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OldGuy

Advice with an over demanding client on a £260 website project.

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Hi all this is my first post here! I've recently started freelancing although I've been designing and developing websites since the late 90s, and I'm still learning :-)

 

Ok now to my predicament, recently I agreed to host a friends site as they wanted to move hosting provider, they also asked if I could update their site as it was very dated and not mobile friendly (fixed width).

 

As I know them well I agreed that I'd rewrite the site and make it responsive and host it for a friends rate of £260.

 

All of my work is custom I don't use a CMS so I worked away in my spare time, I redesigned the entire site to make it clean responsive, at every step of the way I emailed the client with updates and screen shots of the new design.

 

3/4 of the way through the project the client asked if I could add a gallery page for a few photos, no problem or so I thought...

 

The client didn't want a simple static gallery page with a few photos he wanted an upload system :-/ being fairly proficient in PHP, Ajax, MySQL I wrote a basic upload system.

 

Upon completion I invited the client over to have a run through the new site all seemed ok until we got to gallery. The client had now decided that he needed to be able to upload and remove images and asked if they could now have a description and be categorised!!

 

At this point bare in mind £260 for the entire bespoke website, gallery, all graphic design including hosting :-/

 

I'm pretty generous so I sat down re wrote a lot of the gallery wrote a login system and a gallery editor. All good or so I thought :-/

 

 

I handed over the site and made it live, baring in mind that the client had seen the design and layout via email and in person. Within 4 days of handing over the site I receive a long email listing numerous changes including a complete re-design of the main page so that he can fit in a twitter feed, and a request for a background image on every page.

 

Ok so the client is a friend but I'd consider £260 for a custom responsive multi page site with custom PHP/MySQL/Ajax gallery and hosting pretty good value??

 

Do you think it is unreasonable for me to charge extra for requested modifications?? (baring in mind that this I bespoke so I'll need to re design the layout again to get a background to work, plus redesign the homepage)??

 

I would really like to hear your comments and advice.

 

 

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Tell him you did a mates rates site and cannot make any more changes for the price. Give them the option to pay or go find someone else to make the changes. Do not get into a lengthy exchange of emails.

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Tell him you did a mates rates site and cannot make any more changes for the price. Give them the option to pay or go find someone else to make the changes. Do not get into a lengthy exchange of emails.

Thank you for your reply I think your advice is very sensible. I didn't want it appear to my client that I couldn't be bothered. From my point of view with the time I've already put into the project I'm making no profit at all, besides the fact that I've not been paid a penny yet. I guess there's only so many amendments a developer can make for free, friend or not :-/

 

 

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I would also mention how much that amount of work would normally cost i.e. something more like 4x that amount :)

And then some!

 

Undercharging tends to attract the kind of clients who don't value your time...

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I would also mention how much that amount of work would normally cost i.e. something more like 4x that amount :)

Yes indeed I agree, even though I'd done the site for a client who's also a friend I'd not cut corners in any way. I'm always more than happy to go the extra mile for a client, but when that one extra mile becomes ten, you have to stop.

 

 

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Edited by OldGuy

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Mate I totally know your situation, been there, and like yourself I'm a little longer in the tooth and a scratch writer. I've had this with my brother-in-law, sister, dads friends accountants dog etc, always seems the ones who should be supporting your business are the very ones who are late paying and want constant freebies.

 

Since it's mates rates you need to draw a line somewhere, but always make sure the word 'mates' is underlined, and ask fisicx made the point they'll need to pay more as it's well outside specification. Also, even at mates rates I'd start to be wondering where my £260 is, live site and no 'how do you want me to pay you' email, could get messy.

 

If your mate was a builder I'd make the point that if you had asked him to cement a few bricks down and your constant requests turned it into a new wall, then wall with drive, then into an extension and landscaped gardens all for £260 what would they do?

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If your mate was a builder I'd make the point that if you had asked him to cement a few bricks down and your constant requests turned it into a new wall, then wall with drive, then into an extension and landscaped gardens all for £260 what would they do?

Perfectly put!! You've hit the nail on the head and had me in stitches too [emoji23][emoji23][emoji23] Thanks for your reply [emoji106][emoji106]

 

 

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It's been really helpful to get feedback from others as situations like this can be awkward, in some ways it's more difficult as I know the person well. As a developer I simply want to give the client a good service.

 

It seems that the general consensus is not to make any further modifications / updates to this project without receiving payment for the work already done. Then to charge for any future amendments.

