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Dealing With Clients Who Refuse To Pay

As a designer, you will eventually have to face a couple of unfortunate truths in your career. Number one: just because you wear a bathrobe for most of your “business” hours does not actually make it business attire. Number two: at some point in your freelance career, you will encounter a client who does not respect the work you do. The most unfortunate part of this unfortunate truth is that it will all too often present itself in the form of a client who refuses to pay for your services once all of the work has been completed. [Links checked February/15/2017]

Dealing With Clients Who Refuse To Pay

However, you can put some safeguards in place to guarantee that if this kind of client disrespects you and a dispute arises, that you are not left without any leverage to help you resolve the situation. Because whether they admit it, some loathsome characters deal with freelancers merely because they believe these smaller independent businesses would have little recourse should they not hold up their end of the bargain. They think that once we have taken the time to complete the work and deliver it, that they have all the power to control the outcome of the business transaction. But now more than ever, this is not the case.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

One thing these clients overlook is the community that freelancers have at their disposal via the Web and various blogs and social media outlets. Freelancers have an established network of support and guidance through such connectivity that it almost feels effortless at times. And we have been turning to the community for years now to improve the working environment of designers, by discussing methods and techniques of dealing with common issues that arise in the field. This network has spawned some inspiring ideas for addressing these client-related problems.

In fact, we here at Smashing Media turned to our friends on Twitter for some ideas on dealing with this particular issue, and we want to thank everyone who replied with so many great suggestions.

Through the volume of answers we received, a staggering fact became quite clear: that too many people have been burned by this type of business interaction, which only reinforces the necessity of a post such as this. So, armed with stories of clients who were not willing to pay for completed work and who were determined to leave freelancers reeling and damaged, we have compiled some helpful safeguards and talking points to help you steer these situations towards a more positive outcome for you.

First Things First Link

The main thing to remember if you find yourself in this position is that you are in the right, and you do not have to stand for being bullied by a client simply because they are a client. You have the right to be compensated for the time and effort that you put into the project. Even with no physical contract, the client knowingly entered into a verbal agreement and is therefore completely liable for upholding the terms of the agreement. Sometimes — not always — you may find that the client has challenged the payment only to see if they can get away with it; and once you stand up to them and demonstrate that you will not be undercut, then they go ahead and pay.

But this will not always be the case, and your situation may be cumbersome. So, be sure to remain civil, consistent, confident and above all resilient to make it through this tiring ordeal. By doing this and employing one or more of the strategies suggested below, you might not only keep your business comfortably afloat but also retain a bit more of your sanity.

Use A Contract Link

One standard safeguard is a comprehensive project contract. This sets up a payment structure that usually prevents an unfavorable outcome, or at least prevents the client from withholding full payment for whatever reason. Use the language and structures that most contracts follow. Most contracts call for a deposit at the beginning, and partial payment at various stages of the project. But this is not always preferred by the client, or even occasionally by the freelancer.


Pros Link

A contract is a clear and simple way to outline the specifics and expectations of a project for all parties involved. It includes a timeline for completion and delivery, as well as other checkpoints. The payment structure in the contract can ensure that you at least get paid something for your time and effort. It also provides you with some measure of legal recourse in the event of a breach of contract, such as non-payment of the final invoice. A contract also projects an air of professionalism and sets you up to be taken seriously.

Cons Link

While the payment structure in a contract can be a pro, it can also be a con, turning off many clients who are not comfortable paying a deposit. Clients might also be turned off by contracts because they don’t know what they want or how to describe it, and they feel a contract would lock them in too tightly and not give them enough room to revise later. Another con is that if you are unclear in the language of the contract, you might actually leave yourself open to be taken advantage of, and by the time you realize it, you are contractually obligated to complete the project.

Overall Link

Long story short, with both pros and cons a plenty, the contract route can safeguard against clients not paying you in part and, in some cases, in full. But it could also keep you from getting clients, so use with caution.

CSS Kill Switch Link

Another route that some freelance Web developers opt for when they design websites for clients is to install a kind of CSS fail-safe, in order to have leverage if payment disputes come up. CSS Killswitch is a freelance coder’s dream come true. By simply linking to an external CSS style sheet, which can be activated with the simple click of a button, you can black out a website if the client refuses to pay — even if they have changed the password and locked you out of the back end, which is the only circumstance under which this should be done.


Pros Link

While it should be used only with the strictest caution and as a last resort, the kill switch has two major pros. The first is that it gives the freelancer leverage, putting them in a position that they have not traditionally had access to. This leverage could give the freelancer the upper hand and might get them paid in the end, as the client scrambles to make their website visible again. Another pro is the ease of use and installation of the CSS kill switch, relative to some of the other solutions explored in this article.

Cons Link

Naturally, if and when you exercise this option, know that it won’t be a popular move with your already difficult and possibly volatile client. Your results may vary, and it could further postpone final payment. Another con is that all of these Web safeguards like the CSS kill switch, while easy to use, are also easy to detect and disable if the client’s staff is knowledgeable enough. And while you are merely taking steps to get paid for the work you have done, initiating a kill switch on a client’s website could make things costly and litigious for you very quickly.

Overall Link

When all is said and done, the CSS kill switch definitely has its upside, even if it does reside in an ethically questionable gray area. It offers the freelancer an effective tool to negotiate with difficult clients on more level ground. But use it at your own risk.

Maintenance Mode Link

One workaround to temporarily “disabling” the website until payment is made — though not always as effective as the kill switch — is maintenance mode. Switching the website to maintenance mode gives the freelancer a bit of leverage with stubborn clients. While similar to the kill switch, maintenance mode is a milder course of action.

So in Effective Maintenance Pages: Examples and Best Practices

Pros Link

One pro is that maintenance mode is even simpler to install and activate than a kill switch. You need access to the website itself in order to pull it off; and if you do still have access, you are likely dealing with a client who does not have much background in the Web. And so they may not be aware that you are actually able to pull their website down once it is up. This gentle flexing of muscle may be all the push-back you need to let them know that you are no push-over.

Cons Link

Once again, this route could incite an already agitated client to take drastic action against you, even though they are the one who violated the terms of the agreement. Also, if the client figures out how to get the website back and changes the password to lock you out, then you have lost your leverage. Unfortunately, this tactic is much easier to fix than a kill switch, so your advantage may not last long.

Overall Link

While this may work with some less experienced or resourceful clients, others will not be put off for long and will get things back on track with a quick Google search.

Withhold Launch Link

If you pick up on signs early on that your client may be difficult, one surefire way to keep them from withholding payment is to do a little withholding of your own. You always have the power to withhold the launch of the website until final or full payment is made. But you cannot just decide to do this at any point in the project; you would need to establish these terms at the beginning of the working relationship.

Criticism in Web Design Criticism: A How-To
Image source5

Pros Link

An obvious pro is that this tactic is more likely than others to preempt a client dispute. If the client knows up front that the product will not be fully delivered until they have made all payments, then they are less likely to attempt avoiding payment. It puts most of the power in your end and allows you to basically steer the project’s outcome.

Cons Link

Just as a contract can be a deterrent for some clients, stipulating that you will withhold delivery until payment is made can have a similiar effect. Some clients will not be entirely comfortable with the idea of paying for something that is not in their possession, especially if they are already operating outside of their element.

Overall Link

As far as your options go, this is one of the most effective. By simply refusing to deliver the product to the client, you maintain the upper hand.

Send A Project Summary Link

One of the more diplomatic ways to handle a dispute is simply to send the client a complete project summary detailing the timelines and benchmarks that were established at the beginning. Be sure to highlight in the summary just how you met or exceeded these expectations, and provide any reasons why certain deadlines may not have been met. Being extremely professional, this tactic shows respect for your client, rising above the emotion of the moment to drive your point home. Let them know how you have met your end of the agreement, and they should respectfully do the same.


Pros Link

As mentioned, this is a very business-like way to address the situation, even if the circumstances warrant a more aggressive response. It could be a big boon to your freelance business. Another pro is that you show the client how calm and collected you are in the face of disrespect, and this composure will do wonders for your reputation.

Cons Link

If you are dealing with a client who is already refusing to pay for completed work, chances are that this respectful reporting of facts will not move them to respond in kind. If that is the case, then this is a double disadvantage, given the time that would be required to put this document together. Another con is the time you would reasonably have to wait to see whether this has had the desired effect on the client, before you follow up or take other steps.

Overall Link

After all is said and done, and if time is not critical, this is one of the most professional approaches you can take. It is also a very business-like way to start before trying more drastic measures.

Get Their Attention With Social Media Link

This approach is not as diplomatic as the last: that is, taking your gripe to social media to alert the client and others that this situation is unresolved and far from over. Members of the community at large may want to hear about projects that have ended unfavorably for freelancers, so that they can avoid working with those clients in future. Turn to Twitter, Facebook and other networks to share your tale.


Pros Link

One advantage to this approach is that it will likely elicit some kind of reaction from the client, whether positive or negative, especially if they have a competent social media staff. Another pro is its accessibility to the freelancer. Most of us already populate social media outlets, so this route to a resolution lies at our fingertips.

Cons Link

This course of action could have some unwanted repercussions, one of which is not so much the client’s reaction as the reaction of potential future clients who are turned off by your open griping about others. Also, those who follow you on social networks might believe that you are being unprofessional by airing your grievances this way. Did we mention that it could reflect poorly on your business? Because it well might. So again, use caution when going social.

Overall Link

While social media has given us an outlet with a long reach and has proven effective in getting responses from businesses that are plugged in, it is not always the best or most professional forum in which to address your problem. But that may not be a concern for you.

Wrap-Up Link

Assess your client’s temperament before deciding on a path to pursue in recovering payment. Whatever the situation, you have options beyond costly legal action. Feel free to leave suggestions below on how to deal with clients who refuse to pay for services provided by a freelancer.

Also consider our previous articles Link


Footnotes Link

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Rob Bowen is a staff writer for Web Hosting Geeks and Top Web Hosting, a longtime freelance designer, and burgeoning videographer and filmmaker whose creative voice and works can be heard and found around the web.

  1. 1

    Jordan Moore

    April 9, 2010 2:35 am

    Shake ’em by the ankles.

  2. 2

    I have a client in the name of Ryan Roberts at E1even Inc and of who after doing the work for has decided to completely ignore all forms of contact to the point where even their accountant hasn’t been able to find out any answers from. I am owed quite a large sum of money for my time and effort and this has left me fuming.

    I would like to point out that in future I will be using this article as reference for my freelance work. Thanks for posting it :)

    • 3

      DIGITAL7 Media

      April 9, 2010 7:27 am

      The way he is screwing you in the azz, his site should be called KiteRunner, not

    • 4

      One of the pitfalls of doing business on your own, This happened to me so much that I learned to be a BS blood hound. From my experience the kind of client you describe is best dealt with discreetly or not at all, posting their names online will likely incite more crazy behavior and in my experience the crazies can always yell louder.

    • 5

      While I sympathise with your situation, it’s incredibly bad form to publicly name and shame until you have exhausted all possible avenues. Get a lawyer and resolve it properly.

      • 6


        I don’t think it’s bad manners to call out a client who refuses to pay, screw the lawyer that’s another expense altogether.

        I’d call him out publicly and if that doesn’t work…then call a lawyer.

        • 7

          Not an identical situation but… there used to be a local business man hereabouts that had a trade counter with a glass top. Anyone that gave him a bad cheque had it taped to the underside so that everyone could see who was writing bouncers.

      • 8

        Chris Beaman

        April 13, 2010 5:21 am

        Completely agree with you Matt, I was pretty shocked to read that comment. There’s no place for it here.

    • 10

      Ryan Roberts

      May 19, 2010 10:48 am

      As the owner of Eleven Inc and I’d like to clear up this slanderous post. Danny, the work you were asked to do was never completed properly. The attempts to collect what you felt you were owed by contacting my significant other on Facebook, harassing our accountant, and sending emails threatening to take legal action was very unprofessional. Hopefully you can use this situation as a learning experience and move on. I know we have.

  3. 11

    This post could not have come at a more appropriate time for me. I am currently in dispute with an agency that I have been carrying out some freelance work for, all along the way they have trimmed budgets and pushed down the original agreed hourly rate, they are refusing to pay the final invoice of £300 over a £50 job that they want to reduce to £25, while this might not seem like alot there comes a point when you have been beaten down so much on price that to come down any further would be detrimental to your confidence as a freelancer.

    How do you argue against a client who refuses to pay because they say they don’t like the final result? (bearing in mind theyve only raised this after the work has been done)

    • 12

      Small claims court costs £100 to start the process. If they refuse you can threaten them with that. You can also add the £100 to their bill. As long as you have some proof that you’ve done the work that you’ve asked for and that the work is as described.

