← Back to episodes

Suing your client with Ameet Khabra

Ameet shares how Canadian freelancers can sue their clients for unpaid fees.

Ameet Khabra has spent the last decade figuring out why people do what they do online, what prompts them to take action, and how to use these insights to make marketing work better.

Today, Ameet uses that experience to design dazzling pay-per-click campaign strategies for her clients and teach future generations of PPC pros at the university level.

In this episode, Ameet and Mohammed talk about how Canadian freelancers can sue their clients for unpaid fees.

Short on time? Skip to the parts you're most interested in.

[02:48] Getting started as a freelancer

[07:13] First meeting with the client

[08:53] Initial agreement with the client

[11:54] Initial setup with the client

[12:37] Seeing the writing on the wall (in retrospective)

[14:43] Covering the cost of hired help

[16:13] Making the decision to sue the client

[20:43] What it means to be a "warrior by blood"

[21:52] Putting the lawsuit together

[24:11] The back-and-forth of suing your client

[26:56] The toll of going through a lawsuit

[35:18] Recovering after the lawsuit

[38:01] Taking on freelance work again

[42:04] Ameet's advice for Canadian freelancers

If you enjoyed the conversation, check out more episodes of our podcast. You can subscribe to Freelance Canada on Apple Podcasts or listen to it wherever you get your podcast. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the episode.

Ameet: I am okay. Tired, like usual, but nothing new there.

Mohammed: Well, let’s understand that. What is it that you do that’s keeping you tired?

Ameet: So I run an online marketing agency that specializes in pay-per-click advertising.

Mohammed: Okay.

Ameet: And it’s been — I mean, admittedly, when COVID first hit, it was a little terrifying and I was that person who went, “I’m not paying myself anymore, we’re keeping all staff like here. This is how we’re going to do it,” and, quickly, I realized that I didn’t need to do that which was a very fortunate thing for us, because like I think we’ve doubled our business over COVID just because everyone’s starting to realize that like they need to be online, like everyone’s online, they need — that’s basically the only place that won’t get disrupted by a pandemic, in that sense.

So, it’s been incredibly busy, especially — like August, like July, August, I don’t know how or why everyone woke up around that time but it’s been so crazy ever since. So, yeah, it keeps me up at night because I’m that type of person who — because now I don’t manage accounts, I actually just do the strategy side of things and then watch the rest of the team as they manage accounts and keep like that conversation open and give them ideas of what they should be doing and stuff like that. 

Now it’s so bad because I’m not used to not managing accounts so I wake up halfway through the night a lot going, “Oh, my God. Oh, my God, I haven’t checked the metrics. I haven’t done this. I haven’t done that,” and it’s just — it’s the worst. It’s so exhausting.

Mohammed: And so a few things there. First one, what type of businesses are you doing PPC for?

Ameet: Oh, gosh, it’s a wide range. So, originally, my career started in lead generation and that’s where my core competency kind of comes in, but this year, we’ve picked up quite a few ecom brands so that’s something that we’re kind of starting to do a lot of as well so there’s a craft brewery subscription out of Ontario that we work with now, there’s a belt company that does really, really well, a child psychologist. Real estate has been the biggest side for us. We just got back into [the] auto. So, a bulk of my experience is actually in the auto industry and when I left auto, I was like, “I’m never going back.” That was a lie. Yeah, a friend of mine decided to start [an] agency and it’s very auto-focused and he was like, “You wanna come and help?” and I was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” And I’m like, “Oh, wait.”

Mohammed: And in terms of lead gen, what were you doing in lead gen?

Ameet: Lead gen was more on the real estate side of things, so like selling houses but obviously no one’s buying a house online so it was more or less of getting — filling up their funnels so they could sell their homes so there was like a community in St. Albert and I think they were trying to sell like — it was a couple [of] years ago actually at this point, I think they were trying to just sell about 15 homes which would have equated to about $3.6 million or something along those lines and we sold that out in 21 days.

I remember the client coming back to me and he’s like, “I know that the reports say something else,” but he’s like, “I guarantee all of it was PPC,” and I’m like, “I’m willing to take that credit. I’m fine with that.”

Mohammed: Whoa.

Ameet: It was something freaking insane, like the client sat there and was like, “What the heck? How did this happen?” And like it was — there was a mix, because like really, at this point, like all they did was pay-per-click, but even there, because attribution is so weird sometimes that you couldn’t fully attribute PPC to it because like there’s that organic factor and drive traffic and referrals and blah, blah, blah, but I remember the client coming back to me and he’s like, “I know that the reports say something else,” but he’s like, “I guarantee all of it was PPC,” and I’m like, “I’m willing to take that credit. I’m fine with that.”

Mohammed: “Yeah, thank you, yeah. Please can I get that on a testimonial so I can put it on my LinkedIn?”

Ameet: Exactly.

Mohammed: And so when did the transition from lead gen to starting your agency doing PPC happen? Like how did you get from that to where you are today?

