Bad PR: ‘Unpaid’ Freelancer Replaces Client’s Website with Angry Letter

What freelancer doesn’t know the anxiety and frustration of waiting for a way-past-due payment from a wayward client? While obsessively checking and re-checking our mailboxes to find the money that must surely be on its way and wallowing in the depths of I-finished-my-work-on-time-but-still-can’t-pay-my-bills-despair, we’ve sometimes found ourselves fantasizing about sabotage. But, because we like to think of ourselves as responsible, civil, and professional individuals (and because we’d like to ‘work in this town again’), we keep such delusions of diabolical grandeur to ourselves.

Frank Jonen, who runs his own small Web design company, apparently had no such qualms about taking full-scale revenge when his client, Fitness SF, allegedly failed to pay him fairly for his work. In retaliation for this lack of proper compensation, Jonen replaced the Fitness SF website with an angry letter written on behalf of himself and “the tens of thousands of freelancers and small businesses out there facing larger corporations who can afford to starve them out” while urging the fitness club’s members to take a stand by cancelling their memberships and slamming the company on social media.

If Jonen’s story is true, it’s pretty hard for freelancers like us not to feel vicarious satisfaction and cheer for him as if he were our very own Braveheart. That said, Fitness SF now says that Jonen’s claims are false, telling Adweek that Jonen was paid and is now trying to blackmail the company in order to extort more money. We guess we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out, but in the meantime, we’re going to re-read the letter (below) in quiet admiration.