      Some clients want to test you and see how for they can push you, afterall they are thinking it’s only £25 and they may give you more work in future but remember don’t sell your soul to the devil, charge for your time and remember any client that doesn’t value what you’re doing for them isn’t someone you should work for.

      • 13

        thanks for the advise Antony, I think theres a lesson to be learned here; what doesn’t put you out of business only makes you a better businessman.

  4. 14

    Wow, this are very keen tips. Be aware that using CSS Kill Switch, Maintenance Mode or Social Media Attention might lead to enormous legal threats in Germany and most parts of the European Union.

    Just to make clear, this is far from being a civil way to get payments. Depending on what your client is doing with your site, this might lead to sale disruptions for which you will be made responsible for. In short: don’t do this, its illegal and you will have to pay for any damage done to your client – whether he pays or not.

    • 15

      I don’t know about the EU, but I doubt it’s illegal in the US. In fact, it’s hard for me to imagine it’s illegal anywhere. Since they have effectively stolen your work, how can you legally be bound to provide your product?

      These days I just develop my sites on my own production server and don’t release them to the client until payment has arrived. I can’t image why this isn’t the standard everywhere. You don’t go into a store and expect to leave with a product before paying for it. Why should designers give automatic credit terms to everyone without even a credit check?

      • 16

        Yes definitely a nice way to go, upload until payment! and for sure if they dont pay they are stealing from you you should sue their asssseeess!

      • 17


        April 12, 2010 7:44 am

        I like your comparison!

        And regarding upfront payment – the client usually choses the designer/developer based on their portfolio/previous projects, so they already are aware of your skills. And if they have no excuse to pay a balance upfront. Afterall why work with a client that doesn’t trust in you as a designer/developer, you are the professional!

    • 18

      Damn countries and their laws! whats fare its fare!

    • 19

      I disagree, Stefan. If there’s no contract, no one can be held responsible (Kenn’ mich in dieser Hinsicht ein wenig aus). Neither you nor him. You cannot (by simply showing the original source codes) claim ownership of the website design/code. And in worst case scenario – assuming a developer/designer followed one of this advices – your client cannot prove that the website which you shutdown is his own…

      Means: If there’s NO contract, you can use any method (mentioned above) to (try to) get your money back.

      Two things being ‘not so OK’ as per European law would be a) illicit work and b) tax evasion :-)

    • 20

      The safest method to implement any of the less savoury methods illustrated here are to develop your client’s website on your own production server and only transfer once the client is happy and has paid up. Yes, you do need to do your homework to ensure that the site will work on whatever hosting has been provisioned on their behalf, though this minor inconvenience far outweighs giving up any “power” you had by giving them the finished article prior to payment.

      I do this for two reasons:

      1. The new website stays with me, it’s not much good to me if the client pulls out, but at least I’ve not done them any favours.

      2. I will not harm their business by pulling their new site. They still have whatever they had in place originally (even if that is nothing) and therefore cannot be held responsible for any loss of business on their part.

      As Stefan said, you cannot implement a new live site and pull the plug, particularly if they had an existing site selling their products or services. Doing so may result in a loss of business, and whatever the problem, you don’t want to be the one facing the lawsuit.

  5. 21

    Geoffrey Reemer

    April 9, 2010 3:56 am

    Hey jono253! It kinda sucks if you did exactly what your client asked for and then they find out they wanted something very differently, doesn’t it? Did you write the scope and deliveries of your project in a contract or project plan? That’s what I always do: make a document of what I will deliver and how much it’s going to cost and I make my clients sign for that. Then you always have something to show them: “look, mate… we agreed on these deliveries for this price. I upheld my end of the agreement, now you’re going to uphold yours.”

    Here in Holland there are companies who can offer some great help if clients refuse to pay. Those invoice agencies will take the bill, take legal action against the client and make sure that all extra costs are billed to the client. Once they see the invoice suddenly going from 300 to 500 because of added invoice costs, they usually get the idea :-).

    Good luck to all of you!

    – Geoffrey

    • 22

      Thanks for the advise Geoffrey, in hindsight having a clearer scope would have been useful, this particular piece of work was rushed through by the client who saw felt that a broader scope was costing valuable time. I think when it boils down to it the message across the board seems pretty clear; put as many preventative measures in place at possible at the beginning, if your instincts are still telling you its not a good idea then walk away before you invest your time and effort.

  6. 23

    In the past 10 years I have had one customer who could not pay because he went bankrupt during development. Of course I have had my share of bad payers, but until now I always asked this question in those cases:

    “Did I do anything wrong, or is the website I built not working? No? Then Why don’t you pay the bill?”

    Until now this always resulted in a payment within a week. Maybe I was fortunate, but don’t hesitate to confront the customer with his behavior and show them you are on top of it.

  7. 24

    To remove money from a client that doesn’t pay……/…. its simple…. just send a recovery agent to get the money…. or kidnap his family and then ask him to pay……!!! and if he doesn’t then kill them!!! ;) hahah

    • 25

      This tactics can be implemented only in afganistan and pakistan.

      • 26

        “This tactics can be implemented only in afganistan and pakistan.”

        Such a defeatist attitude…

      • 27

        Vikash you Slum Dog

        April 13, 2010 9:19 am

        This tactics can be implemented only in the Indian Slum Dogs.

        Maybe exchanging your family for default payment, will kill all birds with one stone. You get rid of your family, and so no need to work and get paid. Then you can kill yourself and the client can celebrate and attend your burning ceremony.

        Adding Hahaha should keep the post here.

      • 28

        @ Jay you should respect others if you want others respect you

    • 29

      I say kill them even if they do pay.

      If anybody has a problem with your actions, ask them what they’re doing for the planet; You’ve just reduced the carbon foot-print of an entire family of pricks to zip. Kudos, you sir are an eco-warrior.

    • 30

      You seem to be unaware of the price of such services. It might cost you a bit more than your design.

  8. 31

    Good post. I have suffered this a few times and now I insist on not only having control of the domain name until final payment, but I host them now too. This for me has the same effect as a kill switch, except we just call it ‘terminate’ or ‘suspend’. It’s always a serious last resort.

    Worst case scenario though is completing the work and then a website suspension not working and being told they no longer require the extensive website you just built… Arrrgh!

    • 32

      Good luck with that – might work with really small clients but any decently sized business will be well aware of the brand equity and asset value of their domain name and will certainly not allow you to go anywhere near it.

  9. 33

    I’m taking legal action against a client that refused to pay.

    In fact I threatened him with legal action as a result of bullying tactics to retain my services and add more and more features to his site. I’d just lost my Mother at that point too so wasn’t of the frame of mind to argue so I did some extra bits that I wouldn’t usually, however, the straw that finally broke the camels back was when the client said he received feedback from someone and that they didn’t like the design, as a result he expected me to redesign the entire site until he was happy (despite the existing design being driven and signed off by the client some months prior).

    As you can imagine, I was very frustrated particularly as the project was over time and budget (through no fault of my own). I threatened the client that no further changes would be made without an additional budget and that if he refused to pay I would start litigation.

    The client thought he’d have the upper hand by suing me first, I’m counter suing and have my hearing shortly. In addition I have a Service Level Agreement and a contract and witnesses too so should be okay. Whether I’ll get the thousands I’m owed is another thing entirely.

    Just goes to show that even when you take deposits, have a solid agreement in place there’s always some jackass out their ready to rip you off. I did have one thing going for me, as part of the deal and as part of the contract I host the website. It stipulates within the agreement that I retain all works until such time that the agreement is paid in full, so after I filled the paperwork the website was moved.

    It’s always quite difficult chasing for money particularly if you’re just starting out, you don’t want to cause offence and would like to get more work out of them in the future. For me anyway prospective clients that don’t value my work or want me to reduce costs with the promise of more work or want me to undercut quite simply are not my clients. I believe in offering a good service and offer value for money. Remember to stick to your guns, don’t sell yourself short and don’t be scared to ask for payment!

    • 34

      @Antony, if you are taking legal action, its probably best to not post something on a website, forum, social site, etc… Anything that can come back to bite you is bad. I’m not saying what you posted was bad, I can easily empathize with your story. I’m just saying its an important lesson to remember that when in legal battles (or just in general), best not to post anything regarding it (or your clients) in case they stumble upon what you write (granted they would have to know your usernames, handles, etc…) but still, I have heard of many people getting in trouble because of this kind of thing.

      • 35

        There’s absolutely no issue. No names mentioned, terms of contract etc. Providing I’m not making any direct derogatory or slanderous comments against the client or anything that could bias the case it’s completely safe. Additionally small claims court is a totally different beast to high value civil cases, it’s designed for individuals to (hopefully) get a resolution with a dispute that two or more parties can’t resolve themselves, it doesn’t usually involve solicitors and it’s relatively low cost which makes it ideal for a freelancers or small companies to take action for dispute involving less than £5,000. This obviously relates to English law, it could be very different in other territories.

        To be extra safe I’ve been taking advice from a solicitor but thank you for your concern!

  10. 36


    contracts, contracts, contracts.

    a client unwilling to work out and sign a contract is a client already setting off alarm bells. a designer who doesn’t expect a signed contract for work may even set off alarm bells for a good (and experienced) client. a signed contract is just the sign of a good professional relationship.

  11. 37

    30% deposit with the signed contract. Always!

    If you are afraid of losing work then you need better clients. 80% of people I have worked with don’t have a problem paying a deposit and the other 20% can go and find some other mug to do their work.

    The client is paying for your ideas.

  12. 38

    I heard the story of a web developer registering a domain name like and sent the registration note to the client. Long story short, the bill got paid.

  13. 39

    I’ve never heard of a CSS kill switch before, but it’s a great idea.

    I’d also pair this up with a javascript kill switch. Link to both an external CSS and javascript file, and you can really do some damage. Imagine a lightbox popup that shows up on every page after a couple seconds saying, “Don’t you think this site should pay its freelancers? Click here to send them a reminder!”

  14. 42

    Excellent article… I can speak from personal experience, after loosing a large $1800.00 job because I thought the client was a friend and I thought a handshake should have been enough. I never work without a contract and deposit anymore. It only takes one big loss to learn that lesson but by that time it’s too late.

  15. 43

    Danny Namnum

    April 9, 2010 7:24 am

    The reality is once the client has what they want they don’t have any urgency to pay you.

    I use a development server to stage the site for the client and only upload the site to the clients server after they have paid.

    If your client’s in a rush then they should pay you in a rush don’t fall in that trap.

    Never give the client completed files till you are paid in full.

  16. 44

    Anonymous Coward

    April 9, 2010 7:44 am

    What would you guys do if you were offered a lucrative job but had to be done in a very short period of time (ie. a week). If a proper client agreement was sought for, it would probably cut short your already available working time by half.

    Would you guys still take the job without any detailed specifications or contract and all you had was some mockups? (Talking webdev work here).

    Anyone experienced situations like this?

    • 45

      Been in the same situation. The short deadline stuff was purely a way of diverting around contracts etc. My particular experience ended up with me (and 3 associates) doing almost a weeks work in two days and even though the client liked the work they decided not to ‘proceed’ with it.

      My advice to you is if you get caught in a situation of super short deadlines then there’s a high chance it’s either a way of diverting around contracts to avoid any commitment or it’s poor time management, in either case unless you have a prior relationship with the client don’t touch it, unless of course the work you produce is of some value to you if it’s not bought by the client or you have free time that you don’t mind using up for it as a gamble.

      • 46

        Anonymous Coward

        April 9, 2010 8:12 am

        In this case, if he decides to walk away, or refuse to pay (at all) because I “did not want to work on a specific task” which was not in any specification or in the mockups provided, do I still have any recourse in getting my money?

  17. 47

    taking legal action does pay off when a client just refuses… I hired a lawyer for a client that refused to pay (contract had clause about lawyer fees) and after several months the judge awarded me with a handsome copyright violation judgement. I told the client if they payed me the amount owed, plus interest, plus lawyer fees in one week I’d graciously ignore the 100k in damages awarded by judge. I got the payment the next day. Wasn’t an easy route but for a client who doesn’t respect intellectual property it quickly sets them straight.

  18. 48

    Daniel Evans

    April 9, 2010 8:29 am

    100% payment upfront.

  19. 49

    Many years ago, I had a boss who told me, “Anyone who doesn’t want to sign a contract doesn’t want to pay you.” Indisputable truth.

    We always wrote careful, complete contracts that delineated the scope of work; stated the process for Project Change requests, budgets and approvals before work on changes began; detailed the production schedules; stipulated costs, payment terms and payment schedule—always tied to specific milestones on the production calendar; and penalties if either side failed to deliver required materials according to schedule. If the client balked at full payment at or before delivery, we made sure that all actual costs of production were covered by the time of delivery, leaving only a percentage of profit for after delivery.