Ameet: Oh, gosh. So, it’s kind of a convoluted question, I guess — or an answer on my end, because I have been doing this for about 11 years now. Eleven — yeah, around 11 years now, and I honestly just couldn't find other people who did PPC in Edmonton at that time, like it was very hard to find people who did exactly what I did. So, I would just show up to all of these marketing meetups. Like the ones that make no sense for me to show up to like web dev, UX/UI, content, like SEO was kind of relevant but also not really.

I would just show up and even there, I would do like talks about SEO as if I knew what I was doing and it was just so fascinating to me because I didn’t realize what I was doing at that time and now I’ve kind of gone, “Oh, that was just like a happy accident,” which, essentially, because I kept on showing up to all of these events, they all expected me to come every single month after that point, which then made me the PPC person. So, now, it’s starting to pay off in the sense of like everyone just goes, “Oh, yeah, we know a girl, Ameet,” or, “Yeah, our friend, Ameet, runs this agency,” so I made all my friends from all of these marketing meetups and they went off to start their agencies or work for other companies —

Mohammed: Right.

Ameet: — and that’s — it just keeps on paying off. So, then they just keep on referring clients over and that’s essentially how we’ve been able to grow.

Mohammed: That’s awesome. And so, now, you’ve been running your company for how long? 

Ameet: Oh, geez. Like five, six years. So, five or six years. I started free — I think I — like, I mean, I’m counting freelancing time as the start of the business as well because I was a sole prop so I think that was June of 2014 so six years, and then we incorporated in September of 2017.

Mohammed: Right, right, so about like three years now.

Ameet: Yeah.

Mohammed: Yeah, three years. And so, what drove that decision to go from sole prop to incorporating?

Ameet: Honestly, I was making too much money.

I remember him saying things but I never really paid attention to any of it. So, we signed the agreement, and within 18 days, he cancelled the PPC side of things and 45 days was when we, I think, hit that wall where I was like, “Nope, if you want to go to court, we’ll go to court.”

Mohammed: So, you were making good money running your organization as the sole prop, decided to incorporate it, and at what point did you get into an issue with your client that you had to sue them?

Ameet: That was while I was a sole prop. So, I started freelancing in June of 2014 but I was still actually full-time employed at that time as well. So, I think I was at an agency at that time. So, I ended up leaving the agency in November of 2015, somewhere around that mark, and then in December of 2015, I [got] a phone call from a friend going, “Hey, I might have a client for you,” and it was her accountant. So, she was explaining to him what she did for a living and then it naturally just came up that he needed someone to help with PPC and she was like, “Oh, I know somebody.”

So, then, like the next day or a couple [of] days after, I went in and had a meeting with him because he didn’t want to do anything over the phone. He wanted it to be face to face and I was like, “Okay, whatever,” and I hate — I hate meetings in general. I hate getting on a phone call with people. Yeah, I just hate it. I honestly — it’s not even like a fact that I don’t think that I’m good at what I do because I do think I’m good at what I do but it’s just — yeah, it’s just one of those things where he wanted it so I said, “Yeah, whatever,” and I went in a couple [of] times before he signed the agreement.

And I remember him saying things but I never really paid attention to any of it. So, we signed the agreement, and within 18 days, he cancelled the PPC side of things and 45 days was when we, I think, hit that wall where I was like, “Nope, if you want to go to court, we’ll go to court.”

Mohammed: Yeah. Okay. There’s a lot happening here. So, let’s sort of break things down. So, you had a friend reach out to you saying, “Hey, I have an accountant who’s looking for PPC work,” and you put in touch. At that time, you were a sole prop and this client’s like, “Okay, let’s meet face to face because that’s how I do business,” and you went along and within not even the first meeting but over a number of meetings, this prospective client finally agreed to sign a contract and come on board as a client. And then, through that process, the goal was to run the campaign for about 45 days but the client decided that they’re going to cancel things about 20 days into it. Do I have that right?

Ameet: So, the agreement was, essentially, that we would do this month over month with them, so the agreement was for [a] month over month and I don’t know if I had like — because now in our agreements, we have a three-month guarantee where you stick with us for three months, that way we can at least figure out what’s going on in the account. I don’t remember if I had that in place at that time so I’m gonna say that I didn’t just because I was new and I probably had no idea, or not probably, I definitely did not know what I was doing. It was a PPC contract and I kind of missed part of it.

He also ended up hiring us to do like a website and some content and some social as well. So, I ended up getting contractors to do that and that was kind of where the problem started lying where he, apparently, at the end of the website development, there [were] too many issues within the account or the website or something along those lines, the copy apparently wasn’t very good, but he wouldn’t give us suggestions on anything. And then the last thing that kind of broke the camel’s back, I think that’s the phrase, was him saying that there were these tiny mistakes.

I couldn’t see them because once you’re in something so frequently, you kind of become blind to it and that’s why we work with clients just to like have them double-check it because, with fresh eyes, you’ll be able to see something that we might not and so we had asked him for that feedback and he wouldn’t give it to us. He just kept on going, “There [are] mistakes, there [are] mistakes, and if you can’t see it, I don’t know how to help you,” or something along those lines and it was bizarre at best. So, then, I think it was a 45-day mark when he said that he wasn’t going to pay, and that’s when I essentially filed that suit.

Mohammed: Okay. So, there’s even more happening here.

Ameet: Yeah.

