Why Payment Prior to Launch is So Important

This weekend saw one of the worst client interactions I have had. The intention of this post is not to expose who the client is or to show them up, but to highlight an industry problem that I want to campaign to change across the board. I will therefore not be saying who the agency or the client is, as this is irrelevant to the topic.

A brief history, I was hired to create a website back in October, the project bounced back and forth between me, the agency (they’re not a digital agency in the sense we all refer to it, but for arguments sake we’ll call them an agency) and the client, largely due to the fact the client withheld information for weeks on end or simply didn’t provide it at all, even re-designed their own website in publisher at one stage only to revert to a hybrid of our design and theirs at a later date. Say no more.

So fast forward to launch day, a Friday at the end of March (I had completed a further 4 e-commerce sites in the time it took to complete this one!) , the site is completed, against all odds, they had had the final invoice and they were aware of my terms and conditions;

“The remainder of the balance is paid upon completion of the project prior to any files being transferred”

My clients pay 25% of the total project at the start and the remainder 75% is paid upon completion prior to launch. I have done this for the past 3 years due to an incident a couple of years before when a client locked me out of the server, changed the passwords and ran off with a brand new website. I have never had a client complain or question this clause before – possibly because it’s common sense, you wouldn’t walk out of a car showroom with a brand new car without paying for it, why is this any different? Milestone payments are not a new thing, in fact I will probably change them to smaller percentages more often to defer that risk even more but, enforcing them before site launch is less common and something I want to campaign to be the “norm” in web design.

Again, without going into too much detail, on launch day I had the agency demanding the site to be put live. I referred back to the T&C’s and explained that I had made people aware of this prior to launch day and that under no circumstances would I put the site live prior to the balance of the site getting paid, that it was nothing personal and something I do with all my clients. To this I received a very icy response from the agency and I asked that they send me an email with how they want to proceed. I go out for the evening, come back and grow suspicious that I had heard no more communication, I check the site in question only to find it live. Not only live but they had already changed the FTP passwords for the site. so that I was locked out.

N.B. We had been dev’ing on the agency server towards the end to test all the SSL encryption and the payment gateways properly, this is where some people would argue the files had already been transferred and as such, payment should have been due the minute we placed the files on the clients server, the way I was thinking – there was still a holding page up so, until the final tweaks were done and the index file uploaded, it wasn’t live or completed. In actual fact looking back now and considering what happened, I think you would be right that the minute the files were on the clients server would have been the right time to at least collect a milestone payment. Live and learn…

The agency putting the site live really got to me, a lot, however I was not about to let it slide and nor was I about to do anything in anger. I calmly thought about what my choices were and decided the only thing I could do would be to remove the MySQL database that was feeding the site. So that’s what I did, in turn I found out what the new password to the FTP was and placed the holding page back up so that it didn’t look unprofessional to any visitors and shut down for the evening..well by this time it was 3am.

The following morning, Saturday, I awake to a couple of strongly worded emails from the agency.  I re-explained that these were my terms and conditions, that my contract was with the agency and that I expected my terms and conditions to be adhered to. They were aware of the circumstances but thought for whatever reason intentionally or unintentionally,  they didn’t apply to them. Here is the explanation I sent to the agency to explain exactly why I use this clause in my contract:

This is how I see it, and why my T&C’s are laid out this way:
“The remainder of the balance is paid upon completion of the project prior to any files being transferred.”

The reason for this is so that;

a) the developers/designers are paid for the work done on the project prior to any files being transferred because it’s too easy for clients to do what (agency) did last night and lock people out of the server once they’ve got the files then disappear, OR define their own payment terms, as they have no incentive to pay on time once they are in possession of a live site.

b) You tend to have a transition period where if the client has 2 weeks to pay or a month they think any further significant changes are included in the website price, I’ve seen it happen years back and you loose hundreds of pounds just trying to keep them happy to ensure you get your money.

This is the reason the industry turned to milestone payments, ie. where the bulk of the money or all of the money is transferred before the site goes live. This protects the designer/developer and it’s also fair, you get paid, the client gets their site.