    One of our clients kept asking for changes, and was “surprised” that the changes weren’t included in some kind of mystical “blanket” dollar number. We were able to keep saying, “That’s not in the contract. We’ll write up a Project Change Notice for that.” They were so impressed with our contract and change process that they had us deliver a “contract seminar” for their execs, so that they’d stop screwing themselves on their own contracts.

  20. 50

    Bruno de Florence

    April 9, 2010 9:32 am

    I am based in the UK and had an issue in 2004 with a private client who stubbornely refused to pay my £300 fee, although the web design work had been done to satisfaction. His reasonning was that although he had agreed that I should be paid, an exact figure had not been agreed in advance. I took him to the Small Claims Court (a branch of the UK judiciary which handles litigation between private defendants), and the judge ruled in my favor on the principle of buyer’s beware, as my general demeanour was of a professional standard. Of interest if the fact that under UK law, a verbal agreement has the same strength as a written one. To me, it was the principle which was important, not to mess me about because I am freelance. So hopefully, others in the UK may be able to rely on my case’s ruling.

  21. 51

    Advocating the use of CSS Kill Switch, Maintenance Mode or Social Media Attention is simply absurd, no matter how far the freelancer has been screwed.

    You’re on dubious legal grounds as well as undertaking highly unprofessional behaviour. While it’s true that an unethical client may have got the freelancer into this position in the first place, it is not a professional course of action to publicly name and shame or deface a client website. The freelancer ends up looking just as bad — or even worse — than the client.

    You should always take the legal route to resolve these issues. Resorting to cheap and dubious tricks make you no better than the crappy client who screwed you over in the first place.

    • 52

      When you don’t pay your electric bill, is the standard first action an electric company does is hire an attorney, or cut off your electricity? When you don’t pay for Netflix, do they cancel your service, or continue sending you movies while suing you? When you haven’t paid an auto loan do they repossess your car or send an officer to serve you? I can think of no business that delivers a service, who will continue to provide that service while you don’t pay and merely sue you while providing the service.

      Come on, cutting someone from your service for nonpayment is wholly legal and the right thing to do. As the designer you own the copyrights to all the intellectual property you create, they should merely license it.

      Suing someone immediately and taking legal action is the wrong thing to do and is more sleezy than professional. Do you know how much it even costs to file a lawsuit? You do understand the difficulty of even having the person “served” right? It’s going to cost you money up front and perhaps yield you nothing. Taking any legal action whatsoever makes that legal action public record for all to see. Cutting off the client’s service doesn’t leave a marked history on their life.

      If people don’t pay, I cut them off and then I get my payment. No attorney needed to get involved. That’s just smart business there. I save myself my own time and money.

      • 53

        You’re assuming that by “cutting off their service” they are going to pay to get the service back. By and large, clients who refuse to pay will *never* pay, and probably never had any intention of paying anyway. Maybe you’ve been lucky.

        Your only recourse in that situation is to pursue a legal channel. And that doesn’t have to be an expensive lawsuit either, here in the UK it’s relatively cheap to go to the small claims court, which is primarily what I was thinking about. Often the perp doesn’t turn up and you win the case by default.

        • 54

          win by default??
          win what?

          If by “win” you mean, have a judgement declared – then the collection joy begins.
          what if they decide to play hard ball and start to issue subpoenas for all kinds of ‘records’ and countless court filings which you HAVE to respond to?

          “Having a contract” is only 1/2 the battle and poorly done, you are worse off than even without one.
          Example: You have a contract that specifies payment in phases, 1, 2, 3, 4. Great!
          Phase II is a deliverable which you completed and represents 5,000 of work, but the contract does not specify how long the company will have before they have to approve or pay – or even how many revisions are allowed!
          Legal fees. If your contract does not specify WHO PAYS legal fees, then you are sunk.

          For me, experience has proven that the defense is multi-layered.

          1. Pre emptive bullshit detection and avoidance.
          2. Send them a copy of the GPL warranty disclaimer notice.
          This means, do not send emails back and forth other than your initial email(s)
          Instead, install a free forum, create a board and set it up where they can only see their posts within their area. All the comments and back/forth are now on YOUR site.

          It also means that its a little bit more work for them to forward the helpful conversations you have to another person.
          Another plus is when they upload attachments (via the forum) they are already ready for use on your server-or on a server you control. Its easy to do an ftp->ftp across servers, even from an Iphone on the road!

          4. Learn how to build Soap Services, far from the ‘css kill switch’ the ENTIRE APPLICATION resides as a soap service(s) on my server!

          download it and put it on another server w/o paying? HAH!
          both the stolen clone AND the original stop working!

          • 55

            >download it and put it on another server w/o paying? HAH!
            >both the stolen clone AND the original stop working!
            Your server goes down for two hours? HAH! ALL your clients’ sites stop working for two hours.
            Data loss on your server? Forgot about the expiration of your domain registration? HAH! Your clients are going to be happy, man!
            Think about who can sue who here… They didn’t do anything wrong, you just fucked up at some point and you’re going to have to pay quite a huge amount in damages.

            I’d rather go with the “develop on your server and transfer only after final payment”, just adding that all assets are to be obfuscated, prints downsampled etc until finalized.

            But I’d just say that in the end, you usually are able to spot quite soon if the client is going to be problematic or not, and adjust your behavior and retaliation strategy accordingly. _Usually_, I said ;)

  22. 56

    I have never had a client flat out refuse to pay, but I also don’t release any print artwork without full payment and for web don’t release any logins for content management (all my clients are on a cms of some sort). My bigger problem is that clients who know end of project means a bill will be due will sometimes procrastinate on final approval or final content because they are short on funds. My solution has been a simple term that for each phase of the project feedback is expected in a timely manner (14days) and if no feedback is received the balance will become due. It works. Even though I’m still getting my contracts written up I send a written “welcome letter” that briefly outlines what to expect in terms of my responsibilities and process, milestones, payments, and client’s responsibilities.

    My other note is that I used to only accept checks or bank transfer but I realized (duh) that some people may not have the cash on hand. Offering credit card payments has brought my slow pays down to nil. I’m happily getting paid on time :)

  23. 57

    I only do freelancing occasionally to earn a little extra income, so I’ve never really bothered with contracts or written agreements. I had a client a few months ago who sent me work on an as needed basis. All the work was done on existing sites hosted on their servers, so I didn’t have much control over access. I should have known it would end badly when I learned how incompetent he was about web development, but still insisted on being involved in every aspect of the process, which made everything take twice as long to get done. He would also try to do things himself at the same time I was working on the site. That really screwed things up. I spent more time fixing his mistakes than I did doing real development. Despite all the frustration this caused, he was always friendly, and seemed very satisfied with the work. Then after about a month, he suddenly stopped calling me. I got in touch with him and he suddenly had a huge list of grievances, all of which were due to his messing with the process, or in some cases were completely fabricated. Needless to say, he refused to pay me and disabled my login before I had a chance to take action. Luckily I was only owed $290.00, but when you have a wife and two kids to feed, that money can go a long way. I’m not really all that worried about my reputation as a freelancer, because I deal with local clients who really aren’t connected in the design community, so I might start a little smear campaign. Signing him up for tons of spam and stuff sounds like a great idea too. I’m gonna make sure I keep this article in my arsenal of dirty tricks. It’s revenge gold!

  24. 58

    Working with a contract is mandatory.

    Also, I think it’s good to ask for a down payment before work begins.

    Your tips on how to lock a website are well appreciated :)

    • 59

      For a start is better if you have the access to their server or better if you are providing the hosting service, then change the password…

      • 60

        That´s the way I like more. Even in the few cases the client has its own hosting, I use my reseller hosting until the project is fully finished (and paid). Only then I move the site to their final place.

    • 61

      I’ve never used a contract in 7 years of freelancing.

    • 65

      simon delos reyes

      July 5, 2010 6:01 am

      how about selling the designs you made for them, are you gonna be legally sued for that? I’ve been working for this company for 3 years, they have just made a payment of $750 for all the designs I made and always promise me that they will pay. Every month I send email and every month I fail, I did this for 1 year already. Now I have a client who is interested with the design and I am holding it.

      Anyone can help me with this

    • 66

      yea…must ask for at least 50% money b4 starting a project

  25. 67

    JoeJaber is dead on. The entire time I was reading through the comments I was thinking that. Of course you turn it off… if you can!

    Taking the legal route is simply not a viable option in many cases. Even for a few thousand dollars. The lawyer is going to cost you that much alone. Yeah if you win you might recoup those costs but at what risk.

    I had a client that told me my check was in the mail for 4 months. Finally I yanked it. They called me all confused and politely informed them that it would not be back up until I received payment. They needed it up immediately, so I offered to let them hand deliver a check to me (being nice at that point because they could always cancel it). They did so and I put it back up in minutes.

    The key is to be professional about it. I put up a message saying the site was temporarily down. I did not try to embarass them or damage their reputation even though I really wanted to.

  26. 68

    I’m with Birgit, I either get a 50% deposit before I start and the other 50% before the site goes live or, if it’s a larger project set 4 x 25% payments in line with key project milestones and don’t progress the stages until the payment has been made. It’s been a 99% successful strategy but there’s always one client that manages to foil you. I’ll employ one of your great tactics to deal with them in the future!

    • 69

      Deborah Jordan

      April 9, 2010 1:47 pm

      We work the same way. We bill the project according to phases in advance and do not continue until payment for next phase is paid. If potential clients balk at this, then best not take them on because they could be trouble, anyway.

      We never develop sites on the client’s server. We develop on ours and transfer files when last phase is paid.

      We don’t use a contract, but instead us an agreement. An agreement isn’t as strong as a contract which can be used against you, but can be used if necessary in court. This, at least, educates your client so they know everything up front. Education is key.

      • 70

        I too use the deposit to start, final to end method. I have also found that those unwilling to pay a deposit are terrible clients, and you’re best just to skip them and move on.

      • 71

        Isabella Schlögl

        April 11, 2010 11:50 pm

        I follow the same process as Deborah’s – develop on my server, then transfer files over when the final payment is made. This seems to work best for me and almost guarantees final payment.

    • 72

      I do pretty much like you, though I don’t use the term deposit on the contract, but retainer, as a deposit is refundable and a retainer is not. This would cover the first expenses if the client decide to drop the project. Also I build the website on one of my own server and transfer the final product to the customer once the final payment is done. I never had to do it so far. I apply the same rule “no delivery before full payment” for print design, this is of course stated in the contract.

  27. 73

    Register their domain for them upfront and transfer ownership (or give them the password after they’ve paid). As a last resort (if you’re definitely not getting paid) you can easily deploy their site but with copy detailing their approach to agreements and directing prospective customers to their comptetitors.

    • 74

      I have a rule that I only work on sites that I host on my own server. That way I have complete control. If they do not pay, I can cut them off. I know this does not work in every situation, but if you can work yourself into this situation, it is definitely the way to go.

      I actually have a client that I cut off and will not transfer their domains until they pay the bill.

  28. 78

    I had a guy ask me on a forum to help him with a menu (I think he was doing it for some company) and he said he would paypal me $50 if I helped. I’ve done this thing before many times without problems so I didn’t take any precautions, I just did and sent the files to him. Now it’s been a month and I haven’t seen any money, nor received any replies. What can I do? The only thing I’ve got is his name and his gmail address. Please help if you can!

    • 79

      Jim Cummings

      April 12, 2010 7:39 am

      Hi Eddy,

      I do know the feeling, like you have been badly deceived but believe me the best plan here is take the moral high ground. For $50.00 you are better to write it up as a design life lesson. Also, consider the time spent after the fact and realize that although it requires an acceptance of wrongful behavior, it will save you money through additional time not being spent.

      Good luck in the future!


    • 80


      I had a situation like this where a guy wanted me to prepare an email campaign template for him and then email it to him (I think he intended to steal it). However, because that would send the code to him, I did not do that. Once I had the email prepared, I rendered it as a pdf and once he approved, he could send payment and I would release the code.

      I guess my advice would be is to prepare a demo in a one-time project deal. For a menu, you might could do a screencast of the menu demo and once they approved it, then have them send payment and you the code to them. Of course, you could run off with the payment and not give them the code, so trust is a two way street. If this is someone you will be working with on a consistent basis, you need to establish a basis of trust and do the work and they pay you on an agreed schedule. If it is a one shot deal from someone you do not know, do a demo that does not expose your work to theft. However, beware of someone promising you lots of work. First time out, always get paid before releasing the code. Trust is earned.