Mohammed: You had this client come on board for PPC work and then it turned into more of a full-on essentially web development and marketing work —

Ameet: Yeah.

Mohammed: — and you brought in other freelancers and contractors to help you with that and the arrangement was that you will pay those contractors or was the client paying them?

Ameet: No. So, he was paying me, I was gonna pay them.

Mohammed: Okay.

Ameet: So, I was acting as a project manager as well.

Part of me feels like he went in with the intention of not wanting to pay so it’s kind of bizarre to see someone who intentionally kind of was going to do this to pay so quickly. It was bizarre.

Mohammed: Right, right. And so, was there a deposit that you did or was everything just like, “Hey, we will get paid once you…” you know, on, I guess like a monthly retainer or something else?

Ameet: So we did a deposit for the website and then I think he paid for the month of PPC upfront, and he was very quick with like getting us the payments, which is kind of the interesting part for someone who actually — because part of me feels like he went in with the intention of not wanting to pay so it’s kind of bizarre to see someone who intentionally kind of was going to do this to pay so quickly. It was bizarre. He would call me and be like, “Your check is ready,” if I didn’t come within like that day or something like that. It was very strange.

Mohammed: Right. And so what was it about I guess the experience with this account and that — like did you have a feeling that this client wasn’t going to pay or was it just that afterwards when you’re looking at it, you’re like, “Oh, the signs were clear, there was no plan for him to pay”?

Ameet: Yeah, it was in hindsight. I didn’t realize it at that time. Like, for me, it was the first month that I decided that I wanted to go full-time freelancing so in that — you kind of — it’s that survival mode, kind of, in that sense where you’ll just take whatever you can get. So, for me, I was like, “Great, my first client,” like, we can only go up from here type of thing. But now, looking back at it, and even doing like the whole lawsuit process is when I kind of started putting pieces together while I was talking to the civil claims agent that I had hired to help me with all of it.

[It’s] those moments where you sit there and you go, “Oh, yeah, he said that and he said this and I should have picked up on that,” and essentially what he was telling me was, I think there [are] two agencies before me which should be a red flag. It wasn’t at that time. And when he would talk about them, he would say that he didn’t get good results or something along those lines, which another — it’s a red flag, but then would further it go, “I complained so much that they either gave me a refund or did free work,” or something along those lines, and I never put that together in my head.

It was just — because he would just say it so casually you don’t notice, right? And I know a lot of people would sit there and be like, “Well, that’s something that — like he blatantly just basically told you what he was going to do to you.” Yes, I understand that, but when you’re in that situation where you just started the business, you don’t know what you’re doing and then somebody says it casually instead of something like very directly to you, you don’t pick up on it, more often than not. Unless you’re seasoned in doing this, I don’t think anybody would pick up on that.

Mohammed: Right. Right.

Ameet: So that was essentially what ended up happening. I just never picked up on it and then — I mean, 45 days later, I figured it out.

Mohammed: And so you had these independent contractors that were helping you with marketing and website. What happened to them? Did you pay them? What was the cost that you had to —

Ameet: Yeah, no, I ended up paying them. So my thing is, I would much rather take the financial hit myself than to make someone else take it. Like that’s always just been my thing, and even with staff and stuff like — like, I mean, like COVID started like we were talking about and I took a pay cut of 100 percent down just to make sure that staff had what they needed because I’m very fortunate. Like, if I need the money, I know — like I don’t know how to explain it, I just find it somehow, like it’s just — it’s just how I’ve always operated.

I don’t know how to explain it in any other way. Like when my back is up against the wall, I just — I somehow figure it out. In this case, in the lawsuit case, not so much, but I ended up having some savings and I essentially just paid everybody out of that and it was about, I want to say about $4,500 or something so it was pretty significant, especially for a freelancer. So, at that point, it essentially drained out — I think I only had about maybe about $7,500 [in] that savings account so it drained out about half of it or more than half of it. So, that was kind of really terrifying for me for a long time.

He said he wasn’t going to pay and I was like, “Well, contractually, you kind of have to,” and then his last email was essentially literally just these words, “See you in court.” He thought that this timid little South Asian girl was gonna get scared from that.

Mohammed: You have this client from hell that is refusing to pay you 45 days into this contract that you’ve established that has now resulted in you paying $4,500 to other people that you had hired to help you with this client. Now, you and the client are, I guess, going back and forth in terms of getting paid and contractual obligations so you decided that you’re going to sue the client or did the client sue you? What happened there?

Ameet: So, it was sometime in January really at this point, 2016, so [a] great way to start your year and I remember it was night. I remember the day quite like as if it was yesterday to a certain degree and I was just sitting in my office on my computer, essentially getting these emails from this client going, “You’ve made mistakes. I’m not telling you what the mistakes are, blah, blah, blah,” and then his final email, because — somewhere in between that, he said he wasn’t going to pay and I was like, “Well, contractually, you kind of have to,” and then his last email was essentially literally just these words, “See you in court.”