I just don’t see what the problem is with paying for the project, and the fact there has been so much uproar about it makes me suspicious. That’s been in my terms and conditions for 3 years and this is the first time I’ve ever had a problem with it?

I can’t help but feel the time spent going behind my back and putting the site live would have been better spent doing a BACS or Paypal Transfer of the balance so it could be put live through the correct channels?

Once I am paid what I am owed, the site will be restored.

Further emails followed, and I’m sure you can guess the tone. I have never felt bad for asking clients for payment prior to the site going live, the way I see it is business has to be a two way transaction, the client is getting a brand new site, you are getting paid for the work you have done. It really does seem simple.

My reason for highlighting what happened to me is that the agency’s defense was that other web designers they had worked with did not have these types of terms and conditions, to me, other peoples terms and conditions are irrelevant and this is the way I’ve done business for 3 years without any problem whatsoever.

I would like us, as a web design community, to make something that is common sense – concrete in our workflow. I do not think any website should be put live without prior payment of some kind, and I know I’m not alone or the only one working like this. Whether you choose to do milestone payments whereby a percentage is paid upon launch (ensuring it’s a majority percentage) with say 5% balance left over as a fixing fee for any bugs or errors they might find. Or whether you take the stance that if a website is live, the client is happy with it, therefore it is signed off and the full balance is due. You might choose to take a different point of view if the site is being hosted on your own server, but on external servers it really is too easy to have a fight on your hands – and a fight that takes up yet more valuable working time and becomes ridiculously unproductive, trust me.

If you do not already take some form of payment prior to launching a site, no matter how difficult you think it might be, I urge you to re-think as I have never lost business due to it. While you are in posession of your hard work and while the client wants posession of their new website, the ball is in your court.

I strongly believe that credit terms should not apply to completed websites unless it’s exceptional circumstances and would be interested to hear your views or how you currently deal with these issues.

Note: As of Monday, I have now been paid for the site and the site is live.

  • They definitely put you in a very awkward position and I think you handled the situation well.

    Personally, I think your payment terms are too kind to the client. I will not start any new project without a 50% deposit up front, after a further set milestone whether it be signed off designs or completion of the front-end coding I require a further 25% of the total payment. The final instalment is then reserved for when the site is ready to go live, thus I am a paid in full when the site does go live.

    Granted, I absolutely understand not all jobs are the same and it won’t always pan out like this but having a solid contract that the client has agreed to prior to any work starting should always be referred back to.

    You did a good job of handling the situation and I’m sure you will be staying well clear of the client & agency in the future. Thanks for the article and more in-depth look into your recent troubles.

  • We always offer our trusted/repeat clients 15 days credit to settle their account and we usually invoice a day or two after the launch.

    If they don’t pay – we’ll chase them, add a late payment fee and/or interest and if there is still no payment, we’ll eventually pass it to a debt collection agency including their cost on the invoice.

    Every business is different but quite a lot of our clients need to have the same payment terms which are available to them by other, non-web, suppliers.

  • Thanks for posting this Sarah – it’s given me a lot to think about and apply to my own working practices.

    Let’s hope you can avoid this experience in future 🙂


  • As Sam mentions, a deposit is a requirement for all new clients but once we start trusting them we’re more lenient with it. A signed contract is a must for every job.

  • I applaud the action you took and the stance you have taken.

    This situation smacks of the [agency] having not been paid by the client and therefore not having the cashflow to in turn pay for your services. The very fact that you have terms and conditions which, presumably they’ve been given the opportunity to read and have agreed to, puts them in a very weak position legally.

  • I feel for you I really do. We’ve been in exactly this situation before with a client and it wasn’t nice. Experience tells me now to run a mile even if I get a twinge there might be something not quite right. Our terms (for the last 8 years) have been nearly the same as yours except we spread ours out over thirds. One thing – we’re very wary of working on other peoples servers now and wherever possible we try to get them onboard with our own hosting – this way we have total control of the project, and if needs be, *when* it is published. It only takes one client to do this to you and you begin to have a very jaded view of everyone, especially if you’ve been working on a project for months on end only for someone to run off with the goods without paying you first. Maybe we should start embedding some kind of time-bomb script into sites so if it does happen we can flick the ‘KILL’ switch remotely.

