When you’re accused of sabatoge…
For the better part of 10 years I helped a friend I had met through Twitter with his website issues. This guy is a sports coach who was running a membership site doling our sage advice to parents and coaches alike. His content is excellent, but his tech skills were limited.
Soon after we met, I found out during an online discussion that his usual tech assistance was slowly trying to move him off on his own. Despite wishing to be independent, he just didn’t have the skills to do so. When he lost his web hosting, I offered to host it on my VPS for free. In the process of setting his site up on my VPS he and I discussed how outdated his site was. I offered to redo the site for him for free. His site was a WordPress self-hosted site, so I wasn’t too concerned.
Over the course of 4 days I spent 37 hours of my time creating his new site. He guided the process with his own suggestions. Together we came up with an excellent layout. He raves about how much nicer the new site was. At a value of $3700 for my time, he got an incredible site.
Over the next 6 years, I began to realize the possible reason his former web guy wanted to get rid of him. This guy would never listen to reason. If he chose a certain way to do something, a way WordPress didn’t intend for the issue to be dealt with, he would always complain when told the right way to handle his issue. I spent countless hours explaining that if he would just do things the standard WordPress way he would get the functionality he wanted and avoid problems in the future. Despite all this free advice, this coach just never listened.
As a result of his failure to listen, he would get 30 or 60 days down the road and complain his site was “broken”. I would the. Have to figure out a way to rescue him. Many times rescuing him involved writing custom code to get around the issues his non-standard issues had caused.
I did all this without receiving any compensation (including a thank you) because the coach was a friend. Yes, I said was. We will get to that in a moment.
At one point he had problems with the WordPress admin dashboard not working properly. After doing research, I asked him if he was using Firefox. He was indeed. When I informed him his issue was a known problem with Firefox, he informed me that was impossible. However, once I convinced him to try the same thing using Chrome on the same computer, the problem didn’t exist in Chrome, but continued in Firefox. So much for it being impossible that Firefox was the problem.
He would come to me about all his tech issues, large and small. I would always research them and suggest a solution. The solutions always worked. He always gripes about the solutions because they involved him needing to change his non-standard approach to things. He, like most people, hated change.
Around 3 years ago I warned him that his Flash videos would need to be reencoded to MP4 because all browsers were planning to stop supporting FLV files. In November of 2017, I switched VPS hosts. In December of 2017 all of his FLV files stopped working on his site as I had warned him 3 years prior. He blamed the new host, so I contacted the old host. They still hadn’t deleted my content, so they checked for me and sure enough, all his FLV files didn’t work there either.
When I relayed this info to him, he again told me what was happening was impossible. He began loudly complaining about how long it would take him to reencode all the videos to MP4. Rather than chastise him for not listening to my warning 3 years prior, I found someone who would do the work on all his videos for $50. He complained about the cost. $50 to convert 250 FLV files is a steal and I told him so. He said he would do it all himself.
In January 2018, he complained about a new site of his (also hosted for free and also with customizations I had provided for free). He didn’t like the look. Seeing as it was a WordPress site, I discussed the idea of changing the theme. I guided him through the process of selecting a new theme. I explained exactly what my role would be — installing and activating the new theme, doing the basic layout setup, and fixing any customizations that had been done previously that might break with the new theme. I made it clear he and his wife would need to handle everything else, especially any new features experience told me he would want. I made it clear again that I was. It available for major work.
In order to be sure we were clear on our duties, I had a conference call with the coach and his wife. Once we were all on the same page, I set a day to do the theme change. We all agreed.
On that fateful day, I did everything I needed to do. I even spent an additional 6 hours (again, at no charge) fixing some CSS so his sidebar menu would look the way he wanted it to look. I guided them through everything. I responded to messages immediately.
On the second day he was working on the site, late in the day, he messaged me “You must be laughing over there.” I asked what he meant and his response shocked me.
To recap, I willingly hosted 4 websites for him free of charge for 8 years (a savings of about $5,000). I provided hundreds of hours of free tech support (at a value of close to another $5,000). I even did more on the theme change than we had agreed. That’s why his answer shocked me.
“You sabotaged us!” He said.
When I asked how I had done that he responded that I knew he wasn’t a “Web Guy” yet I forced him to do all the new features on his site.
But after a heated argument, I gave him until January 30 at midnight EDT to have his sites new hosting. He had 5 days to move. I provided him with zip files containing the site content and database for all his sites. I included instructions for putting them up on a new host.
The 5 days passed and he hadn’t said anything, so I shut down his sites. That’s when he began to publicly libel me. He told anyone who would listen that I had sabotaged him, he spent hours complaining online, time better spent getting his sites back up.
It is now almost a year later and he just put up his old advice site. It contains exactly 3 pages because he opted to use Patreon for the members only content. What makes this even sadder is he and his wife advertise they can build websites for small businesses.
These are two people who can’t take a backup and restore it on a new server and we are to believe they can build websites?
So, why am I writing all this now? Because the coach is now back to telling the story of how I sabatoged him. He leaves out all the important details. Over the past year he has told me that I should be ashamed of calling myself a professional. He claims his wife (who built the 3 page site) is a better web developer than I am. He has told people he plans to publicize the story. That’s what inspired this article.
I learned a few things through this experience. This guy took and took. He never once said thank you. He never offered one penny towards hosting. He ran to me about everything. Even then, he argued about every solution I gave him. I’ve learned not to give anyone free work. I’ve learned not to be Mr. Nice Guy. I’ve learned that people who claim to be your friend can turn on you in a matter of seconds.
Going forward, friends are now paying for work because of this guy. Fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice and shame on me. It won’t happen again.