 

Thanks to all who participated, OldGuy :-)

 

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Edited by OldGuy

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Just thought I'd give a quick update on this situation.

 

To date I've still have not been paid for any of the work or hosting!! I have now received an email from my client "complaining" because I won't make further changes for free, and that they're considering "moving to another company".

 

The question is, should I now take the site offline?

 

I'm concerned as it's my clients business site, obviously I don't want legal problems if I do take it offline. not sure where I'd stand?

 

Any advice appreciated.

Edited by OldGuy

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Put up a holding page. That way you can say the site is live but not accessible. If they haven't paid then it's not theirs yet. dont enter into any correspondence except to say the site will be back online once they have paid for hosting and development.

 

If they want to go elsewhere that's fine, but they still don't get the site until they have paid.

 

I've only ever been in this situation once. They threatened all sort of things but did nothing. They did pay in the end and are now a good client, I get lots of repeat work from them. I learnt never to do favours to people.

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Put up a holding page. That way you can say the site is live but not accessible. If they haven't paid then it's not theirs yet. dont enter into any correspondence except to say the site will be back online once they have paid for hosting and development.

 

If they want to go elsewhere that's fine, but they still don't get the site until they have paid.

 

I've only ever been in this situation once. They threatened all sort of things but did nothing. They did pay in the end and are now a good client, I get lots of repeat work from them. I learnt never to do favours to people.

Thanks Fisicx, that's good advice I've just sent them a brief email explaining the situation and have put a holding page on the site.

 

 

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It always seems to be the clients you bend over backwards to please, or "Friends" that want to just take take take and never appreciate what you've done.

 

I've learned a lesson from this don't do jobs for "mates rates".

 

 

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And when you do get the money, remind them that they have only paid you for your time and expertise, they haven't paid you for ownership of the code. Which means you are under no obligation to give it away. Same with any imagery and even the CSS - it all belongs to you.

 

It's a mistake many people make when they commission a website. They think they own it but unless you pass over ownership in writing they own nothing., all they have is a permission to use the work. Just like they don't own their domain name, all they are doing is renting the name.

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And when you do get the money, remind them that they have only paid you for your time and expertise, they haven't paid you for ownership of the code. Which means you are under no obligation to give it away. Same with any imagery and even the CSS - it all belongs to you.

 

It's a mistake many people make when they commission a website. They think they own it but unless you pass over ownership in writing they own nothing., all they have is a permission to use the work. Just like they don't own their domain name, all they are doing is renting the name.

That's a very good point, I've done a lot of Photoshop work for their site, logo design, icons, cleaning up all of their photos etc etc. All of which I have done for free simply because I know the guy. Normally I'd be more than happy for them to take it, but after all this hassle I'm not signing any of it over to them, most definitely not the artwork, and the custom gallery code.

 

To be honest I hate having to be this way as I'm a guy that'll do anything for anyone, but in this case the customer is being totally unreasonable.

 

 

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in this case the customer is being totally unreasonable.

 

Hi OldGuy, I don't disagree with you - the customer is clearly making unreasonable requests. I'd like to invite you though to look at your own role in the process as well, so that you can improve your business skills in the process. There is a saying 'You can't change people, you can only change the way you behave towards them'.

 

When you first said yes to the image gallery, without additional cost or a clear understanding of what the requirements were, you opened the door to the client's unreasonable requests and unreasonable expectations. Nobody can tell for sure but there is a fair chance that much of this could have been avoided if you'd said "Sure, I'll do a gallery for you, it will cost $$". He would either have walked away or established a healthier relationship.

 

I'm not berating you - I've done the same thing in the past (and not just once). All part of the learning process. Best of luck getting paid!

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Hi OldGuy, I don't disagree with you - the customer is clearly making unreasonable requests. I'd like to invite you though to look at your own role in the process as well, so that you can improve your business skills in the process. There is a saying 'You can't change people, you can only change the way you behave towards them'.

 

When you first said yes to the image gallery, without additional cost or a clear understanding of what the requirements were, you opened the door to the client's unreasonable requests and unreasonable expectations. Nobody can tell for sure but there is a fair chance that much of this could have been avoided if you'd said "Sure, I'll do a gallery for you, it will cost $$". He would either have walked away or established a healthier relationship.

 

I'm not berating you - I've done the same thing in the past (and not just once). All part of the learning process. Best of luck getting paid!

Good Post Ion124!

 

I agree totally, usually clients are exactly that "clients" not friends, I think my mistake was in being too willing to help a friend. Although that said I've done work for friends in the past and they're normally grateful for everything I've done. Unfortunately in this instance my "friend" didn't seem grateful they just kept wanting more and more.