  29. 81

    Geoffrey Reemer

    April 9, 2010 3:59 am

    @Eddy: take your loss and learn from it. I always ask my clients for their personal information to add to my books. In Holland, it’s even required by law to do be able to properly identify your clients if there are any tax-questions or other legal matters.

    • 82

      Yeah, I should have done that and I will do it from now on. But I still want to something about that client. Maybe I should post his gmail address all over the place? I might sound crazy, but if I don’t get my money, at least I want revenge.

      • 83

        The man’s a liar and a cheater. You can’t use the information you have to force him to pay, so yeah… Go to 1,000 different porn sites and sign him up for all their newsletters. Go to a Starcraft forum and say you have a beta key that you’re not gonna use. The first person to email you (at his gmail address) and correctly guesses your birthday gets the key! Things like these will give you your $50 worth of fun and probably cause him to have to get a new email account. I call that winning.

        • 84

          I’ll try to do everything I can to get the money and if it doesn’t work, I’ll probably have to resort to that.

      • 85

        Shaun Forsyth

        April 9, 2010 9:21 am

        Why not contact paypal and raise a dispute? this will freeze his paypal account. Or contact gmail and report email abuse, it might only get his free email account removed, but it might be important to him.

        • 86

          I just noticed that you can request a payment through paypal from an email address so I did that and I’m hoping it might be enough. If not, I’ll contact paypal.

          • 87

            hi eddy

            if you can recall the name of the client he asked you to provide the solution for why not email him and cc the client in too asking for the money owed. if you have the original email then include this in the message. state clearly what the request was and what the deal for doing so entailed… be polite about it though because if you do not get a reply from your original point of contact you have at least made contact with the company that needed the work in the first place and they in turn have made contact with someone competent in that field.

            good luck

      • 88

        Despite how annoyed you may be about your client, it’s a pretty foolish thing to make some of the comments you’re making. Especially up on the web.

        Now that you’ve publicly stated you’d like to get revenge, and discussed employing some tactics that have questionable legality, you’ve left yourself wide open for legal action.

        And if you ultimately do need to go to court, your comments and threats will likely not be taken as a point in your favor. The law takes a pretty dim view of people who employ dirty tricks to get what they feel is justice. Even just making comments to that effect might damage the credibility of your entire claim in the eyes of a judge.

        First rule if you’re out for some payback: Don’t talk about it before, during, or after. Do what you will – but always keep your mouth shut. Forever.

        Second rule: think about “getting some back” all you want. Then forget about it, grab a drink, and call your attorney. ;-)

        • 89

          The world would benefit greatly from your silence.

          Do your part and shut the fuck up.

      • 90

        As SM mention above you may loos a potential clients if they see you do like that. I think the best thing is to forget about that and don’t wast your time.

  30. 91

    Another idea is to do your site development on one of your own servers (if possible). Once development is done, have them approve the final product, but don’t move it to their own system until you have received final payment.

  31. 92

    Jhong Medina

    April 9, 2010 4:38 am

    Great post! This is a very helpful tips for us online entrepreneur specially for web developer like me. I’ll take note this and might be able to use this to one of my hardheaded client.

    Thanks again.

  32. 93

    While I sign contracts with my clients, if I have one that I trust, I’ve done work before with him and I get the 50% deposit, I don’t find it neccessary.

  33. 94

    Michel Billard

    April 9, 2010 4:53 am

    An alternative to the kill switch which is way too drastic could be to add a small information message in all the pages that mentions that the message will disappear once the final payment has been received. In the message, you could link back to yourself mentioning that the site is your work, it should be a one or two liner at most. It could be placed just above the main content area.

    • 95

      The point of the kill switch is that it is on another site somewhere giving you access at all times. If you placed code on the site they’d just get another designer to take it off…

  34. 96

    Thanks for the plug on my CSS Killswitch applet, Robert. Appreciate your balanced pro/con approach; great article!

  35. 97

    Hey Robert – thanks for mentioning our article from Freelance Review at the bottom of the post! This is very in-depth and well written – I know it took a lot of effort. Nice!

  36. 98

    Excellent, I’m in this situation right now, if I had made a contract it would have had a different ending. I’m in the process to blackout the website, but my ethical principles are stronger. What should I do?

    CSS Kill Switch looks great :)

  37. 99

    Great article. I had situation like this last year. Luckily, I had a great bookkeeper that knew the rules of small claims court. Once the nonpaying client received that notice, they were ready to pay. It’s also helpful to consult an attorney. I learned lots of options that I didn’t know I had.

  38. 101

    I use a very simple approach when it comes to these kinds of issues. First, as the article points out, use a contract. With that signed contract I collect a deposit on the project, 50% if I’m charging a set amount. When I’m done with a project I show the completed work, but do not turn the work over to the client until final payment has been received. This may be a bit heavy-handed for some, but it works. It also requires specific contract and project documentation.

    • 102

      Danny Namnum

      April 9, 2010 7:29 am

      That is an excellent approche and i works.

      I think we sometimes aim to please the client to much and forget that this is a business and we need to make money.

  39. 103

    The first time this happened to me and the client continued to use the site I built (and still is using it today) I vowed to never let another person get away with that.

    When I suspect a client is this type I put in a script that is triggered by hitting a certain url several times with a series of specific get queries that, when done in the right order, makes a backup of the site’s app directory and database, uploads them to my VPS, then wipes out the root directory of the site with an `rm -rf root_path` and empties the database.

  40. 104

    the worst i have had to deal with is a client who refused to pay £1000 – i had to sell the debt to a loanshark, he paid me my outstanding bill on the spot. the loanshark got his payment eventually with a v healthy late payment charge.
    it is the worst thing i have had to do – but i would do it again in a flash, i am a one man show with a mortgage and bills, i cannot afford to lose out on the smallest of bills.


  41. 105

    Alpesh Darji

    April 9, 2010 6:44 am

    This is really good article for those who have bad experience with some clients like I experienced. {I lost 3,500 $ in 2 months, 4 projects from same client}

    Contracts are best options, keep your contracts small and easy to understand.

    Keep posting. Thanks

  42. 106

    Your contract idea is the way to go. When I was owed $12K by a deadbeat client and was griping about it over family dinner, my 6-year old wisely piped up, saying “I have an idea! Mama, tell them ‘I will do the work! First you pay me the money and then I will do the work.'” Out of the mouths of babes, I tell you.

  43. 107

    Threatening to vandalize a client’s site is the perfect way to make yourself look completely unprofessional, especially if you follow through with the threats! CSS killswitches and maintenance mode should never be employed unless you’re left with absolutely no other choice. There’s a legal system in place by which you can take a client to court (UK small claims court for example), but if you start yanking client’s sites in retaliation it could very well be you who finds yourself on the wrong side of a court case.

    • 108

      Here, here. Those suggestions in the article are frankly absurd and no reputable publication should be advocating their use.

    • 109

      Do you start to pay a lawyer 1000$ to recover 500$ finalising payment ? The client knows it.

    • 110

      thats why i never deliver the job, without he money. for print works, i send 72 jpg in 80% of size. for web i use my own server. latley i ad the options to pay by cart ( visa ……)

  44. 111

    Great piece. Sometimes its always too much work for some clients to sign on project terms, so they simply tell me to go ahead with the project. At the end of the day, they still mess things up.

  45. 112

    “Yes, some clients are going to not want to pay up front. That’s your first sign that you shouldn’t work with someone”

    This is 100% true ALWAYS.

  46. 113

    Yaritsa Arenas

    April 9, 2010 7:56 am

    I agree with Birgit. A project agreement should be mandatory. If a client is unwilling to sign one, I generally consider it the first sign of trouble ahead.

    This is an awesome article and thank you for all the tips!

  47. 114

    Great tips. Currently trying to get $500 out of a client who is refusing to pay.

  48. 115

    great article, 2 bad i didn’t know this earlier, and CSS Kill Switch is awesome!

  49. 116

    Great article.

    Chances are any client unwilling to sign a contract will also be unwilling to meet payment terms or schedules, and a contract is 100% better to go by than an email history

    I’ve never had a problem with a client who I’ve made sign a contract, and send a 50% deposit before I start any work. This way they’ve already invested into the project, so it’s a lot harder for them to walk away from.

  50. 117

    Paul Madison

    April 9, 2010 10:16 am

    If you go in without a contract, expect not to be paid. If you don’t create milestones, expect not to be paid. If you deliver prior to receiving full payment, expect not to be paid.

    If you mess around with a live site, expect to be sued… and not paid. If you talk badly about a client in social media, expect to be sued for slander, not paid, and have those words used against you in the future with other prospective clients.

    If you need to sue someone, don’t threaten to do it… just do it. It takes just as much effort as a threat and will require their immediate attention. If you think it will cost you more to deal with a suit than what you’ll get back, write it off, send it for collection or otherwise move on.

    Think like a business person, not like an artist if you want to get paid.

  51. 118

    I go the whole hog – contract; own servers only; transfer their domain to your control; 50% up front (and make sure the 50% covers ALL your costs ie: You could do the job for that price and live) and lastly give them a breakdown of milestones by time taken not dates so when they sit on the copy approval for a month you are still within your contractual time-line.

    To make up for this control make the contract open for the client to get his/her stuff back for free so you’ll give them a CD of their site for free (and suggest good hosts) or transfer their domain away from yourself for free at any time so long as they’ve paid their bills. At the end of the day most clients are pretty good to work with and you don’t want to stiff them with hidden costs so make sure all the control you take comes with a justified and demonstrate-able benefit for the good clients.

    This works for me and no problems so far.

    • 119

      Again, that’s a very limiting business approach. As an admittedly extreme yet still valid example, do you think that if you won a contract to do some design work for Microsoft, they would transfer to you? Of course not. Are they guaranteed to pay you? Of course not.

      This approach only works with tiny businesses who don’t understand the value of the domain that they should, by rights, own regardless of what dev/design work you do or don’t do.

      If you’re happy to continue to work with those small clients then that’s fine but if you want to grow your business, you need a better process to deal with bad debts and bad clients.

      Especially when you consider that as this industry matures, even tiny businesses will become aware of the importance of their domain and this approach will no longer be viable.

      • 120

        Roshan Shah

        April 9, 2010 6:42 pm

        I always have contracts(14 page) and one clause say that Client transfers full writes to domain names if they do not pay up any undisputed invoice in 90 days time after sending the invoice.

        The worse case would be client like eurobookings. They are in business of ripping off dev shops. Didn’t pay $52,000 to a thailand based shop and then $104,000 to my firm despite having contracts. They operate out of Netherlands so hard to fight a suit. I have contracts, audio recordings, email records – everything

        The only thing you can do in such cases is blast them in social media. Maybe take something like and put up the matter there.

  52. 121

    Amen to that…

  53. 122

    Really great article. clearly defined all the facts.

  54. 123

    Burn those bastards!!!

    I thing you really need a contract, and a 50% of advance payment or 40% and at the end definitely a KILL SWITCH… in print… for sure a 60% advance payment, and give only a master cd/dvd usb or what ever and let the client to print their own stuff else you will have to pay for that!

  55. 124

    Now we just need an article that covers best practices for customers to ensure that freelancers keep to their promises to do the work correctly and on time. Everyone wants 50% up front but try asking someone to pay that when their last 2 freelancers either vanished or failed to complete the project. Trust me when I say that if you want to be protected against charge backs just use paypal and if the customer disputes the payments just tell paypal its a virtual product and you’ll win every time.

  56. 125

    After personal experience of this happening I’m a killswitch method fan.

    Another killswitch solution,

  57. 126


    April 9, 2010 1:57 pm

    If they’re local, I go by their house. One guy got me so angry, I stomped him out. I got paid the next day. Lawyer stuff is crap, takes too long, risk involved. A dog must be disciplined and a bad client is not better than a wild dog. The css switch and to include java is great. The things you could add, just wonderful. But seriously, if you can, out your hands on someone like that, they’ll realize very quickly that they can’t mess around anymore.

  58. 127

    You can just implement your own kill switch. Just have the external stylesheet (CSS) linked to your own web server and never give them the CSS file until full payment is made. So if the client doesn’t pay, all you have to do is just re-name or delete the CSS file from your server and they don’t have a website anymore.

    I do this with flash sites as well. I link the flash (SWF) file onto my own server until full payment is made. If they don’t pay, all I have to do is delete the SWF or couple SWF files and their website is broken.

    I still have yet to sue my previous client for non-payment. The statute of limitation is 2 years on a oral agreement so I still have a year left to do so… *sigh*

    • 128

      If you’re going to have a kill switch why not do it properly?Add a secured javascript file to the client site that posts back to the site, notifying the backend to set the site to ‘maintenance mode’ or something similar. It then becomes almost impossible for the vast majority of clients to undo, especially if you’ve encoded the source.