He thought that this timid little South Asian girl was gonna get scared from that. And that was kind of like — it’s kind of interesting. I think about it now and it’s just kind of — I’d laugh about it because like what else am I supposed to do? But it’s just kind of funny because I know that sometimes in meetings I present myself or when — or I used to, not so much anymore. I used to just kind of be really timid and very scared to say anything and don’t want to get in the way, and I still kind of am like that to a certain degree but I’m louder now. And it’s just kind of funny to me because it was just like it’s one of those moments where I’m like, “Yeah, I am my parents’ daughter.”

My dad is literally like — Gurvinder is the most savage person I have ever met in my entire life. Like things that you wouldn’t think to say to people, he would say it. So like there’s like this hierarchy in my family that my aunt and I kind of put together where we’re like, “Okay, my mom’s most diplomatic, then it’s my brother, then it’s me, and then it’s dad.” And she was like, “Dad’s not very diplomatic in any way,” and she’s like, “You’re kind of in the middle somewhere in there,” and I — it makes me laugh because I’m like, “Yeah, kind of am.” And then my mom, oh, God, she’s literally — I don’t know if I’m allowed to curse but I’m going to anyway —

Mohammed: Yeah, please.

Ameet: — she’s literally like the — she’s the baddest bitch I’ve ever met. This chick does not stay down. My mom just had hand surgery and she’s sweeping the floors.

Mohammed: Oh, my god.

Ameet: She’s insane. She’s certifiably insane. But like those are the genetics that I have. So like, for me, when people are like, “I can’t believe you sued him,” in my mind, I’m like there was no other route. My DNA tells me that I have no other choice really at this point, right? And like over top of it, like to tie in a little bit of politics, I guess, there’s like a massive farmers’ protest going on right now and there was this open letter written by Rupi Kaur and she was talking to her aunt about what was going on in India in terms of these protests and how the government’s trying to essentially sign their death warrant, in a sense.

And so her aunt goes to her and says, “We don’t remain silent in the face of injustice. We are warriors by blood.” And the words “by blood” is the part that resonates with me the most because like any time I feel like anyone’s trying to screw me over, it’s like something comes over me and I just can’t stop. So, with this lawsuit, there was no other option. Like I was not going to back down. There is no way. And now, thinking about it all, I’m like, yeah, this is like — this is my genetics. I can’t help but do this. Like this is who I am as a person to like my core.

Anytime I see any kind of injustice, I’m always that person who’s running up and like trying to take control or trying to fight just as hard as I can, like whatever I can do. It’s like, at one point, a real estate agent tried to screw me over and I made his life a living hell. Like it’s just like these tiny little things and it was really funny because he was the one who told me that I was this way. Because he was just like, “Just based off of speaking with you,” he’s like, “You’re that person who sees any kind of injustice and you’re gonna be like, ‘No. I need to like — I need to make you pay for it.’”

So it was really funny when he tried to screw me over and I’m like, “What did you think was gonna happen?” Like… You’re the one who told me I’m this way, like come on.

Mohammed: And when you say “We are warriors by blood,” is that representative of the Punjabi mentality or the Punjabi beliefs? Like is that where it comes from?

Ameet: Yeah. So, not super well versed in our history, which is horrible and I’m trying to get better with that, because we’re — like especially when you grow up in a very Caucasian neighbourhood, in a Caucasian city, you kind of — or at least, for me, at the very least, I kind of tried to push the Punjabi side of me away as much as I possibly could and like even after this client, he was Punjabi as well, and now I’ve kind of got this little bit of trauma in that sense, where I’m like, “I don’t want to work with like brown — like South Asian people” —

Mohammed: Yeah,

Ameet: — just because he was horrible. So I don’t know a lot about our history but I do understand that even in like — when we’re talking about our gods, they were warriors. We were part of a lot of those historic events in India when x, y, z tried to take over and that kind of stuff. So, it’s very much ingrained in our history of being like soldiers and warriors.

Within my BNI chapter, there was somebody who was a civil claims agent. So essentially, he would do small claims so that was up to $50,000 or less essentially.

Mohammed: Oh, boy. Okay. So, the client, this accountant, is like, “See you in court,” and you decide you’re going to channel your inner Punjabi warrior and you’re like, “Okay, I’m gonna sue you.” Like how did that come together? Walk me through that place.

Ameet: I got very lucky in this sense, because had I not been part of this BNI chapter, I don’t think I would have known what to do. I think I probably would have ended up spending more money on a lawyer than I ended up spending. So, within my BNI chapter, there was somebody who was a civil claims agent. So essentially, he would do small claims so that was up to $50,000 or less essentially. So, the night that I got that email from that client, I literally just called Wayne and just went, “I know it’s a Sunday night, very sorry, but this is what’s happening.”

This sweet man, I love this man so much even though I don’t — I haven’t heard from him in a while, but he’s with his family having dinner, gets up and goes, “This is what you’re gonna go do,” and then he gave me all this information, essentially, it was like, “Tell me who the client is, send me all the emails that you guys have had, even like the work-related ones, send me the agreements,” and that was kind of — I think that was essentially it and so right after I got off the call with him, I sent him all the information. I believe it was 11:30 and the next day, Wayne had dropped off the suit.

Mohammed: Wow.

