do a bunch of things (that they hadn’t mentioned before). I’m not a mind reader, so I was happy to get more clarity in order to ensure round two was on-point. I incorporated all the adjustments that were asked for.
When I delivered the second round, they said: This looks great. Let me take the weekend to review. Usually a good sign, right?
On Monday, I received an aggressive phone call saying that I wasn’t up to completing the task to their requirements and they wanted me to refund the deposit THAT DAY. I was shocked. I tried to get specifics about what was lacking and how we could make it right. They insisted—refund the deposit! I stumbled over my words and managed to say something like: If you don’t want to continue the project, I need to be compensated for my time. Let me take the night to think about it.
After hanging up, I got an email that said: I don’t think it should take that long to look at your hours and we expect a response by lunchtime.
This was the first time this has ever happened. I was upset. Shocked. And I truly didn’t know what to do.
Now—my contract does state that all deposits are non-refundable, and that all disputes must go through arbitration. (Your contract should do the same.)
With my mentor’s advice, I decided to contact my attorney to double-check my contract.
My attorney said that legally, I was covered. The deposit was mine to keep.
After reviewing the time I spent working on this project, and recalling the way the client treated me during that phone call, I ended up not needing to sleep on it. I stand by my work. I did a good job. And they decided to end the project—not me.
I sent the client an email that I wasn’t going to refund the deposit and didn’t get a response.
I pondered what went wrong and thought of a bunch of different scenarios.
But I think maybe it’s just a reminder that things don’t go perfectly all the time—and we need to have our butts covered just in case.
Want more insight on this topic? Check out what to say (and do) when…the client wants the deposit back.