      Once final payment is made, deliver the final site without that JS file so that you aren’t leaving any backdoors you or anyone else could abuse and everything is good.

      I would have a chat with a solicitor before doing this, but it does seem to me that until payment is made the site and code technically still belong to the developer as there has been no transaction? If redoing an existing site set maintenance mode to revert back to the old site until further notice. Again, job done. And if it’s a new site, they can’t claim any major loss of sales as there was no existing sales stream to base that on.

  59. 129

    you guys always bring the best content! I’m totally using the contract advice on my next project!

  60. 130

    If you are contracted to create and publish a site, and you activate a kill switch, then you may be violating your end of the agreement (depending on how the terms are defined). This alone might result in non-payment.

    Make sure to phrase your agreements carefully, and have them all in writing. And don’t go responding to a contract violation with yet another contract violation.

  61. 131

    Greg Babula

    April 9, 2010 5:25 pm

    The sad reality, even with a contract it can take months and months to get the money you rightfully deserve…

  62. 132

    Roshan Shah

    April 9, 2010 6:46 pm

    File a report against them on

  63. 133

    I almost always go the downpayment-instead-of-contract route, and sure enough the one time I made an exception on the downpayment I got stung.

    So based on these comments here’s what I need:
    1. An article showing me how to put together a simple, yet legally binding contract for future projects. Legal stuff just overwhelms me and I don’t really know where to start. (Actually, would would be nicest is to see what people are actually using.) I’ll have to search SM to see if one of these is already up.
    2. A recommendation or two of a reputable invoice agency/debt collection agency in the States for my current delinquent account. While I was working on the project the client BOMBARDED me with emails and phone calls; now I can’t even get a one-line reply from them, let alone payment.

  64. 134

    I use 50% deposit and a contract requesting the next 25% after 2 weeks and the last 25% 4 weeks after project begin. This ensures that the client gets content etc to us in time…

  65. 135

    All points above are fantastic.
    Also, set the parameters of the relationship first.
    “Welcome to our business, this is how we operate… 1. 2. 3.”

    If a client doesn’t want to do this, or go through a contract (even a light version) then they’re NOT serious about the job and you can simply bypass them and move onto the next.

  66. 136

    Paul C. Shirley

    April 10, 2010 10:35 pm

    I had this problem a few times when freelancing, and it is one of the reasons I gave up and got a full-time job.
    Contracts are all well and good, but the legal system here in Cyprus makes them almost worthless – court cases can be costly and take ages, so it’s not worth it for smaller amounts.
    I did switch from 10% deposit to 50% deposit, which was an improvement, but I still had no recourse when a client refused to (or couldn’t afford to) pay.
    One time I had to make some major changes to an existing site and the client wouldn’t pay or return calls or emails, so I undid all of the changes and wouldn’t answer the phone for a day. They paid quickly to get their changes back.
    Another time I had pre-change copies of php files on a site and added some code that checked the date – if the date was passed the payment due date then it overwrote the new files with the old ones, thus taking back what wasn’t paid for.

  67. 137

    This has happened. To provide the hosting to the client is a safe guarantee. If you have to cut you do it. You will probably lose the client, but it wasn’t not the first time that thios client was unfair and disrespectful to your work. You take this as a “I’m firing this client”.

    But you get paid.

    Considering all the comments : The best looks like developing on a development server or domain and transfer the work to the right domain once payment is received.

    Thus the dispute won’t start. If you cumulate both, then your are safe. Consider to cut only for the worst ass holes.

  68. 138

    Possible problem you may be able to help me with.

    I had a maintenance contract for £250 a month to cover 12 hours of maintenance and seo work each month for minimum term of a year.

    The client has now decided to move hosts and wanted the domain name and website transferred to the new company.

    So on 30/3 i intiated the domain transfer but my host wouldnt let the transfer go ahead when it has a hosting package attached to it. I made a backup of the site and all the sql databases and sent them to the clients new host and told them i would now transfer the domain.

    The new host didn’t put the site up until 30ish hours later and i have received an email from the client saying they plan on going to court to cover for loss of earnings for the 2 days the website was unavailable.

    I don’t expect them to go through with this and believe its an idle threat to get them out of paying the last 2 months maintenance and hosting equal to £530 which they owe me from last month and one months payment from November 09.

    Ive emailed the client and told them once the transfer of the domains was initiated the website was out of my hands and there was nothing i could do but they don’t seem to understand this and i told them its the new hosts responsibility for getting the website back up and running once the domain had left my account.

    What would you do in this situation as its really starting to get me down. I have around 25 clients and this is the first one i’ve ever had a problem but i don’t really want to go down the legal route but i also don’t want to lose the money that i’m owed as £530 is not pocket change to most freelancers.


    • 139

      It’s standard for domain transfers/DNS changes to take at least 24 hours for propogation, isn’t it? So if they were expecting the site to be up by a certain day (which surely they must have specified), why wait and cut it so close? The placement of blame is fully dependent on what the communication was.

  69. 140

    I’ve had two non-payers in the last four years (out of nearly two hundred or more jobs). I just deleted the code (that I had completely written from scratch ie it was all my work) and sent them to small claims. If they complain then I tell them that I own the code until it is paid for. The first time it happened I got paid cash the next day. The second time (recently) I went to court and got a judgment against them. I just handed the case to a small claims company and they did all the paperwork etc. I’m still waiting for the outcome but at least the client didn’t get to use the code.

    I wouldn’t delete the code in all cases. A large to medium sized company or agency may try to sue me if I tried that with them, and I think going straight to legal action would be more effective.

  70. 141

    Chris Lorensson

    April 12, 2010 4:01 am

    Seems like many of us, including myself, have run into this issue. I have experienced it only twice in 7 years.

    My most recent one was not over online work, but print design work.

    Part of the reason I went freelance in the first place was to help foster a new, more ethical way of working, almost entirely based on good business relationships. While I’d say I’ve had a 98% success rate with my methods, there are leaks. I do not require a signed contract, but stipulate agreement-by-payment. Less paperwork.

    I agree – ALWAYS bill something up-front, even if it’s token. I won’t work with anyone who won’t pay up-front any more. Also, good policies are invaluable. For instance:

    1. withhold delivery of FINALs until final payment is received,
    2. do NOT send working versions during iterations (for example, if doing a brochure, send 72ppi instead of 300ppi comps)
    3. COMMUNICATE & EDUCATE – leave nothing to be discovered, especially by your client!
    4. Personally, I keep terms very short, clear & easy to understand, stipulating that by paying you are AGREEING to my terms. I set deadlines & milestones and do everything I can to stay with them.

    I believe in fighting fire with fire, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with flaming someone publicly who has flamed you. Personally, I don’t do this, but I would definitely warn anyone from working with problem clients. I know the pain of these types of situations, my heart and condolences go out to all of you!

    • 142

      I totally agree with these points.

      The only part of this article (and response) that worries me isn’t so much for you or I, but people that lack the “social skills”.

      Be VERY careful what you say about people in public forums, as I have seen angry, poorly written Facebook blasts end up in a lawsuit. Libel/slander is serious business.

  71. 143

    I guess I am using the “Withhold Launch” method. You can simply start developing the project on your own web server and send the link to the customer for feedback. Once the project is finished and the customer pays, the site goes live.

    “Some clients will not be entirely comfortable with the idea of paying for something that is not in their possession”

    Well, when you go to the store nobody gives you anything before you pay otherwise why pay at all?

  72. 144

    Great tips! Thanks!

  73. 145

    Isabella Schlögl

    April 12, 2010 12:25 am

    When I was first starting out, I dealt with a client who I later found out was being sued by her former designer for refusing to pay for a completed redesign (about €3.000 worth of work). Bells, whistles and flashing red lights ensued, multiple changes and scope creep hovered over my head, and I finished my first solo project grumpier but wiser.

    The same client has contacted me a few times since asking for things like a full custom CMS install with an integrated e-commerce system and community forum – and she doesn’t want to pay more than €500 for the whole thing. I think this falls under the “you will encounter a client who does not respect the work you do” rubric…

    Over the last couple of years I have learned a few very important things:

    1.) Client pre-screening is a very important tool for keeping the bad clients away. When a potential client contacts me for design work, I send along a short questionnaire that functions like a brief. This gives me a bit of insight into their motivations – and whether or not they’re really serious about paying for a professional design. If they complain about answering a few questions and insist on getting a price quote up front, I’m more likely to turn them away.

    2.) Educating clients is key to preventing misunderstandings from the outset. I use the client screening as an opportunity to educate them a bit, and I try to focus on helping them identify and articulate their needs more clearly. If a client can barely figure out how to send an email or open a PDF attachment, tossing them a CMS system is sheer madness. Bottom line: When customers feel that they’re well-informed, they’re more likely to be cooperative and less likely to hesitate with payments.

    3.) Written agreements are an absolute must in my book – even if it’s just a simple email to clarify and confirm. This goes a long way to preventing feature and scope creep, and it’s a good opportunity to be very clear up front on not only what kind of work I will do, but also what kind of work is specifically not covered in the agreement. When problems or issues arise here, we can work them out up front before the work begins.

  74. 146

    I have an agency who decided to neither pay or communicate their lack of payment for over three months. Despite numerous emails and phone calls they never got back with me. Upon finally talking to an assistant at the agency I let her know that the lack of communication was very unprofessional. That’s when I received an email from the head of the agency that he was tearing up the invoice because he didn’t like being called unprofessional. Well I told him it didn’t take e rocket scientist to call it it what it was and then filed a small claim that cost me 35 dollars. Best decision I ever made. I think he assumed that since I was a freelancer he could just disregard me. It was a nice blow to his ego to have to show up in court and within 3 minutes be told that he would have to pay not just the amount but the court costs as well.

    I’m now typing this message on the iPad that I bought with the money I was unsure that i would ever see. A nice little daily reminder of my victory over that SOB. I thought about sending over the empty box and thanking them, but who really wants to burn bridges :)

  75. 147

    I definately get a deposit upfront – If the client is quiering a reasonable deposit payment (mine is 50% for standard projects) then it’s probably not worth taking on that project or client. I have found that most clients expect to pay a diposit so it’s never a shock when I send them over the proposal.

  76. 148

    Another great article guys with some good ideas to retain financial control over projects.

    We credit check all clients using Experian and then ensure payment is made via 30/30/40 – 30% before project starts, 30% after documentation and designs are signed off and 40% once the site is launched. FTP ownership remains in our control, so if the payment is not received, we can remove the site until payment is received.

  77. 149

    Adlan Khalidi

    April 12, 2010 9:13 pm

    This happen to me few times. Thanks for sharing. Now I know what I should do for my future projects

  78. 150

    I can so relate to this article! I’ve had clients who just simply refuse to pay and have locked me out. So now I do require a 50% upfront payment before I start any developing work. I just show them hand drawn sketches and pitch some ideas to them. This way seem to be working better for me. Thanks for sharing this article, it’s been rather insightful^^


  79. 151

    Killer Contract

    April 13, 2010 9:30 am


    Killer contract

    Date: 26/03/2008

    Between us [company name]
    and you [customer name]


    We will always do our best to fulfill your needs and meet your goals, but sometimes it is best to have a few simple things written down so that we both know what is what, who should do what and what happens if stuff goes wrong. In this contract you won’t find complicated legal terms or large passages of unreadable text. We have no desire to trick you into signing something that you might later regret. We do want what’s best for the safety of both parties, now and in the future.

    In short

    You ([customer name]) are hiring us ([company name]) located at [address] to [design and develop a web site] for the estimated total price of [total] as outlined in our previous correspondence. Of course it’s a little more complicated, but we’ll get to that.

    What do both parties agree to do?

    As our customer, you have the power and ability to enter into this contract on behalf of your company or organization. You agree to provide us with everything that we need to complete the project including text, images and other information as and when we need it, and in the format that we ask for. You agree to review our work, provide feedback and sign-off approval in a timely manner too. Deadlines work two ways and you will also be bound by any dates that we set together. You also agree to stick to the payment schedule set out at the end of this contract.

    We have the experience and ability to perform the services you need from us and we will carry them out in a professional and timely manner. Along the way we will endeavor to meet all the deadlines set but we can’t be responsible for a missed launch date or a deadline if you have been late in supplying materials or have not approved or signed off our work on-time at any stage. On top of this we will also maintain the confidentiality of any information that you give us.

    Getting down to the nitty gritty


    We will create designs for the look-and-feel, layout and functionality of your web site. This contract includes one main design plus the opportunity for you to make up to two rounds of revisions. If you’re not happy with the designs at this stage, you will pay us in full for all of the work that we have produced until that point and
    you may either cancel this contract or continue to commission us to make further design revisions at the daily rate set out in our original estimate.

