The Power Of Hindsight: How I Lost $280 To A Client Who Ghosted Me and What I Could Have Done
Not sure if this is a club I’m stoked to be in, but I’m officially in the club of freelancers who didn’t get paid!
I want to post the screenshots as well, but I don’t want to taint my Facebook page and it’s too much to post on the blog. So, tell me if y’all have a preferred online photo album website!
I came across an ad on one of the freelance content writer Facebook groups for a SEO content writer. Since they offered to train ineperienced SEO writers (me a month ago), I decided to apply.
Red Flag #1: The recruiter was not the employer (Chris Vitalis)
Immediately after reading my message, the recruiter told me that her colleague handles this. She didn’t even send me a link, just told me to search for his name on Facebook. I thought it was weird, but I was just excited that SOMEONE wrote back to me. Unfortunately, I’ve learnt the hard way that common sense and desperation don’t go hand-in-hand.
Anyway, I got in touch with Chris Vitalis. I’ve linked his Facebook profile here if you’d like to look at this piece of shit. The recruiter has apparently washed her hands of him.
Red Flag #2: He couldn’t pay upfront
He asked me to do a trial task and I submitted it to him within the day. After a day or two of not replying, I followed up with a text asking if I passed. He said it was fine and that he’d like me to rewrite 90 articles from this site.
We started talking about my rates and he did a huge discount on my normal rate. We settled for $480 for 90 article rewrites. His rationale was that I didn’t need to do extra research and that each article will take me 20-40 minutes max. Newsflash: it took me way longer since some of the articles featured old links and products that no longer worked.
I asked him for a 50% upfront and he couldn’t pay it. Instead, he proposed paying me at every $50 milestone. I agreed reluctantly, which is also not very smart of me.
Red Flag #3: Vague instructions and poor communication
The training they promised in the beginning was nonexistent. I was given a bunch of requirements and was told to ask him questions if I had any.
For the first two articles, I shot him a text in messenger after submitting and told him to tell me if the writing’s good. He okay’ed it, so I continued.
I think I was at article #7 when I got stuck. So I texted him to ask him about it. When he eventually replied, he corrected my use of keywords and told me to send him all my previous work for him to check. It was obvious that he hadn’t read any of my submissions even though I had asked him earlier. I fixed the issues and we moved on. After I’ve written 10, he paid my my first $50.
To be fair, I haven’t been submitting as much as I should since I had bad Internet and I was traveling. I made sure to tell him that and that I’ll submit everything by the end of the month. He was okay with it.
Red Flag #4: Chris Vitalis stopped replying to my texts
I completed about 30 more articles by 22nd of February and sent him a PayPal request for $150. He said he will take care of it soon and started nitpicking my work, like the readibility of my articles even though Yoast scores are fine.
To be fair, a couple of mistakes slipped past me when I checked the posted content, but I offered to correct them immediately when I found out. He told me to not change anything as his proofreaders will take care of it. So I apologised and sent him a gentle reminder to pay my fee.
I sent another reminder a day later and one two days later, all while uploading more articles. He left all my messages at seen. I’m not THAT dumb, so I sent him a text to tell him I won’t update the list any further if he doesn’t pay my bill. That’s when I found out that that piece of shit blocked me.
Red Flag #5: Chris Vitalis doesn’t seem to care about his work quality.
He’s a stickler for Yoast green lights. I tried my best, but when you have a set list of keywords you have to use to rewrite content that doesn’t belong to you, sentences and headlines can seem awkward.
His “content transfer team”, however, didn’t give two hoots about it when they post my rewritten content on the new site. My work was posted on the site as plain text, sans headings, subheadings, and links. And his “proofreaders” didn’t even catch the aforementioned mistakes that I made before they post on the site. Who would do that if they are really that concerned about SEO?
What I could have done instead?
Really understand who I was working for
I could have definitely did a more thorough search of him and his company before I started. After he blocked me, I did a simple Facebook search and found that he’s not the
douche hustler type guy he made himself to be on his social media. In fact, he’s been accused of unscrupulous business practices before and he’s prone to blocking people who question him.
To his credit, his social media persona was made very well. He seems like a Gary V wannabe who hustles hard and value people who work for them. His LinkedIn is filled with testimonials by “clients” who praised his traffic-driving prowess. I found the recruiter amidst the testimonials, so maybe he made people who worked for him leave testimonials for him. He claimed that he’s a TedX speaker and that Buzzfeed and other influential sites featured him, even though you won’t find a shred of this when you do a quick Google search. Some links listed on his sites don’t even exist anymore.
Even though I couldn’t have seen through his social media facade before I started working for him, I should have taken more notice and be more skeptical.
Be less trusting of my prospective employers
One of the reasons why I didn’t think to draw up a contract was because his milestone suggestion sounded really good. Why would he suggest that if he doesn’t want to pay? Why would he pay the first 50 if he’s not interested in working together long term?
I forgot that people are capable of playing the long con game. All his actions before that are geared towards creating an illusion of trust. I didn’t ask for regular payments like I should partly because of this trust. I forgot that I’ve never worked with him before and that he doesn’t deserve this amount of trust as a new client.
What can I do about Chris Vitalis and the entire situation?
There’s the issue of geography. He’s based in Europe (I presume because I didn’t ask, like the inexperienced dumbass I am) and I’m based in Malaysia at the moment. I’ve done some searching on the almighty Google and there doesn’t seem to be a way to collect my debts across the ocean.
Even if I had a contract, it’s not like I can sue him. I have no idea how to enforce it and it’s not worth hiring a lawyer to pursue a $280 debt.
So, the only thing I can do is to call him out on social media and hope that nobody takes his jobs anymore. It has been a valuable (and pricey) learning experience. I’ve chose to move past it and focus on my current projects with clients who value me better. As a last note to my fellow content writers, don’t sell yourself short, even if you are new. Often, businesses who low ball you ridiculously are companies not worth working for. Ditch them and run.
Hey Chris, if you’re reading this, I hope you’ll find a heart and pay me. Otherwise, I hope your social media cred gets wrecked. I don’t feel particularly generous towards people who’s wronged me.
Just a recap, these are his social media profiles that I’ve found:
Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=721443091
Facebook page: https://m.facebook.com/jcvitalis/
The site he post my work on: contentworld.io
And to all ya’ll ethical businesses out there, contact me if you need a content writer! I’d love to hear from ya’ll.