  • You know I don’t think this is a moral issue. Or a ethical issue.

    I think it’s a simple contractual issue.

    You issued a contract. They signed. They are obliged to meet the contract, or discuss and sign amendments with you.

    What contracts other people sign or don’t sign, what your past clients have done, what your motivation is for choosing that contract, are all pretty much irrelevant.

    How you chose to handle dispute of failing to meet that contact should probably be baked into your contract too (i.e. saying something like any test or live sites up prior to payment being made in full can be taken down at your desecration)

    If you haven’t had any issue in 3 years this is just an outlier. A shitty client. No more, no less. Whilst frustrating, I don’t think you should let it get to you.

    I’d use the learning’s to tighten up your contract, make clients more aware of important clauses upfront, and be more picky about people you work with.

    All in all I think you handled things rather well.

  • As someone who is starting out as a freelancer I find this post very helpful indeed. Thank you for writing it.

    It does seem suspicious that the client/agency had such an issue with paying for the work. I wonder how they deal with their own clients?

    I hope more people take notice of this post and more arise, this is something that people starting out need to be aware of and a convention that as you say, needs to be established.

    I hope that in the end the issue gets/got resolved.

  • Hi Sarah,

    I sympathise entirely with you on this. I’ve found occasionally – thankfully not very often – that some bigger clients like to work on their own terms.

    I’ve never been locked out of a server like that, however experience dictates I always ensure that I have a deposit up front (like you) and then go to great lengths to word the T&Cs correctly to ensure that even if the client doesn’t want to launch a project, they still have to pay if my work is complete (avoiding a problem where the work was done, but the client chose to delay indefinitely). Saying payment on completion can lead to all sorts of problems because who defines completion? Me or them?

    And then you have those who simply ignore the T&Cs all together, which sounds like what happened here. Unfortunately I’ve had it too – I had a client who repeatedly ignored my 30 day payment (quite strongly worded on my invoices) and paid on their terms (every 60 days) much to my annoyance. Thankfully I found they were reliable payers at 60 days, but I had no say in the matter and it drove me mad until I gave up and rolled over. That said, I always knew if it ever had to take it further, I’d covered my back legally.

    Over time I’ve found that I develop a gut feeling about when projects are likely to go bad – well before I get started – and now tend to steer clear of these completely. You’re bound to have these nightmares from time to time but, like you, I wish some ‘bully’ businesses had a little more respect for other smaller suppliers who bend over backwards to get things done for them, as generally the T&Cs are there for a reason; our protection and survival.


  • Dave Kirk

    For me the most important thing is a really good contract that will stand up in a court if required (I haven’t worked with international clients in a freelance basis yet, so haven’t had to overcome that obstacle).

    I also take more payments, with the final balance payable being approx. 25% (I take a 50% deposit and 25% on design sign off). If I have worked with the client previously then I am more lenient with the amounts and payment terms (standard is 15 days). I also charge a late fee for every 30 days the payment is late, to cover the time I have to spend chasing (It basically equates to a 1 hour charge). It’s not much, but I have found it highlights I am serious about payment terms and at the end of the day, time spent chasing is time I can’t earn.

    All of this is written into the contract and I won’t lift a finger until it is signed and the deposit is sat in my account. The deposit is non-refundable so if the take my design and run to a student or India I have been paid for my work.

    I have only once had to threaten court action for my final 25%, and I got paid within 5 days of that email. If they know they have signed a contract, and that contract has been fulfilled by you then they know they don’t have a leg to stand on!