Ameet: So, yeah, it was — I think it was less than 12 hours, essentially, like 12, 13 hours, somewhere around that — it was pretty late at night when I had called them. But, yeah, it was about 12, 13 hours after that client had sent me that note that he received his suit. So, he moved quickly, which I appreciated because that’s how I tend to try to do everything anyway, and especially with a lawsuit, I wanted — I wanted him to understand that I was dead serious and I didn’t want it to take a couple [of] days, I didn’t want it to take extra hours, I wanted it done super, super fast and I got very lucky with Wayne who was all for it.

Mohammed: Right. And so what was in the suit and then what happened after?

Ameet: I believe it was just the payment part. I don’t quite remember all of that part, like that whole, like what was actually in it. But, here in Canada, if you file a suit, the other party has 21 days to file a counter so that client naturally did that, because, I mean, why not? So he took the full 21 days —

Mohammed: Of course.

Ameet: — to get it done, because —

Mohammed: Yeah.

Ameet: — he’s annoying and it was actually for the full $50,000 max amount.

Mohammed: Whoa.

Ameet: So he had claimed that because of my negligence, or apparent negligence, I should say, he had lost $50,000 in revenue. Now, I mean, I’m not an accountant so I can’t speak to this, but my notion is that December is a relatively slow month because everyone, even if you’re a corporation, you aren’t filing taxes in December, that’s your year-end, you should have started that in October. So, this notion that he lost money during Christmas, well, I mean, of course, you were gonna lose money during Christmas, nobody’s in the office.

And the same thing with January 1st, like every — that’s another year-end for like companies but they have until March to get all of that ready so chances of them starting right on January 1st is slim to none. So, it was just kind of fascinating and even personal taxes, like what’s that? March? So really, at this point, I was just like, “I don’t understand how you made up $50,000, like where [did] the $50,000 came from?” and then [I realized] that that was the max amount that people could countersue for. So, he essentially just went, “Let’s do the max amount,” and I think the attempt was to scare me.

Mohammed: Right, and so what happened?

Ameet: Well, I mean, he was successful to a certain degree, because 2016 marks the worst year of my life, essentially. No year will be — will ever remotely get close to being as bad as this one, or at least business-wise, I should say, because like when I started the year, I was pretty confident, like I was like, “Yeah, I’ve been named one of the best in Canada, I worked with Google for a little bit doing like their ambassador program, I was selected out of like hundreds, if not thousands of people as one of five Canadians, one of 25 in North America, one of 25 in the freaking world.”

It was like one of those moments where I was like, “I know I’m good. I have these accolades to prove that I’m good at what I do,” so I would go out and try to get more business. I was getting a lot of meetings with all these other clients and I was doing email marketing at that point and everything looked like it was gonna move forward and then the lawsuit hit and all of a sudden, in my head, I went, “I’m not shit. I’m not good. I’m crap. I’m complete and utter shit.” Like that was the end of it. So when I would walk into these meetings, none of them went through.

They all just turned around and kind of went off to another agency or just simply didn’t move forward with us, or me, I guess at that point. Yeah, it was good fun and then, eventually, I started feeling pain in my shoulders and I just really didn’t — I chalked it up to nothing and then it progressively started to get worse, where it would start seeping down into my chest or my back. There were some mornings where I physically couldn’t get out of bed; it hurt. Like I — it hurts so much that I could not lift myself out.

And like, that point in my life is a complete and utter blur to a certain degree because I had my dogs at that time. I genuinely don’t know what happened to them. Like if you were to ask me, like, “Did you wake up every single morning to let them out? Did you feed them? Did you do this? Did you do that?” I honestly — I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know. Like it’s such a like completely — it’s like a moment of my life that’s completely blacked out. And I mean they’re happy and healthy now, don’t need to call anybody to take them away from me. They get spoiled quite a bit. But, yeah, like I don’t remember. I don’t remember any of it.

I ended up starting to eat quite a bit. So that’s my vice, where like if I’m in a really bad spot, I just eat and keep on eating and I keep on eating and I keep on eating. So I would buy — like run off to McDonald’s, get meals for like what would be for three people and I would just sit there and just slowly keep on eating it and then I would hide it because I was living with someone at that time and I didn’t want him to know what was going on so I would go hide the bags and, again, I didn’t realize how bad it was. Like all of these behaviours, horrible behaviours, I shouldn’t be going through any of this and I had no idea.

And then I went to my doctor going, “Hey, I have this pain in my chest. Am I dying?” was essentially the question and she was just like no, sent me for like those EKGs, like I think it was four or five times, found nothing, and then one day, she looks at me and goes, “How’s your dad?” because my dad had had a heart attack earlier that year and I had told her about it. And at that time, me and my dad weren’t talking, so I kind of looked at her and just went, “I don’t know,” and she kind of just went, “What?” I’m like, “I don’t know, I don’t know how he’s doing,” and then she asked about it and I was like, “Yeah, we got into a fight. We’re not talking right now. That’s kind of essentially it.”

She sat there, thought about it for about 20 seconds and went, “You should probably see our psychologist.” And I was like, “Sure, why not? I come here every 20 minutes anyway,” I’m like, “What’s another appointment truly at this point?” And then when I sat down with the psychologist, I started telling her what my symptoms were and stuff like that and within about like two minutes, I think it was, she just literally stopped me and she’s like, “You don’t need to tell me anything else,” and I was like, “What?” and she’s like, “You’re having a panic attack that’s lasting every single day.”