    XHTML/CSS layout templates

    If the project includes XHTML or HTML markup and CSS templates, we will develop these using valid XHTML 1.0 Strict markup and CSS2.1 + 3 for styling. We will test all our markup and CSS in current versions of all major browsers including those made by Apple, Microsoft, Mozilla and Opera. We will also test to ensure that pages will display visually in a Ê»similar’, albeit not necessarily an identical way, in Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 for Windows as this browser is now past it’s sell-by date.

    We will not test these templates in old or abandoned browsers, for example Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 or 5.5 for Windows or Mac, previous versions of Apple’s Safari, Mozilla Firefox or Opera unless otherwise specified. If you need to show the same or similar visual design to visitors using these older browsers, we will charge you at the daily rate set out in our original estimate for any necessary additional code and its testing.

    Text content

    We may have written a best-seller but we’re not responsible for writing or inputting any text copy unless we specified it in the original estimate. We’ll be happy to help though, and in addition to the estimate we will charge you at [price] per hour for copy writing or content input.


    You will supply us photographs either in digital or printed format. If you choose to buy stock photographs we can suggest vendors of stock photography. Any time we spend searching for appropriate photographs will be charged at [price] per hour.

    Changes and revisions

    We know from plenty of experience that fixed-price contracts are rarely beneficial to you, as they often limit you to your first idea about how something should look, or how it might work. We don’t want to limit either your options or your opportunities to change your mind.

    The estimate/quotation prices at the beginning of this document are based on the number of days that we estimate we’ll need to accomplish everything that you have told us you want to achieve. If you do want to change your mind, add extra pages or templates or even add new functionality, that won’t be a problem. You will be charged the daily rate set out in the estimate we gave you. Along the way we might ask you to put requests in writing so we can keep track of changes.

    Technical support

    You may already have professional web site hosting, you might even manage that hosting in-house; if that’s the case, great. If you don’t manage your own web site hosting, we can set up an account for you at one of our preferred, third-party hosting providers. We will charge you a one-off fee for installing your site on this server, plus any statistics software such as Mint or Google Analytics; then the updates to, and management of that server, plus any support issues will be up to you.

    We are not a web site hosting company and so we do not offer or include technical support for web site hosting, email or other services relating to web site hosting. If you do require help with anything beyond the design and development of your site, we’ll be happy to help and will charge you [price] per hour.

    Legal stuff

    We can’t guarantee that the functions contained in any web page templates or in a completed web site will always be error-free and so we can’t be liable to you or any third party for damages, including lost profits, lost savings or other incidental, consequential or special damages arising out of the operation of or inability to operate this web site and any other web pages, even if you have advised us of the possibilities of such damages.

    If any provision of this agreement shall be unlawful, void, or for any reason unenforceable, then that provision shall be deemed severable from this agreement and shall not affect the validity and enforceability of any remaining provisions.



    You guarantee to us that any elements of text, graphics, photos, designs, trademarks, or other artwork that you provide us for inclusion in the web site are either owned by your good selfs, or that you have permission to use them.

    When we receive your final payment, copyright is automatically assigned as follows:

    You own the graphics and other visual elements that we create for you for this project. We will give you a copy of all files and you should store them really safely as we are not required to keep them or provide any native source files that we used in making them.

    You also own text content, photographs and other data you provided, unless someone else owns them. We own the XHTML markup, CSS and other code and we license it to you for use on only this project.

    We love to show off our work and share what we have learned with other people, so we also reserve the right to display and link to your completed project as part of our portfolio and to write about the project on web sites, in magazine articles and in books about web design.


    We are sure you understand how important it is as a small business that you pay the invoices that we send you promptly. As we’re also sure you’ll want to stay friends, you agree to stick tight to the following payment schedule.

    [Payment schedule]

    But where is all the horrible small print?

    Just like a parking ticket, you cannot transfer this contract to anyone else without our permission. This contract stays in place and need not be renewed. If for some reason one part of this contract becomes invalid or unenforceable, the remaining parts of it remain in place.

    Although the language is simple, the intentions are serious and this contract is a legal document under exclusive jurisdiction of [English] courts. Oh and don’t forget those men with big dogs.

    The dotted line

    Signed by and on behalf of [company name]
    Signed by and on behalf of [customer name]
    Date [date]

    Everyone should sign above and keep a copy for their own records.

  80. 152

    in 10 working years 2 times i lost ( a lOOOOOt of money). now i use

    1) A Contract
    2) safety ( Never deliver without to have full acess)
    3) 30% in front, the rest by cart after the job is finished ( dont forget the 2)

  81. 153

    Nice article, thanks.

  82. 154

    Once upon a time there was a naive designer (me) who thought doing business with handshake woud be the good old fashioned way for building up a trust worthy relationship with the client. I was wrrrrrrrrrrroooooooong and I lost a lot of money. I sued the client, I won and since the client is broke…no money for me but the bill from my lawyer. Since that day
    25% before beginning, 25% with the final layout and the rest at the day of production/ going online.

    i learned my lesson

  83. 155

    I had this experience recently, and it was quite upsetting.

    I had been doing SEM, SEO, social media marketing, and Web development for a client on an ongoing basis. For over a year, he had been paying me reliably. Then his business dropped off, and he started taking longer and longer to pay me. But I remained flexible and gave him extra time to pay.

    Anyway, he eventually defaulted on two invoices. After 1 1/2 months of nonpayment, he told me that the check was in the mail. Two weeks later, it hadn’t arrived, and I cancelled his contract. Well, he took that personally and accused me of overbilling him. Ultimately, he refused to pay me for over $1100 worth of work that I had done for him.

    I tried to settle the matter by providing him with much more detailed invoices, showing every single marketing task that I had undertaken. I included time- and date-stamped links to all the social media postings that I had done for him. This accounted for every minute and every hour for which I had billed him. Nevertheless, he insisted that I was a thief and wasn’t entitled to payment.

    Due to this experience, I don’t know if I want to do client work ever again. I take pride in my work, and being called a thief is extremely distressing to me.

  84. 156

    I’m in Missouri, client’s in NYC. I can’t take her to small claim court so I’m working with a few lawyers in NYC that would take my case. If win, all winning will be donated to charity. We’re developing a site with this concept.

  85. 157

    Timothy Gerts

    April 14, 2010 3:23 am

    I have a client that won’t pay at the moment. It was a last minute job I agreed to do because it was a friend-of-a-friend, so there was no time to arrange a contract.

    I made a mistake though: due to the tiny development period I didn’t have time to check the site on all browsers, and sure enough there was a problem in IE6 where pictures were overlapping the main content text. I was alerted to this about a week after the site went live and immediately rectified it.

    Due to my mistake I offered to cut the cost of the job in half, but the client threatened to sue me if I didn’t give them the site for free. They argue (not directly, via the ‘friend’) that ‘important people’ couldn’t access the site during the ‘critical’ launch period and they lost money because of it. According to my ‘friend’ they were planning to sue me for 1% of their annual turnover, I’ve no idea where that figure came from but apparently that equates to about £30,000. They owe me £1,300.

    What’s made me reluctant to pursue a legal approach is that the client in question trained as a lawyer in London, which makes me believe they know the ground we’re on better than I.

    Any thoughts from anybody on this?

    • 158

      1) you should deliver them a corect one version. (you dont have a contract, and if you go to cort its a good idea to have your part 100% legal.

      -why we should deliver for IE6 and not for … .IE2. what you deliver is working fine with the lasts OS?

      2) you deliver a working piece of software 100% correct with the w3? if yes then you are wright. its not your fault, its microsoft fault

      3) find a lwayer. ask hiw how much want to go with the case.
      no matter if you won or loose ( a small amount of moeny) your exprience will be very priceless

  86. 159

    Jesus Martinez

    April 15, 2010 11:20 pm

    Wow….this is awesome information for kids getting out of school and into the
    industry, major kudos on the article I will definitely share with classmates.

  87. 160

    Erkka Pynnönen

    April 16, 2010 6:21 am

    Back when I was a freelancer, I:
    1. made solid contracts
    2. asked for a startup deposit if a) I’d had previous trouble with the client b) had good reason to do so (ie. word-of-mouth, things which I could bring up with the client)
    3. divided the amount into smaller invoices which were sent when a milestone was reached. This worked well on larger/longer projects, quickly giving a good understanding of whether I’d be having problems with the client
    4. did my part of the project as the contract stipulated. If a milestone payment would go overdue, production would stop until the invoice was paid.
    5. left a PHP kill- / maintenance switch in the code, which could be accessed remotely.
    6. sold bills of difficult clients to a collection agency if they were way overdue.

    I’ve sold a couple of invoices to a collection agency, those went ok.

    I’ve had to use the built-in killswitch once, and the client still didn’t pay – in the end I just sold the invoices to an agency and later heard that the company in question had gone bankrupt during the project… Funny, nobody bothered to mention that to me :D

    If you decide to use a kill-/maintenance switch, I’d strongly recommend that you put it in your contract, with details about how, why and when you might use it. Be prepared to explain the reasoning well to the client, usually they’re understanding about it if you tell that you’ve had trouble with a bad client in the past.

    Btw, one good switch method would be to switch on a banner ad for your company :)

  88. 161

    first time I install css killswitch and the clients asks : why is there a request to on every page load?
    so not very stealth.

  89. 162

    Alice Dagley

    April 19, 2010 3:13 am

    The article is really awesome! Thank you for sharing your advice.

    I fully agree with you. I also prefer to work under agreement to avoid misunderstandings and disputes with my clients. As a rule managers at our company divide payments into three parts: 50% retainer for design (when it’s ready a client can receive PSD files), 30% to initiate coding stage (when coding is finished a client can test it at our server) and 20% to move the website to a client’s server. Thus we haven’t had any problems with payments yet.

    I would like to add some words about Escrow as well. It’s a very famous payment system nowadays. The idea is that a client funds money to Escrow before you start to work. After that he can’t take them away. But you also can’t receive the payment till you finish your work. When everything is ready for delivery you can request your client to release the fund. If your client is satisfied with the results, he releases the money and you can withdraw the payment. All disputes and disagreements are solved by Escrow. It’s the most convenient and reliable payment system imho.

  90. 163

    Will Ashworth

    April 19, 2010 4:00 pm

    Excellent article! I’ve actually had to implement the kill switch recently with a difficult client, but I only typically take the time to implement these things when it’s a client I’ve never worked with before.

    My spin on it was this. If you use the CSS method, that’s one idea but they can download a static copy of the website with WinHTTrack or something similar. Even Firefox lets them download a copy of the static website.

    My solution involves obfuscating the code. I’ll use SourceGuardian, Zend Encryptor or SourceCop (the cheapest of them). This lets them host the code but I can have an encrypted file (included by all files, also encrypted) which calls home to my server to see if it should display content. I can set a cookie or something that makes it not check again for a certain amount of time to avoid lag for viewers accessing the website.

    Be careful doing this as your website being taken offline will essentially take their website offline, but it’s highly effective and they really can’t get around it. Once they pay, I always deliver the final sources and re-launch their website for them at no cost.

    After all, it’s technically my intellectual property until they pay.

    • 164

      Carlo Rizzante

      May 4, 2010 1:40 am

      In fact, it’s still your intellectual property, even after they’ve payed you.

  91. 165

    I find it somewhat disheartening that so many people have had problems with non-paying clients. The *worst* POS (and I DON’T mean “point-of-sale”) clients are the ones who call themselves “good, Christian businessmen.” Avoid, like the f’ing PLAGUE anyone who feels they are, somehow, better than those around them due to religious beliefs.

    THIS particular piece of &^%$$ cost me $19,000. And that was *AFTER* the 50% deposit. I paid my programmers (prima donnas at BEST) too much money for the work performed and THEN the clients “decided” they didn’t like the work – 6 months AFTER it was done). They threatened litigation. I told them “go head and give it a whirl – I can, legally, have the courts pull your website offline until an agreement is reached” (which, in most states, is absolutely true) and your multi-thousand-dollar-a-month subscription services goes to the dogs… The choice is yours. I have NOTHING but time on my hands.

    These people NEED to know that you’ve nothing better to do than make their lives a living hell for not paying for something they’ve already monetized. Just an opinion, mind you.

  92. 166

    I freelance in the entertainment industry. Personally, I find the more famous clients I have are the ones who are slowest to pay.

  93. 167

    I love these posts but wish you’d expand to freelance video production as well. I’m an editor and I have to deal with clients like this at times. How about starting a new website for video editors?


  94. 168

    Be careful of clients who always prefer to use the phone instead of email. After phone calls you should write an email about what was discussed and the action points.