 

I've certainly learned a lesson though, friend or not stick to business protocol :-)

 

 

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Edited by OldGuy

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Has the client realised his site isn't live?

Hi Fisicx

 

Yes he realises it's got a holding page up. At the moment he's complaining about paying because he wants all of the changes making first (for free), he's also threatening to go elsewhere if I don't! To be honest I think he just wants a freebie, it's pretty frustrating as I've done loads of extras for him already, including quite a few hours of graphic work (again for free).

 

As I posted previously he'd already agreed the design and was perfectly happy with it. He's since changed his mind and wants a load of design changes made, so I've politely told him that I can not do all of the extra work inside of the original price, but am happy to do it at cost. It's a very frustrating situation as I just want the customer to be happy and to get the job finished.

 

My guess is that even if I did the design changes for free just to keep him happy he'd probably then want something else doing.

 

 

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It sounds like he's either a really ****ty friend, or doesn't understand the amount of time that goes into this project. In my opinion there are 2 logical choices to go with at this point.

 

1. Make him understand how much work you are actually doing for him. Break down the different steps that went into making his site and estimate the amount of time you put into each step and add it all up. First show him how much time you put in before the changes. Say this comes out to about 17 hours, that means you are charging him 15/hr for the base site which is already a very discounted rate for a good web developer. Then add it up again, including the time spent on the extra work he's requested AFTER you finished creating the site you both have already agreed upon. Say it comes out to 30 hours, you are now doing work for him for less than 9/hour.

Make him understand that you didn't pull this time out of your ass, you could have been working on another site and charging your normal rate instead. Say your normal rate is 25/hour, you essentially gave him 750$ worth of your time for 260$. That is a HUGE favor.

People who don't know how it works think programmers and web developers can just magically create software whenever they want with no effort, they don't understand how much of your own time(and since time=money especially for a freelancer), how much of your money, goes into such a project.
After explaining that, ask in the nicest way you can why he feels entitled to even more work for no extra charge. If the situation is as you say than he either won't have a reason and will accept that he's getting more than he deserves and should be happy, or will explain the reason why he feels entitled to more, at which point you can address that based on what he says.

 

2. Or, if you can afford it, just drop him as a client because people like that aren't worth the aggravation. This option might be more complicated since he's your friend, but you can decide if this is a good choice for you based on your situation and your friendship. It may actually be the best way to prevent this from effecting your relationship with the person.

 

Sorry I'm in a rush I hope that made sense

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Very nice post Moe.

 

To be honest I've explained everything to him on multiple occasions now. It seems the only experience he has had previously with websites is Wordpress and I'm sure he thinks that scratch writing code is the same as clicking "add new plugin" in Wordpress, I think this is where the problem lies coupled with him being one of those people who "knows it all"!!

 

The good news is that he has begrudgingly sent payment today. The not such good news is he's sent me a huge email complaining that "I m not prepared to help him" and "he feels let down" and is planning to move hosts!! Go figure [emoji848].

 

So I've politely told him no problem he is entitled to move hosts, but he cannot use any of the extra graphic work that I'd done for free, or my scratch written gallery code.

 

I'm still awaiting his reply.

 

 

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Very nice post Moe.

 

To be honest I've explained everything to him on multiple occasions now. It seems the only experience he has had previously with websites is Wordpress and I'm sure he thinks that scratch writing code is the same as clicking "add new plugin" in Wordpress, I think this is where the problem lies coupled with him being one of those people who "knows it all"!!

 

The good news is that he has begrudgingly sent payment today. The not such good news is he's sent me a huge email complaining that "I m not prepared to help him" and "he feels let down" and is planning to move hosts!! Go figure [emoji848].

 

So I've politely told him no problem he is entitled to move hosts, but he cannot use any of the extra graphic work that I'd done for free, or my scratch written gallery code.

 

I'm still awaiting his reply.

 

 

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I think the most sensible thing to do is to part ways. Doesn't sound like much of a friend!

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Whilst this may sound harsh. I honestly have no sympathy for you, sorry. You've broken some of the absolute basic rules of business and freelancing:

 

Not working to a specification

 

This is your key issue in my opinion.

 

If your client has no specification how are they supposed to know what ~£200 gets them?Including something very basic like "the site will have a gallery page with categories. You'll have an admin area to manage categories and images" would have been better than nothing.