One morning at like seven o’clock in the morning, I have like six missed calls from her and it’s just her going, “Call me right now, I need to talk to you. Call me right now, I need to talk to you,” and I’m like, “Oh, my God, like I’m dying. This is it.”

Mohammed: Oh, wow.

Ameet: Yeah, so it was literally like just my entire body was essentially shutting down and it just — I didn’t know what to do with it, so then at that point, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression, was put on antidepressants, and then eventually at one point, it started to feel like that pain was coming back so I ran the assumption that the medication just wasn’t working so we started hopping me on and off of like different medications like every single month and the pain started to like get — it wasn’t bad but it was there and it never made any sense.

So then, this time, my doctor looks at me and goes, “Okay, let’s take a look at the blood work that you’ve done.” I had never done bloodwork. She completely forgot so that was her massive fail there, but it is what it is. So I went in for bloodwork and then one morning at like seven o’clock in the morning, I have like six missed calls from her and it’s just her going, “Call me right now, I need to talk to you. Call me right now, I need to talk to you,” and I’m like, “Oh, my God, like I’m dying. This is it.” Turns out I’m type 2 diabetic and it was really, really bad, like bad in the sense that it could kill me.

She called me and she’s like, “I’m pushing meetings. You need to come in right now. We need to get this handled,” and it was, yeah, one of those moments where I was just like, “Fuck, like another thing?” and I kind of was indifferent to it at that time because I was just like another bad thing to happen, like what else is there? And, yeah, so that was another thing and then I ended up moving back home to my parents’ house for about five months and then left that relationship even though we were still technically together, but like, I mean, it’s kind of over at that point.

We owned a house together, I lost that to him. We had a rabbit as well, he ended up keeping it and I’m pretty sure he gave it away because he was pretty spineless but it is what it is and I can’t get mad about it, even though it still pisses me off to this day. And then I just got very lucky that I just had the dogs. And I don’t think I probably would have survived that year had I not had the dogs so I’m very thankful that I have them. But, yeah, it was just like — and then I ran through my entire savings account so I had nothing left as well which is essentially why I ended up going home because I didn’t want to rely on someone else.

I’m like if I’m going to rely on people, I’m going to rely on my family, because I’m like, at the very least, it’s my inheritance that I’m just dipping into. And my mom hates that logic, but it is what it is. So, I ended up coming home for about five months, took the time off for about seven to eight months, because I just couldn't, I couldn’t deal with it mentally. I didn’t want to do anything, and then in October of 2016, I went back to Edmonton and then we reached a settlement for the lawsuit. It wasn’t for the full amount. So, the way that it works is that you file that lawsuit, you get a mediation date.

At the mediation, you go over everything, and it’s in person, or I guess digitally at this point, and then if you don’t reach anything in that, you go off to a court date. So, we had decided to go forward with a court date. And I might be remembering this incorrectly, so like if you’re listening to this and thinking about doing this, you might have to do some research, but within the court system, you could technically write like a number, so say I was suing for $4,500, if I wanted to write $3,900 and give that in a closed envelope to the judge, if I ended up getting $4,000 or even $3,900 based off of what the judge had decided, that number would double, so I could potentially make out with more money, which is kind of really interesting and a little bizarre to me.

I don’t understand, like it kind of feels like a game show to a certain degree where I’m like this doesn’t make sense. Yeah, I remember — I distinctly remember Wayne telling me about this where he said, “We could go to court and in the envelope, we can write the amount that we think we will get, and if we get more or get that number, it automatically doubles.” I don’t know how that works but I remember him saying this.

Mohammed: Wait, what? It’s like Price Is Right but in the court?

Ameet: Yeah, basically. It was so strange, and I was like, “I don’t —” like I’m quite certain that that happened. Like I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a dream. And so we were getting ready to do something along those lines and then we got an offer from the client saying, “Let’s settle it all out at $3,900 or something like that,” and then at that point, Wayne laid it out for me. He’s like, “The way that I make money is by you not going to court.” So he’s like, really, at this point, he’s like, “It’s your decision obviously,” but he was like, “This is how it is.”

He’s like, “I make my money based off of the filing and the mediation essentially and then usually people don’t go further than that.” He was like, “They make that decision.” So he’s like, “It’s really up to you.” He’s like, “If you want to fight for the extra $600,” he’s like, “I’m totally fine with doing it,” but he’s like, “It’s just you might not come out with $3,900 at the end of it all either.” And I sat there and I just went okay.

One, I don’t care about going to court really because I’m like I don’t want to see him again. I’m like, two, I want my friend to make money as well because I don’t want to sit there and be a drain on his resources. So, I made that decision just to take the $3,900 and take that loss of the $600 because I was like it’s better than $4,500 and that was kind of the end of it. So he remitted the payment I think through a cheque or something like that relatively quickly again, and that was kind of the end of it.

For me, it was me going back home that kind of felt like me retreating in that sense of like kind of quitting, and I think that was okay.