  • Well done, Sarah, for sticking to your guns. This simply *has* to stop. I’m glad it worked out in the end, but feel sorry for the extraordinary lengths you’ve had to go to in order to get there. I’d have to agree with Phil Thompson though, in that it does seem that the ‘agency’ has not received money from the ‘client’ but at the end of the day, that shouldn’t be your problem.

    I don’t think I’d have been so level headed, so again, well done.

  • You certainly can pick em sarah!

    I think the process you go through is completely reasonable, however (i know this isnt always possible) i would say in future it would certainly be worth developing the site on your server – giving a password protected login for the site, which can be easily changed at your discretion.

    I think, as you mentioned, the moment you start developing on the clients server you have in effect already handed the files over. Maybe it might be an idea to extend your development price scheme – for arguments sake – 25% up front – 60% when you are satisfied your work is completed your end – at this point moving onto testing ssl and gateways – then the final 15% before launch.

    May or may not work – but it can only help in ensuring clients pay for the work they have commissioned before they have a chance to defer payment.

  • “You wouldn’t walk out of a car showroom with a brand new car without paying for it” – actually, you would more often than not.

  • Thanks for posting this up, was hoping you would. We employ a similar payment schedule at our studio, either with 50% before, and then 50% after, or a set of milestones depending on project size.

    You seemed to handle this situation in a calm and professional way, but no doubt at times you felt otherwise? Either way nice one.

  • Dan

    No matter what business you are in, there are always clients who will try their absolute hardest to get something for free or worm their way out of paying.

    It reminds me of a fight I had with my landlord a year ago over a deposit on my house. I was entitled to it but they tried every trick in the book to keep it from me.

    As the credit crunch tightens it’s death grip, we’ll all see more and more of these shady pikeys come out of the woodwork. The best thing to do is probably exactly what you’ve done. Make sure your T&Cs make it very clear that you reserve the right to withold all files until full or agreed payment has been made and make sure the client is very clear about this.

  • Ron


    Well done! I’ve been following your dilema on twitter and felt your every pain! My terms are always 50% up front with the rest on milestones. I do typically extend terms (15 days) for final payment, but i may reconsider that.

    I did get burned by one client who paid initial 50%, but refused final payment after site was completed. The site never went live, though it was still time/effort on my part that i never got paid for.

    Some clients just need to be fired.

    Glad it worked out for you!

  • I have no idea what your set up is but how we work is to have a stage server where we develop our sites on and when it’s ready for the client to view we then put the site onto a demo server which is username & password protected. Here is where they feed back amends, design tweaks etc until they finally sign it off. It’s not until the client approves and signs it off that we will move it to the live server. So we have full control. I work for a global company and so we have to have this kind of set up in place. I guess for someone like your self the cost just wouldn’t justify the cost for you to do this.

    In your case, that you not having control of the server, it was only a matter of time before they did what they did.

    Could you not of mentioned that if they didn’t pay up that you would consider settling the matter by taking them to court?

    However, I totally support the way you handled this issue.

  • Our terms are probably more lenient than yours and I would normally invoice for the site [less 25-30% deposit] one or two days after the site is live. This has not been a problem so far but this ‘leniency’ is tempered by the fact that many of the sites are hosted on servers where we have full control, therefore making it easy to take the site down for non-payment.

    However, your post has caused me to rethink this approach and we may change to a system like yours to help with cashflow [ours!] and prevent the type of late or non-payment problems you describe, which seem to be becoming more prevalent in the current economic climate.

    Thanks for the post.

  • After having being burnt by a few clients in the past, either through hosting on their servers or simply feeling I could trust them, I now no longer start a new project without clearly outlining the cost and what work will be carried out, and having received and cleared the first 50% upfront payment.

    It’s a shame that a few rotten apples spoil it for those who are more trusting, but actually since adopting this payment policy, none of my new clients have had a problem with it. I am willing to be flexible with this, and if the contract is larger then the payment can be spread to reflect the completion of broken down development stages.

    I think you dealt with the matter very professionally Sarah – when it happens, it can be all to tempting to see red (and put up a big holding page saying “website down until thieving client pays up!”).
    Good job you still had access to mysql, otherwise you could have faced a lot of bother chasing your money.