    I had a client who started defaulting on monthly payments early then when I finished tried to change all the passwords to ‘steal’ the site. I had a kill switch thankfully but I am still chasing for money. In the end I recorded 2 of his calls which he said he would pay (he said many times).

    The guy knows the system is geared to helping the defendant so when I finally took him to court after months of idle promises:
    – We had to wait over 6 months for the date
    – He didn’t turn up, and I won due to my evidence and transcripts.
    – He said he was ill so a new date was made 3 months later for a hearing
    – He moved the hearing 300 miles away to make it difficult for me
    – He got the date wrong so he emailed the court at 8am the day of the hearing (in his mind) saying his solicitor couldn’t make it so would not attend. Yet I was supposed to…
    – I asked the court for a telephone hearing and the defendant had to organise
    – He didn’t organise and then said he could get through…
    – The hearing was moved on 2 months (next month)

    The debt has been owed since September 2008, I won the case in Oct 09, the next hearing is next month and the guy has not given ‘any’ evidence to me or the court.

    But after he said “you can take me to court, and you’ll probably win, but I will only have to pay £1 a month for years” I thought he deserved to be taken to court.

    Tip: Write everything down and date it.

  95. 169

    Louis Marshall

    April 22, 2010 6:51 am

    i have been pondering implementing the css kill switch (or poison pill) strategy as part of my practices.

    i already do contracts which set out the deposit amount and the payment points. the payment points are dictated by % completion as dictated by the project schedule. i also have a clause in my contract which says the site may be placed in ‘staging’ prior to final payment. in all, my contract terms are very short – about half a page and they cover many situations

    *but* of course there are clients that want to still try it on.

    for these clients, i have been trialing a new technique. i will describe it in terms of an incident that just recently happened with a client of mine. i finished some work on a clients website, i invoiced them for $200 (as agreed). the time came when the invoice was due, nothing. after being overdue for two days, i send an email saying “the invoice is overdue”. no answer. another few days pass, i email them again, saying “the invoice is overdue, you need to contact me if there is a reason why you arent able to pay – we can work something out” – again, nothing. so i also sms the client, again no response. so i send an email saying i have canceled the invoice and they are under no obligation to pay it anymore. right after that email i sent another email saying i retracted the work connected to that invoice (which i did, i removed the features from their website). lo-and-behold, the client gets in contact with me, they pay the invoice, and i put the features back up again. its pretty simple, they dont have to pay the invoice, but they cant have the work.


  96. 170

    I don’t like the idea of a killswitch. I guess it’s nice to have options. I do like the idea of a killswitch if you use your own testing server and allow a client to get an ongoing view of what’s going on while you build out their site- this way you can quickly and easily black it out if they get behind in payments during development.

    The big thing is to get payment before you launch. Andy Clarke’s contract is stellar.

    We’re in an interesting situation with a client now, but with a slight twist: for this client, we’re not on the typical per-project situation covered by typical contracts. We’re doing a subscription, a monthly flat fee that includes things like a website for their brand, ongoing social media, video, and so forth. Whether this was a wise business decision on our part has yet to be determined.

    Right now they’re very late in paying, so we’re having to shut down work until they’re caught up. Of course, they’re demanding their website but without up-to-date payment we cannot give them anything- it’s the only leverage we have, unfortunately.

    It seems like this sort of thing happens to the best, most well-run web shops from time to time. The important thing to do is, as the article said, realize that you deserve to get paid for your work. You’re not in the wrong, the client is. I very much appreciate the sentiment that a shop won’t let you leave without paying, why should you let a client get the final work without paying?

  97. 171

    Carlo Rizzante

    May 4, 2010 1:53 am

    Damn, folk, even more precious than the article itself (which’s very inspiring), are the comments below.

    I do like a lot the Andy Clarke’s contract. I’ve one of mine, but this other one is awesome. I’ll implement it in my practice, testing it with clients asap. And I guess you can state in the contract that you’ve the right to keep your work back, or obfuscate it in case of missing payment. If you don’t state before… well… it’s a bit illegal and risky to csskill a website that way. And not professional. You should be able to protect and manage your business in advance, not running behind an bankrupting guy.

    Thanks for sharing, loving you.

  98. 172

    I quickly scanned the replies and wondered about a website I heard about where freelancers can post comments about a client who did not pay or honor their contract.

    When I read the article, I began to wonder about this site and wanted to see if anyone remembers or heard of the this?

    When I heard it on the radio I was intrigued by this tool since it could be used to also reference a potential client.

    It would be a great way to know prior to entering into agreement with those with a negative history of non-payment.



  99. 173

    Beside all the stuff comment here, beware with the clients who offer you “part of the great income this website is getting us”. If they can´t advance some cash, forget it about them.

  100. 174

    people can do anything for just 10$-20$, shame on them…

  101. 175

    I am not a lawyer, and even lawyers will tell you case law is not completely settled, but in general kill switches (aka time bombs) are illegal and using one can make the situation much worse for you.

    I know it seems logical that if the client hasn’t paid you should be able to ‘take back’ your work but that’s not the whole story with a hidden kill switch.

    Yes, an ISP can shut down your service due to non-payment, and the electric company can shut off your power if you don’t pay, but that doesn’t mean you can go onto a client’s server and disable their site, even if you wrote it and haven’t been paid. You’re effectively breaking into their property (servers) and more importantly you’re causing a business interruption, for which they can attempt to claim damages. A hidden kill switch is more or less equivalent, even one that just turns off the system after a certain time period unless it is disabled.

    You might get away with it if it’s called out as part of the contract and spec for the product, but it isn’t worth it. Instead, follow the excellent advice of some of the comments above (have a good contract, have a good relationship, pick your clients carefully, structure the project with frequent milestones and payments, etc.).

    • 176

      Actually its not illegal as you think, Its the same principle and practice as reposing a car for non payment. You can reposes your site as long as you haven’t transferred over ownership which is in this case the copyright. Never transfer copyright or give any license until you are paid in full and you’ll be fine.

  102. 177

    One cautionary tale would be Minecode:

    In their minds all they did is reach out and take back the work that the client hadn’t paid for. Those guys are convicted criminals now over this.

    And as I said above, a kill switch is equivalent in many ways, even if you’re not physically breaking in to the company’s building and taking back the bit. You just can’t do that, even if you haven’t been paid for the work.

    • 178

      The difference with them though is that when they finally went to disable it fully after the client got it working again was that they deleted their ENTIRE webpage, email, DB, etc. When they were only hired to do the gift cart deal. So they deleted more than what they put up there.

  103. 179

    That CSS killswitch is total overkill imo. Firstly, if you’re stupid enough to upload work that has not been fully paid for then, you deserve to get messed around. For simplicyty, simply use a htaccess file and derny requests – a couple of lines of code you can paste into a .htaccess file – easy.

  104. 180

    One thing I like to do is sending the invoice immediately when it’s due and sending them an online payment method along with the emailed invoice. It seems like such a simple thing to do, but I find a lot of clients forget to pay invoices because they need to actively drop the cheque in the mail or call you during business hours to give you the credit card number. With an online payment method provided right along with emailed invoice, I’ve been getting paid an average of 2 weeks faster.

    I personally use Billing Boss ( to create my invoices. It’s free plus it offers me the ability to send recurring invoices. I can better keep track of my cash flow, and know who paid me and who hasn’t.

    Full Disclosure: This author has been compensated by Sage. I am their Social Media Consultant but I was using their product well before they contracted me. They found me when I sent them an email giving suggestions about Billing Boss!

  105. 181

    Great to here stories from colleagues and their strategies for dealing with fraudulent clients. I have one job where I would have loved the CSS kill switch!!

  106. 182

    My ultimate KILLSWITCH

    If the website ist coded with PHP (or equal language) you could hide some code which enables you to actually DELETE the website form the clients server by a GET request, even if you don´t have access, eg.
    (use a variable value to make sure nobody else makes accidentally use of this)

  107. 183

    I’ve been dealing with deadbeats since 1997 when I ran a magazine. Trying to get people to pay for advertising ‘after the fact’ (after it has been printed) is difficult at best. It takes time, persistence and nerves of steel. Persistence being the main tactic. I always got paid, but it did take time and constant hounding.

    Working as a freelancer I can’t say i’ve had the same luck.
    However I changed my payment policy to 50% upfront, 50% on completion (and not released until full payment)
    Some clients don’t like this, but it is absolutely the best way.

    With the clients I am trying to ‘get’, new clients, I sometimes have to forgo the 50% and do websites with very loose agreements at first, then hash out a payment agreement when I show them the work.
    If they like it, they usually pay.
    If they like it and think they can take it without paying,
    I have a few tricks up my sleeve.
    #1 – hosting all images on my home site – so if they don’t pay, every image can be shut down and replaced with a lovely ” shut down for non-payment” message (this is all last resort stuff, but has to be done)
    #2 – with flash sites, simply hosting the .swf file on my site is another way (although they can try to copy it from your site, if you host it from a secured area, that is now theft of data) Ya nevermind revenge, send them to jail for stealing your designs.
    #3 – hosting css files on your own site as well.. again theft of data if they steal it from your secured location.
    #4 – I’ve also got in the habit of using a couple of free website building places. Reason being I can create wonderful sites very quickly and often some of these hosting places are forwarding or hosting the image/web/flash elements through YOUR management panel where you make changes. So if customer doesn’t pay. Shut it down 100%.

    What I find sad is the people who claim they are always getting ripped off, are the ones trying to rip people off. So beware of a client who is overly paranoid. They are more likely to be the ones to rip you off, not the other way around.

    Good luck.

  108. 184

    I have had non payment issues twice.

    I did the only logical thing to do.

    Create a wordpress hosted page and send lots of links to it so it appears in Google right next to their site :)

    At the very least it ticks them off and sometimes they will pay you to take it down!

    • 185

      HI Rachel,

      Excellent comment. Please provide me with more information about hosted page. I am not only a victim twice but maddening frequently. Please help me.


    • 186

      Hello Rachael,

      I am a victim of the same situation, where this company hired me, approved the work and decided to call it off almost near completion. They are denying to pay me citing lack of a written contract, and moreover, are threatening to take me to court if I say anything about them publically.

      Do you think they can do this, as I really appreciate ur effort to stand against such scheming companies and want to do the same.


  109. 188

    What can I do if the client without my authorization went and got the print files I created (and printed them) from the web designer who was making the website for them. Without ever paying me for the print files.

    And also refuses to pay me for them, even though they were happy enough with them to spend $1,000’s on printing them and create a website based on my designs.

  110. 189

    How about an issue of a client who refuses to pay after you have created his website, made all the changes he required, configured his server and set up his email addresses and been patient with him waiting for him to pay. One day when you call him he refuses to answer your calls, now.. for more than 2 months. You go to his residence and you find strict instructions from the watchman that he doesn’t see anyone without an appointment. Since you anticipated that, you leave him a notice to renew his yearly hosting subscription and give you your money. You still call, no answer. When finally you call him one day on the wee hours of the morning he forgets and picks your call.. he tells you created junk and he wont pay. Then you say “OK”.

    After that you go and “UNDO” all the work you did in the server, i.e. remove your content, and reverse everything you did on the server + delete all the email accounts you “wasted” your time setting up because after all this was all junk.

    Is the client supposed to complain that you deleted his emails and if he’s complaining, who’s fooling who?

  111. 191

    There are some complete snakes out there but there are also good clients. For me the ONLY way you know you have some level of comeback is 50% upfront and 50% just before completion.

    Why on earth would it be in the designers interests to do all the work you had been showing them through the design process and not release it? Any client that gripes at this is guilty at the outset. We’ve all been ripped off at some point but you really have to move on and absolutely safegaurd yourself from it EVER happening again. A client not willing to pay anything upfront is not someone that is worthy of your time and talents.

  112. 192

    The best for me was upon project completion a customer said, “I love the work you…I going to try and find someone to do something just like it but cheaper.”

    I try to provide the hosting for as many design clients as possible. When they already have their own hosting I always code in a timer which after 30 days looks for a license key. If it’s not found the index page displays a div overlay or popup that says “Trial Expired” with a link to pay their invoice.

    It’s not difficult to disable, they could hire someone for $20 to break it, but it’s definitely cut back on the number of non-paying clients.

  113. 194

    There was a retired civil servant Nora from labour department who abuses computer people like me this way while she is on big fat lifetime pension and flying around the world to make love with guys she find on the net. She fancied getting herself richer by engaging in ecommerce shop business as a computer idiot, then take advantage of my willingness to help, agreed on the rate that I charged previously, and after a full day of onsite service and giving her everything she wanted successfully, she just wanted to put me away with a few coins, and even used her NLP skills to tell me I am bad. I need a hand dealing with bitches with poisonous tongue!