 

You could have also explained how you work. i.e. after you've signed off the design, I'll move onto developing the site. Without additional charge, further changes after sign off are chargeable. However, you may allow a further round of changes.

 

If you don't state this in a clear language how does you're client know? You made the site live, developed it etc. and then the client back at the end and requested major changes resulting in more time for yourself. If the client was not told about this, in their eyes, they're in the right. Granted, it's unreasonable to ask for changes like this, but because you haven't agreed to anything with the client, instead adopting a very ADHOC "mates rate" type setup, you're now stuck in a very vicious circle - which will cost you money and effort arguing with the client.

 

Frankly, if you're not working to a specification (even getting the client to agree to a few bullets points by email), then you're insane and must like stress. Sorry :/

 

Additional work is chargeable

 

Based on the latter explain one key element. Additional work beyond the latter spec. if chargeable. I have seen x2 web development agencies go under due to this single fact alone. Remember, you are not charging a client for a website or gallery system. You're charging your time out, which costs money.

 

Bespoke vs pre-written code

 

 

There is defiantly a place for pre written solutions (i.e. good platforms) and for bespoke code (only written using know Frameworks like Symfony/Laravel/Zend etc. I'm not sure the benefit of writing raw PHP from scratch at all nowadays (do people still do this in 2017?).

 

You need to explain this to your client, that if you're literally starting from scratch (no PHP framework) that latter this is generally more time consuming. If you're familiar with your PHP framework then that will speed up development massively and result in a higher quality and more maintainable result. I'm not this sure has happened here as you mention the client cannot understand your pricing

 

"Mates rates"

 

Seriously? Not need to explain this other than you're very naive in business if you're still doing this, especially for such a small job. Rule of thumb - a client is your friend, they're just that, your client.

 

Charging too little

 

I appreciate everyone has different hourly rates, but £260.00 for "the entire bespoke website, gallery, all graphic design including hosting" and other ADHOC things like "cleaning up photos", which seems on the very low side. When you factor in the what I like to call "soft time" (i.e. chasing emails, telephone calls, training, support etc.) you're charging next to nothing.

 

Deposits

 

Not taking a deposit upfront is also insane. Why on earth didn't you take one? A 50% deposit is fairly common in this niche. Why start work, invest a load of your time in something when there is the chance you may not get paid. For bigger projects I've found splitting the project into milestones with a payment works very well.

 

Sorry if all that came across harshly, but whilst you can moan about your client, as a freelancer you have to control such situations and set your stall out early on.

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And then some!

 

Undercharging tends to attract the kind of clients who don't value your time...

 

Amen, internet high fives. Unchanging attracts the type of clients you don;t want and certainly those that massively undervalue your skills.

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Very nice post Moe.

 

To be honest I've explained everything to him on multiple occasions now. It seems the only experience he has had previously with websites is Wordpress and I'm sure he thinks that scratch writing code is the same as clicking "add new plugin" in Wordpress, I think this is where the problem lies coupled with him being one of those people who "knows it all"!!

 

The good news is that he has begrudgingly sent payment today. The not such good news is he's sent me a huge email complaining that "I m not prepared to help him" and "he feels let down" and is planning to move hosts!! Go figure [emoji848].

 

So I've politely told him no problem he is entitled to move hosts, but he cannot use any of the extra graphic work that I'd done for free, or my scratch written gallery code.

 

I'm still awaiting his reply.

 

 

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I'm glad to hear that you've got paid. However, look at the complete saga it's turned into to get paid a couple of hundred pounds.

 

Going forwards, never, ever work without a contract :)

 

If he wants to go elsewhere, let him. You've wasted more of your time chasing him for payment that it cost for the project.

 

Not entirely sure about you saying he can;t use your code. Are you saying the code must be hosted by yourself and not on other hosting?

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I'm glad to hear that you've got paid. However, look at the complete saga it's turned into to get paid a couple of hundred pounds.

 

Going forwards, never, ever work without a contract :)

 

If he wants to go elsewhere, let him. You've wasted more of your time chasing him for payment that it cost for the project.

 

Not entirely sure about you saying he can;t use your code. Are you saying the code must be hosted by yourself and not on other hosting?

 

What do you think about doing work for friends and family in general? My rule has always been to turn it down, I see too many situations like this happen, family members getting annoyed, losing friends, losing time and money, it just doesn't seem worth it. That said, I don't freelance, but I have been offered projects usually by friends, I just don't take them.

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What do you think about doing work for friends and family in general? My rule has always been to turn it down, I see too many situations like this happen, family members getting annoyed, losing friends, losing time and money, it just doesn't seem worth it. That said, I don't freelance, but I have been offered projects usually by friends, I just don't take them.