    All the best,


  • Sam

    Thankx for sharing what you were able to with this situation. In these times I think this we must all be very wary. Unfortunatly we can not always ‘run a mile’ when we have concerns about clients, especially if work is scarce.

    @Darren Ferguson – but you have entered a contractual obligation I know that you would have to fulfil that in order to retain the vehicle

    I wonder what dubios things were going on & ultimately who was to blame more client or agency. I think Sarah P T&C are very fair (as some say too fair; thats not to say blame lies with here at all) become more amenable with frequent trusting clients.

    Glad you were able to turn the situation around in the way you did.

    It is really in the interests of the agency & client to keep you on side, due to the nature of wbesites.

  • Duncan

    Well put Sarah. Any business is certainly a two way street and no one should expect not to get paid as per contract. You were quite right to close the site down until payment was made. I’m surprised to hear that some other designers do otherwise.

    We always insist upon a signed contract and our terms and milestone payments are very clear. It is client dependant, but generally we require 25% with the order before work will commence and other interim payments are often payable too. Typically for ecommerse sites: 25% on order; 25% on base design competion; 20% on internal product design completion; 20% on going live and 10% retention for thirty days. All payments are due on receipt of invoice. We’ve never had a problem with this.

    We also always host the site on our server until handover/going live and by that stage we’ve usually received 90% of the payment.

    It’s important to state in the terms that ownership of the files only passes to the client on reciept of the final payment.

  • I saw your frustrated tweets last week and now i can see why you were feeling like that.

    I too have been burned before; it’s a rookie mistake that you only make once and you learn from it by using milestone payments of some form or other.

    I tend to host a lot of my clients work nowadays myself as not only does it give me a stable environment that i know is correctly configured but it also gives me full control over the status of the site. This obviously does not always happen but I never relent on putting a site live until the work is paid for; just because a company’s payment terms are different to your own is not a reason to back down. It’s not unreasonable to ask for payment prior to delivery assuming they have seen the site in a staging environment; sadly not everyone out there gets that. I’ve had a few run-ins in the past and quickly sorted them out and explained the position.

    It is about time that the world realised that our profession is no different to others out there and we should be treated equally.

    Incidentally if you ever get a client who refuses to agree to your milestone payments; walk away. They will cause you nothing but pain and no matter how badly you need the work it will not be worth it. I’ve only ever had one person do this to me and I wish i had known then what i know now. If a potential client questions why just explain and if you do a decent job of it they will understand; if not, well you know what to do.

  • A very timely post!

    I’ve just been through something similar but unfortunately in my case I have had a far less successful outcome. The client in question has proven to be one of the most unethical I have ever worked with, wanting everything on their terms and never doing the right thing, even when they are clearly in the wrong.

    My own terms and conditions for these circumstances have not been good enough so I’ve not been in a very strong position to leverage a good outcome. Fingers crossed that they will do the right thing and I will get the final payment sometime!

    Although I already charge on milestones, I have so far been happy to pass files across to clients before final payments. Not any more! As you point out, once a client has everything they need, there is no incentive for them to pay you, so from now on I will withhold files until final payments are made.

    I’m also going to consider how I will work with agencies in future where they often insist on working on their servers during development. As there’s no protection in that setup, I wonder if anyone has advice on how to handle that?

  • Wow! Your story is eerily similar to a recent experience I had:

    I was asked to recover, and re-host, a site after the original hosting company had gone awol. Job done, and I was immediately paid for my time. Then the client asked if I could look at re-designing the site. Being the trusting type, and already having received a payment, I agreed to start the redesign without a deposit. Bad decision. I spent months liasing with the client, before they settled on a final design and I uploaded the site. Another mistake! the client decided that their site had slipped down too far in page rankings they locked me out of the FTP, and changed the passwords for the host control panel.