  114. 195

    Hi, What happens if you have a deposit, spent large amounts of time working on the site to find that for whatever reason, the client starts causing problems with the design that miraculously have appeared well after the design has been finalized. In short, they may have not had the funds in the first place?

    My time has been wasted and compensation for a 90% complete project is needed?

    • 196

      Hi Ben

      This is an easy one. I notice a lot of people commenting abou 50% up front and 50% upon completion. This is ok I suppose but not great. I personally write up “Milestones” for each project. Each milestone is associated with the client delivering some parts for the project and my company delivering on other parts. Each has a deadline that we set at the beginning of the project and each is associated with a payment. This keeps the deposit lower (we usually ask for about 15%, and keeps the project moving along fast. Often website projects are slowed down because the client is all excited at first when they hire you, but then when they realize that it is work for them too (to deliver you materials) they fizzle out. We take great lengths to educate our clients about this up front. Because they are paying us every few weeks (often milestones are about 2-3 weeks apart), they feel committed to the project. We rarely ever move onto the next milestone before payment for the previous one. And if we do, we usually dont let the client know that.

      I feel like this way works very well and have shared my secret with friends and colleagues over and over who have implemented it with great success.

      Not to mention, it also makes you feel better about the creative work you are doing if money keeps coming in. We all know that we dont provide our best work when we aren’t getting along with the client or think that they may not pay. I imagine the same goes for them if they aren’t actively paying you and being provided with solid deadlines for delivering on materials that they must provide to us.

      And yes, we have a lengthy contract. And we never deliver the final product without the final milestone payment. =)

  115. 197

    Morgan & Me Creative

    October 15, 2011 10:20 am

    We have to realise that this is the service industry, while contracts may help, it’s not 100% fireproof. In this business, we’re supposed to operate with a high level of both IQ as well as EQ. Withholding to launch or shifting a website into maintenance mode may sound easy, but wait till you get that phone call with the client screaming at you at the other end. It’s certainty not nice and once they start ranting this onto their network of friends, you can forget about anymore business opportunities in the area. Your name’s tarnished, you might as well pack up and move to another town.

  116. 198

    The problem with the css kill switch should be pretty obvious… View Source, access file directly, copy, paste, thx for your time and you get no money.

  117. 199

    This is just the article I am looking for….but one question? Currently I have a customer who doesn’t want to pay nor pay on time. Am I able to hold her domain name (registered with my godaddy) and website content until she pays our fees? or is she legally entitled to it?


    • 200

      If she hasn’t paid for it – you have and therefore it is your domain. A home builder isn’t going to give me the keys to my new house until he has a cheque in his/her hands. I don’t understand where these clients come from, but there are a lot of them out there.

      I have the same situation, once they pay me for it the are more than welcome to it. Good luck!

      • 201


        I’ve got a client doing the same thing to us and until he resolves his account – we don’t plan to unlock his domain for transfer. We’ve offered a buyout for our work done, as well as the release of our agreed upon percentage of his company, and once he pays for his hosting bill we’ve offered to point the domain to an IP of his choice, and transfer it to him once we’ve come to an agreement.

        I wish you all the best!

  118. 202

    Knock on wood; I have never been ripped off by a bad client, mainly because I’m picky on choosing clients. All my works are legal contract based, with 50% upfront deposit before I even move a mussel. The rest of the payment is due before file relinquishment with no exception. I build the sites and applications on my own servers and they can see the live version (on my server) as long as they want, then when they are happy with everything, they pay and I move everything to their server. I make no exception to this rule, whether they are my blood relatives or the Pope. No client has EVER said no this rule and if anyone ever does, it simply shows their distrust and I won’t take the job anyway.

  119. 204

    I saw some people in earlier posts mention legal repercussions from disabling a site from a host or removing it. My contract has a authorization clause where the client gives me authorization to access the host and FTP. The contract also has a non payment clause that says the site can be removed from the internet if payment is not received within 30 days of the invoice. Under this contract, am I within my rights to take the site down? I am dealing with this situation for my first time in 6 years. I have since revised my contract to state a site will not go live until final payment is received. Before I had a 33% down, 33% on approval, remainder when site was live approach. It worked find for years, but one deadbeat has ruined that.

  120. 205

    I can see how a kill switch could be considered illegal, but as many have said if the css file or kill switch is actually built into our own hosting account, we would not be intruding on anybody’s server.

    I have only run into this issue once or twice, but it was enough to ensure that I collect all deposits and payments up front before the site is launched or the design is presented.

  121. 206

    Per our verbal agreement from 1/2/2012 between me Senior Graphic designer and Owner of the small business in CA was an agreement that I to create a Graphic Design website for the business. Owner guaranteed a payment of $2,000 for this job. In the process of work Owner asked for additional work to enhance the website.
    The day site was practically complete and posted the Owner told me over the phone that she does not need the site anymore because she is selling her business and buyer are not going to buy site with the business.
    I submitted invoice of $2,000 to the Owner, but Owner declined to make a payment. Instead she emailed me and offered $500. I that letter she blamed me in quality of my work and did not mention the real reason – selling her business.
    How I can have evidence that Owner is selling her business?
    Thank you very much for any advice.
    Truly yours,

  122. 207

    I just got done on a 2 month stint with a super greedy business owner. My mom and I own our freelancing company and she has 20 years education behind the scenes in computing and technology. We built a fantastic site and the lady was super happy, however my mom told her she needed payment and all the problems started. They agreed to give her a vehicle well under the total price we were asking so my mom agreed and then said that she could finish payment slowly if she didnt have the money by just giving us 15% profit off her webstore sales until we were squared away. The woman then went into a state of hysteria and fired my mom and tried to get me to work for her. When I told her what she did was shady, she fired me as well keeping all of our equipment we had set up there and changing the locks. To this day she owes us well over $5000 and is slandering us all over town. The website went far above and beyond anything she had ask for we even spent days promoting it and advertising (out of our pockets) So we didn’t shut her down, instead we simply changed it up a bit and blocked her as a user until she pays, which she has assured us will be when hell freezes over. Is it ok for us to just delete the damn thing? After all why should she reap any benefits of the time we spent (about 800 combined hours) and still make money?

  123. 208


    I was wondering, if I did work for somebody and they refused to pay, is it against the law for me to then rip out the work i have done and take it back?


  124. 209

    I’m a freelance writer rather than a website developer so use of a Kill Switch is not an option for me.

    However, after several months of politely asking a client to pay for work submitted, I’ve done a mock up of his website in order to get a response of some sort.

  125. 210


    February 27, 2013 3:29 pm

    What about this; if you’re dealing with an agency who refuses to pay, go to their client, or threaten to. End clients hate to hear about this crap and just want to know it’s been dealt with. This is a last resort of course, but it could save time and legal fees. Your client will be pissed, but as long as you don’t lie, it’s not libel.

  126. 211


    Yeah I just dealt with this exact situation.
    Deliver code, next minute I’m told I did “few if any” of the changes and that they had to “rebuild” it to make it work (later amended to “tweak”). All if this without my knowledge.

    It was clear that something had changed. What exactly is less important than knowing what to do next. Now comes the tricky part. Finding out what the game is and setting the scene for a lawsuit.

    Above all be reasonable and proactive. Show the agreed work list and mark off the complete items. Ask for an elaboration on what was allegedly not delivered and what is meant by phrases such as “rebuild” (its not compiled code) and “tweak”. Offer to supply email trails, screenshots before and after the work and so on. Be persistent. It is perfectly reasonable to do this and it is perfectly reasonable to expect a professional itemised response. (I didn’t: it was all rather nebulous).

    Ratchet up the pressure with phrases like “I note you haven’t responded to X therefore I will have to assume Y and if I dont hear back 7 days then you are accepting that Z must be true”. Record the responses. (I didn’t get any).

    There are 4 things happening here.
    First, and most desirable you are opening the door to a discussion which will hopefully rescue the situation.
    Second, you are gathering information with which to either refute or accept what the other party is saying. (In my case the other party had no interest in providing an elaboration).
    Third, you are setting the scene whereby you are reasonable and the other party is not. You are offering to help and discuss. The other party is not accepting the help and does not want to discuss.(This happened to me).
    Fourth, you note that legal action is a possibility. Since you have all your ducks in a row and they haven’t responded or been reasonable you will be seen as the good guy in court.
    If the other guy is properly advised he will engage if not (and some entrepreneurs are too cocky to even consider it) then its off to small claims court (never get in a hole bigger than small claims). (I never got to this point, but I had taken some informal advice).

    The zinger of course is to note that in the absence of proper consideration the client is not authorised to use your code/IPR or designs and there is no warranty or other privilege of ownership. They can of course recode from scratch but its worth asking what their plan is to chinese-wall the new development, cleanse their systems and return your IPR to you, which clearly is now available for resale to a competitor. Entrepreneurs are often as paranoid as they are cocky so this works well. (In my case this worked, I think as the cost of their re-do exceeded the value on my invoice).

    These are all of course legitimitate points that you can make once the relationship is already sour. It will annoy the other guy but the courts love it.

    This guy won’t hire me again but I got out above water. His attititude was amateurish and inappropriate. It was only a matter of time until the situation was repeated either with me or someone else so I concluded it was a bridge worth burning.

    Good luck everybody.

  127. 212

    I have having trouble getting my client to actually bring the project to completion. In the contract the deadlines are stated (these were back in January) however, they keep prolonging the project and making excuses. They eventually had burned their quoted hours to which I offered 20 plus additional hours at no cost but they would have to pay the final invoice. I was then ripped a new one by one of the guys telling me that I was “Unprofessional” and that he would refuse to pay the invoice until the project was complete. I eventually had to end the phone conversation since I was doing nothing but listening to go on about how pissed he was. He had even gone as far to tell me that they had run out of the loan money and were waiting on another to go though. Even when the other went through he let me know I would be the last one to be paid since they had contractors who needed the money. I have for the past weeks been emailing them and asking for a final deadline and launch date and they have ignored all the emails. I sent another today telling them the deadline was the 9th of august no matter what and if they didn’t get final revisions to me then tuff. I will follow up with their response.

    Oh and I installed the CSS kill switch and will have no problem taking their site down if I need to. Follow this clip to watch this video. . . It is SOOOO FUNNY and legit about how business treats freelancers (the lady with the cat sara is the best).

  128. 213

    About a year and a half ago, I was contracted by a social media guy to develop a simple WordPress theme for one of his clients. Within a month, it was completed and uploaded to the client’s server. The social media guy and I had no contract, as I assumed it wouldn’t be necessary for such a small project. After all, I was only asking for $250. A month later, I was still patiently awaiting payment. Every time I’d bring the subject up, social media guy would answer that he was “waiting on his client” to pay him first. Well, three months come and go, and I haven’t seen a dime. I became suspicious and contacted the client myself. It turns out, they HAD paid him — MONTHS ago! While I admit that this tactic was a bit taboo as far as contract work goes, it was either that or give up.

    Needless to say, I certainly let him know that I was now onto his shenanigans, and I wasn’t about to tolerate it. Still, and perhaps because of that fact, he refused to pay. Not even a month’s worth of both stern and more passive warnings would sway him, so I filed a court affidavit.

    Three months later on the court date, the judge ruled in my favor after less than ten minutes of hearing both sides of the story. He basically called social media guy an idiot, and ordered him to pay me immediately. It was the greatest moment of my young life.

    The moral of the story is, when you’re backed into a corner, strike back. Take that jerk to small claims court and collect what you earned. DO come to court prepared, DO NOT ask for more than what you agreed upon (plus court fees), and most importantly, DO NOT let yourself get bullied.

    • 214

      Perfect! I would have filled the law suit right after I spoke to his client. usually when they get a court summons they pay.

  129. 215

    I have been a contractor and freelancer for over 30 years, I’ve seen it all.

    Don’t use tricks with coding and pulling the plug on their site etc. use the legal system. If you’re unfortunate to have contracted with someone out of state or overseas well you should always ask for 50% up front and 50% prior to final delivery. Make no exceptions period! I can’t stress this enough especially for first time clients. Steady clients you can bend as you see fit.

  130. 216

    What if a client disputes the credit card payment after 3 months because the person he hired to update his website broke it and I won’t fix it for free?

  131. 217

    I know exactly how this feels. I founded and built a consulting business from nothing to over 50 consultants. The most annoying thing is when I have a really good month I would be broke as it would take me three months to get paid.

    This is why we have come up with a way to get paid on time all the time and is the only 100% way to ensure payment, its called Promisepay.

    With Promisepay you can quickly create an agreement with milestones, the customer then pays into promisepay and the funds are released once the work is complete. Protecting not just the contractor but the client also.


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