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I said yes to a small project a few weeks back, as a contractor. This was a verbal agreement as the contract would be signed today. I have email communication confirming my rates. I 've done many projects before with this organization. I acted out of trust. Note, those projects were years ago, I had a big career change 5 years ago.

The project had a welcome change in what I do normally. At the start, there was some email and phone communication. The last mail I received was a general schedule, this was 2 weeks ago, and it clearly stated that everyone will receive another mail with their personal planning. The project should start today and I still have not received a schedule. I tried to call 3 days in a row to gather some more information but no one picks up their phone.

Should I take this as a sign that it got cancelled or they don't need me anymore? Is it still worth my time to figure out what happened? I think this is really a pity, I cleared my schedule for most of the next week just to be able to take this job.

One last edit after reading some of the comments and answers.

This project does not contribute to my career in any way. It does not help me financially at all. It was a small side project that would give a welcome change in my day to day life as a software engineer. Clearing my schedule did not harm any of the ongoing projects I am involved with. I probably could start filling my week with those projects without too much hassle.

I know there should be a contract, pay,... beforehand. This situation was a bit different because I know the organization for years and we had a very positive history.

I've contacted them one last time just now. (Email & phone) If I do not hear back from them I would not be disappointed. It would be the last time I will work with them. If one gets disappointed after every setback your career and life will be a mess. Forget about it and move on is what I am thinking a.t.m.

  • @Odysee start sending the bills in then - you have a contract and if they then cancel submit a bill for the wasted week of your time. – Neuromancer Nov 11 '18 at 19:49
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Should I take this as a sign that it got cancelled or they don't need me anymore?

This is certainly a possibility. No harm in following up though, the chap could be sick, the project delayed or deferred indefinitely or something else. I'd send one last email and leave it at that. Either he will reply or not. The wording of the email leaves him an easy out.

"Hello John, hope you are well, I haven't been able to get in touch for few days and was expecting the project to start. Please let me know if I'm not needed so I can move forwards with other plans. Regards Me."

As a contractor it's a good idea not to show disappointment at losing a job, doing so makes you look a bit desperate. And it's also a good idea to give a client an easy way out and save them from feeling embarrassed or pressured.

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  • You're probably buggered

  • Recall the iron rule of freelancing: get paid in advance

You shouldn't have cleared the week, until you received at least a deposit on one week's effort, or the whole amount.

Unfortunately it's just an example of how, don't apply the Iron Rule -> disaster strikes. Even if it's not anyone's fault (they may have gone bankrupt, had a death or whatever) -> who suffers? One and precisely one party: the party who did not follow the Iron Rule.

In this situation (the "disappearing project" situation), IMO the best course of action is:

  • Actually (like, immediately) aggressively telephone them, or even better just go to the business,

  • and immediately use language[*] like "What's the first task? I've cancelled the other two $7000 projects I was doing this week and refunded the money to those folks, so let's get going..."

There's some chance this will at least bring you more information.


[*] not that it will make any difference. When you break the Iron Rule, all you hear is "soorreeeeee". They'll be terribly, terribly, terribly, terribly "soorreeeeee" that it didn't work out, and "soorreeeeee" that you lost money, and "soorreeeeee" it happened. You'll hear that Mr. Jones wants to personally call you, he will do so, and say he is just soo, soo "soorreeeeee". The most infinitely useless thing in the universe is "soorreeeeee", and this is why the Iron Rule exists, unfortunately.

  • Well, you are right. Mostly I work like that. The situation was a bit different here. I have worked on many projects for them previously, never experienced any problems. That's why I acted out of trust. But then again, those projects were 5+ years ago. – Odyssee Nov 11 '18 at 8:54
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    Sadly, the phrase "That's why I acted out of trust" is absolutely mathematically equivalent to saying "I got fucked senseless with a rusty iron rod, and then I got really bent over and again fucked senseless a couple more times, with more thicker iron rods. Then they fucked me senseless again with another rusty iron rod ... basically I got utterly, totally, completely fucked senseless". That's what the phrase "I acted on trust" means in business. It's sad but true. The simple logical reason is that businesses are impartial actors. If they go bankrupt or simply lose a client, that's that. – Fattie Nov 11 '18 at 8:57
  • It is utterly, totally, completely, fully, 100%, absolutely incoherent to "act on trust" towards a business. Say you buy an air ticket from an airline (a business), and all the planes crash and they go bankrupt and you've lost your money. There was not some "bad" "evil" person who stole your money. It's just mechanical. This is why one simply, cannot, "act on trust" against any business. Unfortunately, all Freelancers have to follow the iron rule. It's that grim. – Fattie Nov 11 '18 at 8:59
  • ANyway - that's my moderate view :) Cheers ... – Fattie Nov 11 '18 at 9:00
  • I love your attitude :) I see your point, I've contacted them one last time. (Email & phone) If I do not get a response today. I will move on and start getting my week filled with other ongoing projects and most importantly, don't look back. – Odyssee Nov 11 '18 at 9:18
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Give them 24 hours to follow-up. Call, and leave a voicemail if they don't answer, telling them that you haven't heard from them regarding the contract discussed previously with the terms you will list. Follow up via email and forward the contract.

Tell them that if you haven't heard back by 12 noon, or whatever time you choose, on the following date that you're considering this a cancellation of the project and will be moving on. However, you'd be happy to renegotiate a new contract, if they are still interested in your services.

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