    I received no money, and had no way to retrieve the design. I tried billing them, but they have re-designed the site again (using elements from my design) and claim that they saw my job as “unfinished” and are refusing payment…

  • We all walk a very fine line – Upset the agency/client and risk payment problems; present them with a contract which they are likely to ignore! Be too aggressive and risk not seeing any future work.

    For us we have opted to present the agency/client with a development framework, which has staged payment points right up to the end ‘live stage’ – it’s weighted at the start of the project and then drops off so by the ‘live stage’ they only owe 10-15% of the total cost. This way you are never over exposed to a heavy loss. In our experience clients prefer to make smaller regular payments rather than be hit with a large final payment. That said there are always clients or agencies that will try it on…

  • 25% down, 25% in two more increments at major milestones, 25% on work effort acceptance (before go-live). Good for sticking to your guns and a good way to handle it.

  • Sarah, this sounds like an absolutely horrific agency! One who I hope never to encounter.

    Just my opinion on the milestone issue. We do 99% of our projects on a 50% deposit and 50% payment on completion plan (prior to launch, same as you).

    Regarding the 5% or whatever payment to be withheld for final snags, I have toyed with the idea, and rather opted to keep the 50/50 payment structure, but provide a 15 day “minor” changes period. A guarantee of sorts. It only covers typos and minor changes and anything after that period is charged at hourly rates or quoted.

    I’ve only had one situation where a client requested we change the 15 days to 30 days as his lawyer needed to run through his content and his turnaround required more time. I obliged as there would only be textual changes, and no skin off my back.

  • Ok, this is something i need to address for myself as I have been fortunate so far in that no-one has refused payment, that said I can’t afford for that to happen and it’s just plain sloppy to work without a contract other than email agreement.

    I’ve compiled peoples comments into a form that you can copy and paste and decide in your own time… some nice points were made about the final contingency plans if that fateful day arrives for a non-payer.

    Website payment ideas

    smaller payments: for points ; client prefer smaller invoices and are there fore more likely to pay-up without issue.
    smaller payments: against points ; more time needed to manage payments and chasing up invoices plus update your own accounts. wood for the trees time….

    Larger scale sites would require more milestones if you are an independent web developer/design/(add your own contemporary moniker)

    25% down, 25% in two more increments at major milestones, 25% on work effort acceptance (before go-live)
    50% deposit / 25% design approval / 20% html / 10% completion (prior or following launch…? who cares you’ve got 90%)
    40% Deposit / 30% Design approval / 25% Coding / 5% On completion (before Launch)

    payment on completion plan (prior to launch). but provide a 15 day “minor” changes period. (need to define minor changes and also limit time allowance for these to be completed within for them to count as minor.)

    Any sites which are developed on third party servers will require 100% payment before files are transferred across.

    If anyone has a problem with milestone payments walk away…

    trusted/repeat clients 15 days credit to settle their account and we usually invoice a day or two after the launch.
    If they don’t pay – we’ll chase them, add a late payment fee and/or interest ( add an hour of work time + 30%, )
    and if there is still no payment, pass it to a debt collection agency including their cost on the invoice.

    OK, i have added some of my own thoughts into the mix as well.


    Thanks for the prompt Sarah(?) and would it bepossible to see a copy of your current agreement contract via email?

  • Deborah

    One method we are considering is this:
    50% up front and all website content is required. (This payment pays for the discovery stage and setting up site architecture, site map, navigation and page creation (URLs). There are so many instances when clients play the delay game because they can’t decide on content. Website architecture needs to be based on content, anyway. Once this is all in place…

    25% is due. This pays for the design creation up front. Doing design at this point means the design can follow the content, like form following function. Less design rework will be needed since everything will be accounted for (hopefully).

    20% is due. This pays for coding up front. Sometimes the coding, especially for complicated sites, can seem like more than 20% of the cost, but remember, you have already been paid 75%, so you can slide some of the previously paid money here. It is good that you have a good amount paid up so as to be able to contract work out, if necessary.

    5% is due when you have completed your work (not when they go live). (Thanks for the idea @Sam Adams.)