Mohammed: So you went through this period, about seven months approximately that you took time off work altogether, and through that time, you also went through a shit ton of other personal experiences, and, finally, you got a chance to wrap things up with this client from hell, to say the least, and then what happened?

Ameet: I decided to go back to Edmonton. I went back to the place that gave me the worst year of my life. And I felt like I needed to do that. For me, it was me going back home that kind of felt like me retreating in that sense of like kind of quitting, and I think that was okay. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a break. But, at that point, for me, it was like, “I can’t leave Edmonton like this. This is not how I leave Edmonton.” So, for me, I ended up starting working for a local tech company in Edmonton. They offered me a position, I said, “Sure, why not?” Really, at this point, I’m like I have nothing else to do.

And I [started] working with them, saved a bit of money, got a car, and then packed my car up, packed my dogs up, and moved back to Edmonton essentially. So, I was able to find a place because, at that point, I had nothing in terms of finances. So, I ended up finding a place where this lady was like, “If you can help babysit my kid, I’ll let you live here rent-free,” and I was like, “Sick, let’s do that.” I realized why that was a problem a week later because you’re never off the job then really at that point. So this kid would just walk into my room whenever he wanted to. He would come over to my desk while I was trying to work and I just couldn't get anything done.

A week later, I just went, “I can’t live here anymore essentially.” And luckily, a friend of mine was living in a house [on] the north side. She was like, “We can make rent relatively cheap.” She’s like, “Let me talk to the landlord, she’s nice or whatever,” and there [were] a lot of people living there so it was like — she was like, “It’s not going to be too bad for you.” So I lived there for a couple [of] months, worked my tail off, saved a bit of cash, and then ended up buying my condo on the south side. So, I still own property in Edmonton, yeah.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to let that piece go because it’s like the first property that I made or like bought by myself. But also, that property is literally like basically where I got my fresh start from. So, for me, it holds a lot of sentimental value so I don’t know if I’d ever be able to let go of it but, I mean, who knows really at this point, but, yeah, that was kind of what ended up happening afterwards and then I — in 2017 was when I bought that condo, in February, I believe it was in March, essentially, my entire work life changed completely so, yeah, that condo was a blessing.

Mohammed: And so from working at this company to now having your own company, when did that transition take place?

Ameet: That transition took place I want to say like May of 2017, somewhere around that. It was relatively quick.

Mohammed: Wow.

Ameet: I didn’t stay with that company for very long, because they were looking for like a marketing director and although I’m pretty well rounded because of like my agency experience and everything else and especially running your own company, you have to know everything, but I wasn’t very good at like figuring out a strategy for a tech company at that point. It just didn’t work, like aside from recognizing that their website needed a change, blogging wasn’t a thing that I enjoyed and that was a bulk of my position so I was quick to realize that it just wasn’t a good fit.

I ended up leaving that and that’s — in between that job, I was still freelancing as well because I was like, “Well, let’s try to try to make ends meet here,” and that’s when Daytona Homes ended up showing up. It was in that March of 2017, so a friend of mine from the agency actually got the marketing director position or marketing manager position or whatever it was so he was leading the digital side of it and he came over and he was like, “You’re the best that I know out of the city. You want to try these two accounts? They’re tiny, but it’s still work,” and then I just sat there and went, “Okay, that’s fine.”

He essentially named his price. I didn’t even bother. Like I was just like literally at this point where like Daytona is such a massive company and they’re nationwide, or in seven cities, that, for me, I was like, “I don’t care. I just want the experience. I just want to have that name on my roster so that way people would trust me more.” Thankfully, he still paid me well, but he named that price, and then within — so I took over in March of the two accounts. By June, I had all of their land divisions. I can’t remember how many those were. And then by August, I had their corporate accounts as well.

It was like one of the proudest moments of my life because I just sat there and I was like some of these people, especially as agency owners, they’re people that I look up to, not necessarily on the PPC side of things because like frankly I do think I’m the best.

Mohammed: Damn.

Ameet: Yeah. So within one, two, three, like four, five months, I had completely kicked the ass of four other agencies. Yeah. And I was a one-person team, and these agencies are some of the biggest agencies in Edmonton.

Mohammed: Wow. Wow.

Ameet: And it — just like it was like one of the proudest moments of my life because I just sat there and I was like some of these people, especially as agency owners, they’re people that I look up to, not necessarily on the PPC side of things because like frankly I do think I’m the best, but… So, for me, it was just like one of those moments where I was like, “Oh, like, oh, I took this account from x, y, z agency and I flipped it, or like I did a better job than them,” so even like their corporate account was spending maybe about $12,000 a month getting about 40 leads or something along those lines, which wasn’t bad.

Like it wasn’t horrible, but in comparison to what I ended up doing, which was not increasing ad spend and tripling their leads, you can see the difference really off the bat so, for them, they were like, “We’re never looking back, this is it.” So, eventually, like right off the bat when you’re going from 40 to 120 leads, you’re gonna be pretty happy about it and eventually I think at our top, we got up to about 150 and then I can’t remember what ended up happening. They started messing around with the budget and stuff like that because buying homes was becoming quite a bit slower and that’s essentially kind of — we just kept on taking the budget and putting it somewhere else and just doing more campaigns.

