When Clients Don’t Pay

Today marks the 8th month anniversary where I ran a workshop for a conference, that I am yet to be paid for.  It’s also the 6th month anniversary of the last email I’ve received from the organizer where he promised to make it right.

I’m a softie, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but as time dragged on, I found at least 7 other people in the same situation. Either they were at the same conference, or spoke at a previous one he organized. I’ve also found an organization that paid this person a 5000 EUR sponsorship for a conference he canceled and he did not return their money. So that means he’s been doing this for at least 2 or 3 years. How has word not gotten out?

A friend of mine had also invested money in his conference brand, only to see nothing happen.

No, I’m not mentioning names but the people on this list are authors, and world renowned people in the Agile community.   For them to lose out on travel expenses (some spoke as his conference for free), it’s annoying, but some of these guys can command a lot of money for their time and make that up quickly.  I’m not that popular so missing out on a week’s worth of income, and paying my own travel (5K-ish) leaves me out a substantial chunk of income.  That doesn’t factor in that my workshop grossed around 20,000 EUR for this person (assuming 30 people paid the stupidly awesome early bird rate of 650 EUR which is extremely unlikely).

So what do we do? Launch a class action lawsuit? Chalk it up to a learning experience? This person is still organizing conferences and I am contacting all of the workshop hosts, and speakers to warn them about it. I was willing to give this person the benefit of the doubt when he sent me a 2-page letter at Christmas last year outlining his hardships.

To the organizer in question: Yeah, that sucks dude, but after finding 3 more people who’ve been screwed by you since I received that letter, this situation is beyond your hardships. Your reputation is now destroyed. Many of my friends sent me direct messages on twitter when I posted about this, and they know who you are. I have avoided making your brand and name public, and don’t plan to. Maybe I should, but I know there’s still a reason underneath this and as much as I think you’re a lying, cheating asshole, there’s still a reason behind this. You’ve had many opportunities to do the right thing and I wouldn’t put it past you to collect the registration money for the conference and then cancel it. Considering this years conference is at a different venue, I’m assuming you didn’t pay them either and they won’t have you back.

We’ve offered to help, you didn’t reply.

We’ve sent you numerous emails asking for at least an explanation, you didn’t reply.

You are putting your co-organizers in a bad spot because they are now guilty by association.

What did I learn through all this?

I’m not going to let this experience affect how I do business. I don’t ask for fees upfront like some do. Yes, that’s smart business…and business is business, but I believe in trust first. Naive? Yes, but that’s just me. In some cases I take on the extra work of managing logistics, registrations and more so the money goes into my account, and then I pay the split of revenue to the organizer.


Some will read this and think I’m being mean, some will say I should publicly out this person. Some will say it’s all my fault for some reason or another. I think contacting the people on this year’s program is the right thing to do, and I also think that if you want to know who it is, contact me and I’ll tell you.

If you’re the organizer in question and you’re reading this, sorry dude, but the damage has been done and you can’t save your reputation with me, or the people you screwed.