 

This. I just tell them what I do is very niche and I don't design. I often get requests to fix their computers too. Again I tell them my job has nothing to do with this and is not something I am skilled at. Gets me out of it nicely :)

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What do you think about doing work for friends and family in general? My rule has always been to turn it down, I see too many situations like this happen, family members getting annoyed, losing friends, losing time and money, it just doesn't seem worth it. That said, I don't freelance, but I have been offered projects usually by friends, I just don't take them.

To be honest after this saga I doubt that I would undertake anymore "Mates Rates" jobs. I'm the kind of guy who's happy to help anyone and even to do those little extras. Neither the fact that I'd done this job cheaply or the fact that I'd done a load of free extras were even appreciated. In retrospect It feels that they just wanted the job doing cheaply and have absolutely no idea on how much work is involved in scratch coding a site. My advice to anyone reading this would be simply don't do mates rates jobs and always get a contract.

 

Lesson learnt!

 

 

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What do you think about doing work for friends and family in general? My rule has always been to turn it down, I see too many situations like this happen, family members getting annoyed, losing friends, losing time and money, it just doesn't seem worth it. That said, I don't freelance, but I have been offered projects usually by friends, I just don't take them.

 

 

It's tricky. I've done work for family twice. Once for website from scratch, a brochure style site. Wouldn't like to go through that again. The second time was a basic holding page with some provided copy and logo that took 15 mins.

 

In general, I try to stay clear as much as possible.

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We were talking about this the other day, it's funny how few industries this happens with really (other than food). I have a friend who's a vet but it doesn't mean I ask her to give my cats injections when she comes over. A neighbour runs an auction house but I don't ask for cheap art :blink:

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Not entirely sure about you saying he can;t use your code. Are you saying the code must be hosted by yourself and not on other hosting?

My reasoning is that we had originally agreed on a simple overhaul of his

site as it was not responsive. The original had no gallery, no method of editing content and in all honesty was a total mess, as I know the guy I'd agreed to re-write the basic site for mates rates which I did mainly in my spare time.

As stated previously he kept wanting extras, all of which I did purely as a favour to him (in hindsight I should have said no to those extras).

 

I don't mind him using the main site code as he (eventually) paid for that.

 

But considering he's taken all of my extra (unpaid) work and just thrown it back in my face I see no reason to graciously give him that as well.

 

It's sad because I naturally tend to trust people that I know. In this case I was very wrong.

 

 

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We were talking about this the other day, it's funny how few industries this happens with really (other than food). I have a friend who's a vet but it doesn't mean I ask her to give my cats injections when she comes over. A neighbour runs an auction house but I don't ask for cheap art :blink:

Having worked as an electrical engineer (not household but industrial power and automation control systems) it's not uncommon for people to ask for a socket, light or shower to be fitted, I've done jobs for mates in the past and normally not only do they pay quickly but it's quite common offer you a bit extra to show their appreciation,

(Although it's never expected ).

 

However I can honestly say I've never fitted a socket, light or shower, for someone then to have them change their mind on it's position a week later and expect me to come back rip it all back out and re-wire it three feet to left... and expect to be done for free! Which is pretty much exactly what my now ex-mate was wanting me to do with his website.

 

Thanks again for everyone's advice on this frustrating matter.

 

 

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My reasoning is that we had originally agreed on a simple overhaul of his

site as it was not responsive. The original had no gallery, no method of editing content and in all honesty was a total mess, as I know the guy I'd agreed to re-write the basic site for mates rates which I did mainly in my spare time.

As stated previously he kept wanting extras, all of which I did purely as a favour to him (in hindsight I should have said no to those extras).

 

I don't mind him using the main site code as he (eventually) paid for that.

 

But considering he's taken all of my extra (unpaid) work and just thrown it back in my face I see no reason to graciously give him that as well.

 

It's sad because I naturally tend to trust people that I know. In this case I was very wrong.

 

 

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Unfortunately, as you done a lot of unpaid work for free, I doubt you have much come back. Also, how unique is this work you've done? i.e. could I start my own empire based upon seeing your code? With the greatest respect probably not :)

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Unfortunately, as you done a lot of unpaid work for free, I doubt you have much come back. Also, how unique is this work you've done? i.e. could I start my own empire based upon seeing your code? With the greatest respect probably not :)

I'm not sure about building an empire maybe just a small dwelling [emoji23][emoji23]

 

 

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