    With this system you are paid up front before each stage, so that if the client walks, you are not out of any money. Also, be sure to charge an amount that pads the 5% amount above what you really need. This amount can be put towards any inconveniences and last-minute things the client asks of you and basically covers the countless phone calls and email chasing. If the client has been “good” and hasn’t caused any undue stress or time-wasting, you could even be generous and give a “freebie” back with this amount. So, they get some extra value and feel special.

    Also things we are going to implement: Get the VP of Accounting to sign our agreement. This is the person who really dictates how payments are made, not the unfortunate person who has been put in charge of the project. This will reveal right away any payment issues that may arise. If the Accounting Dept. person balks at your T&Cs, you may want to reconsider them as a client.

    Next, get the project responsibility team’s contact information and availability schedule, including holiday information. There is nothing worse than trying to chase down someone responsible for a sign-off only to find out that they went on holiday.

    Another idea: use change request forms for every change/request and get more than one signature from the team. This is a lifesaver as it can eliminate ideas that have not been through a review process and approved by the entire team. Inform them that this will ultimately save them time and money, as you would have to charge extra for re-work.

  • I’ve been working with “four equal monthly payments” for some of my clients with smaller budgets, and I think it makes the cost more digestible for them, and helps me with cashflow.

    Good for you for standing your ground… That could easily have been a VERY bad situation for you!

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  • Im sorry to hear what happened to you. I defiantly agree with your analogy of a car showroom. I will have to remember that next time I am explaining the terms of payment on a project. I find phase payments also help – breaking it down into research, design, development, testing and finally going live, that way the client doesn’t feel like there taking such a big hit when you ask for payment.

  • Wow that is truly a sad story. I have the simple 50% to start project and remaining balance paid when site goes live. I send an invoice on launch date with it being due within 5 days but since I host on my own reseller account I always have the option to take it down for non-payment reasons.

    If I were to do a site on a clients servers I would defiantly enforce payment before go live.

  • I usually do 25% – 50% of payment within scope upfront and very often host the sites under servers I control. In addition, it is now in my contracts and frequently re-iterated in emails that work outside of the scope will incur my hourly fee of $75-$100/hour USD. These contract restrictions were, however, put in place out of necessity as late paying and scope-creep were real issues I was facing.

    Your post is helpful as I have still had issues with the “last mile” payment (something I’ve gotten tougher on) and I feel adding that last bit of sternness will help; acknowledging the worth of my time is of course good for myself and for the customer who chooses to see that value and that can afford that time.

  • I ask for a whopping 70% up front. And I get it 90% of the time. I offer a discount of about a few hundred if they pay 70% up front. And at the minimum – I get 50% up front.

    I’ve always handed over files before getting the final payment in the past – until being ripped off twice in a row recently. Technically my contract protects me and I could sue them. The amounts however were small enough that I’d rather not waste so much time and energy arguing with nasty people – that aren’t worth it. I’d rather cut it off and move on with my life than have it affect me negatively.

    Their excuses were as follows:

    One claimed that the site did not load fast enough and I ran tests that graded it the same as Apple and Microsoft’s website and I told them that is good enough for me and the contract does not require me to compress and optimize to a certain criteria. Well, being nice, I made it even faster with minify for free and they made up more excuses and repeatedly attacked my professionalism and finally sent 1/2 of the final payment. Rather than sue, I just cashed it and moved on with my life.

    The second claimed that I was supposed to also integrate the front end code into his CMS. Our contract clearly states more than once that I would not be doing that and states specifically his programmer and his team were going to do that. He argued that in an email a few months ago before the contract was written that I mentioned I liked his CMS of choice as grounds for my committing myself to that task. It is really ridiculous as he clearly knows he is wrong and if a mistake was made it was his (as he obviously didn’t read the contract). It became clear to me he knew full well what he was doing and he was looking for a way to intimidate me into doing more work for free.

    Now I demand the final payment before coded files are in their possession 🙂 And I say in my contract I’m committed to stay on board for a month after that to help fix bugs they find.