At one point, I was running all of Daytona Homes, like every single division, every single land division as well. Yeah, it was cool. It was actually really, really, really cool. And we still work with them, it’s just that now because they’ve decentralized, some of them have chosen to either stop their campaigns just because like with COVID going on, it’s just not working and that’s kind of really the biggest hit that we’ve kind of seen was how COVID has affected the businesses.

Mohammed: So, 2017 was a year of recovery and launching all things amazing and starting all things amazing, and now you’re at a spot where you have your own company, you’re managing that and running that and that’s growing and has been successful. For other Canadian freelancers who are either looking for new clients or maybe are in a similar spot where they’re essentially working with a client who is just being difficult, what advice do you have for them?

Ameet: I think with clients being difficult, you just have to set that line. You have to sit there and just be like, “I’m not crossing this.” If they’re asking for more work, you simply just tell them that it’s out of scope and you’re more than happy to provide them with a quote for the additional work. If they’re in a situation where the client isn’t paying, you kind of really have to outweigh your pros and cons at that point, because, like, for me, I was lucky enough that I could weather — admittedly, I didn’t weather it well but I could weather that storm, plus I also don’t know any better really at this point.

I mean, landing the client is such an amazing feeling because you’re sitting there going, “Oh, my God, they trust me, there’s somebody in this world that believes that I could do this or believes in the work that I can do,” but it’s really, really, really important to figure out if you’re a good fit for them and if they’re a good fit for you. [After all,] it might not be. Like in this case, this client was not a good fit for us. In many ways, they’re not a good fit for any agency really at this point, but it’s one of those things where you kind of have to listen to the client and I really wish that I had done that, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be here without that experience so I can’t really like be too angry about it, if that makes any sense?

So, for you, I would say you really need to listen to the client and actually listen to what their real expectations are, not what they’re saying on the surface, so you kind of have to really pay attention, which is kind of very hard sometimes because our attention spans are so small. And then you really have to sit there and go, “Okay, does this align with what I do? Does this align with where I see this client going?” and if it’s a no, then you might have to just take that loss because like really at this point, you don’t need the stress in your life.

Like it completely decimated my entire life. Like it wasn’t something that happened, it was something that quite literally ruined my life for that moment at the very least, so it’s one of those things where you kind of really have to outweigh the pros and cons on your end where it’s just like, “Am I ready for this — or am I ready to wait [for] seven to eight to potentially even a full year to get my money from this client? Can I weather that storm? Can I weather the storm of having to pay someone to do this?” Because I’m pretty sure you can’t do this on your own, so there’s that factor. “Do I wanna go to mediation? Do I wanna go to court?”

For me, going to court just — I just didn’t care for it. Mediation I probably could have done without too because it was just like a waste of my life, and I had to fly in for that too, so for me, because I was already in BC at that point, I had to fly in so that was an additional cost as well. So those are things that you kind of have to sit there and realize is, one, are you moving to a different province? Because you’re gonna have to come back. There isn’t a straight answer, really at this point, and if you can find a civil claims agent wherever you are because I don’t think there’s a lot of them. Wayne was one of two in Alberta at that time.

Mohammed: Whoa.

Ameet: Yeah. So, like, for me, I got very lucky, like very, very, very lucky that I just happened to know him. So, if you can’t find a civil claims agent and the amount is less than like $50,000 — or, no, I shouldn’t even say $50,000. If the amount is less than like $5,000, I would sit there and try to figure it out, because really at this point, you’re probably gonna end up paying a lawyer like, what? $2,100? To get that money back. At this point, you have to outweigh the cost of it if you have to go the lawyer route.

Mohammed: Geez.

Ameet: Yeah. It’s a lot of fun.

Mohammed: Well, Ameet, I appreciate all of this. I’m grateful for you sharing this. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Ameet: Of course. Thank you so much.

Mohammed: I’d love to know where other Canadian freelancers and those who are interested in getting in touch with you can find you and your work online?

Ameet: There [are] a couple [of] places, I guess. So, on all social media, I’m @adwordsgirl. I always have to remember how to spell like that. And then my agency website or my agency is called Hop Skip Media so that’s what we are on Instagram. We have our website, hopskipmedia.com. I’m working on a personal site so I can kind of maybe talk more about the suing and stuff like that and that will be ameetkhabra.com, but I doubt it will be up anytime soon because I’m very slow at getting things done when it has to do with myself.

Mohammed: Amazing. Well, Ameet, thank you so much for this opportunity to learn from you. I really appreciate this.

Ameet: Of course. Thank you for the opportunity to speak about it.

Keep listening

Why limit yourself to just one episode when you can indulge in a few more?

Building a community with Omar Mouallem
Building a community with Omar Mouallem

Omar shares how Canadian freelancers can build communities as a way to support their peers and create a sustainable business.

Launching self-liquidating offers with Eman Zabi
Launching self-liquidating offers with Eman Zabi

Eman explains how Canadian freelancers can launch self-liquidating offers to generate more leads for their business.

Creating video content with Nia Lee
Creating video content with Nia Lee

Nia shares how Canadian freelancers can grow their business through video content.