I am a small time web dev freelancer during my time off at university and I have some horror stories when it comes to designing sites for people (not that the sites are bad - just the clients DO NOT KNOW WHAT THEY WANT) this really grinds my gears.

To set the context this is what I want to avoid:

I had a client last year that I built a site for ANON. We agreed upon a price (£200 - I am a student so their mentality is "Oh you are a student that makes you cheap right?") I had the site done to the original specification within about 3 days (nothing was ever written down be it original specification costs etc it was all done over phone/Skype) The client then decided that his original idea wasn't that good looking in practise so I was told to scrap it and start again, fine, Im'm a professional I can take that.

I then redid the site to the new spec that he gave me, took another 3-4 days and the same thing again, don't like it, start again. By this time I'm getting rather annoyed with the lack of constructive criticism, So I redo the site to basically how it is now (see URL above) he says "yeah looks okay ship it" so it gets put on the web THEN he decides "Oh by the way I want and e-commerce solution AND a members only section or you aren't getting paid anything." being in the position I was in I couldn't very well just say no due to the 12 or so days of my life he had waisted so I proceeded to add the e-commerce and members only sections, this then led to a plethora of other changes.

For example there is a page with a variety of "packages" the user can choose from, I had these done in glorious CSS3 I mean it looked amazing, really chuffed with my work I put it online and linked him to it... "It's crap get rid of it do it in photoshop and put .jpg's up instead". Baffled as to how it could look "crap" I asked what browser he was using... "IE6", I could have killed him, but restrained myself and told him to upgrade to Chrome or FF3.6, So he upgrades to FF, "Wow that looks great!... But still redo it in photoshop so people with IE6 will see it fine" I tried to tell him that the site demographics showed he was the ONLY one using IE6 but he wasn't having any of it, so I spend a while doing it in PS put them up, all was fine.

Then, he says "oh by the way I want to change the package prices" I say "well if you had left them in CSS3 and HTML you could have done it yourself", He didn't want to hear it and made me redo the jpg's - This occurs every time he has a new package that needs put up as you would imagine this gets very annoying after a while and I was beginning to get fed up, but he decided that with how it was done now looked great and kept him happy, I then asked about payment "Oh I only have £50 that I can give you but I can give you 2x 12 week training packages". I think okay, I'll make the best of a bad situation and take it, so I agree, I get £50 for 2-3weeks work and 1x12 week training package, I finish that then ask about the other one "Oh that was only if I could afford to give it to you, right now I can't so you'll have to pay £120 for that.". Not only that but he keeps pestering me to do little remedial changes on the site that I taught him how to use, but he doesn't want to know, so not only am I not getting paid for any changes I make for him he threatens me that if I don't change them he's going to spread bad rep about me to any of his clients and everyone he knows.

As you can imagine this got me very edgy about clients and I would now like to develop a contract that:

  • No compromises are made for IE6.
  • 25% up front 25% half-way and 50% upon completion.
  • I have a minimum standard that I will work to so jobs under £500 are not viable.
  • Remedial and quarterly changes are payable on a per-hour rate.
  • I can reserve the right to take down any site if the 50% upon completion is not paid within 30 days.
  • There are no "cash-substitutes" - no cash - no site.

If anyone could suggest what to add above as clauses in my contract and if the above are suitable, as in would they scare clients off?

Any suggestions on any part of the contract would be appreciated as well as where to get them written up.

Thanks all!

  • 2
    Voting to migrate on programmers.SE
    – Pekka
    Mar 5, 2011 at 16:12
  • 4
    We totally need a contractual-law.SE site... =/
    – David Thomas
    Mar 5, 2011 at 16:14
  • 1
    You're a student, so you may not be able to afford this generic advice, but get a lawyer to check it over - the last thing you want is if somehow you end up in court, the contract being thrown out on a technicality. Mar 5, 2011 at 16:23
  • I would have immediately stopped working for him (and seriously considered the option of taking down the site he already had online) as soon as he hinted at not paying you.. you would have lost at worst 7-8 days instead of 'taking it in the rear entry'..
    – Lucius
    Mar 5, 2011 at 17:44
  • 1
    @Lucius Not IE6? ie6countdown.com - from M$ themselves
    – mylesagray
    Mar 5, 2011 at 17:51

3 Answers 3


The clauses you mention sound fairly reasonable to me.

Just make sure the tone of the contract is calm and professional; don't let your edginess show through. Remember that it's not new clients' fault that you've had negative experiences in the past.

The last point (about cash substitutes) is so obvious that it doesn't need to be explicitly mentioned IMO. Nobody can make you accept their services instead of a cash payment.

  • Point taken, I have non anon'd the OP - On the front of where to get a contract written up, any advice? Would you add any clauses to the contract?
    – mylesagray
    Mar 5, 2011 at 16:24
  • @Myles tips on how to write a good contract will probably vary very much from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. An hour of a competent lawyer's time might be a worthwhile investment. Alternatively, maybe check with professional associations for contract templates - but there are also likely to be online resources that help with this. It's just important that they're specific to your country.
    – Pekka
    Mar 5, 2011 at 16:27
  • @Myles additionally, maybe add payment deadlines customary to your country (here in Germany, it's usually 8 working days). Always have the client sign very detailed agreements of what is to be done prior to starting work. If possible, even including screen shots. Any additional changes you can then bill extra. Always see that you put technical things in layman's terms so a judge can understand them.
    – Pekka
    Mar 5, 2011 at 16:31
  • Right you are, I must check up on UK/NI contractual law, I may be able to get one of my parents to have their lawyer get a quick look over it for a few £ :) - I'll check it out online and try and make it as short as possible (I'll keep it professional too some clients like the above REALLY rile me up) good idea with the screen shots too, Ill defiantly do that too!
    – mylesagray
    Mar 5, 2011 at 16:35

First off, if there is no contract and he isn't paying you, then do not do the work! Second, if he threatens to 'slander' you then you can go after him. May not be worth it in this case if he has no money, so chances are he won't have much credibility either.

For deliverables I would recommend not giving specific dates. ie. Designs will be delivered on March 12th. If the client doesn't give you approval to start until the 11th then you could be in a bind.

Instead say "Designs will be delivered within 10 days of receiving project approval." Another example "The working site will be ready for review 20 days after the final design has been approved."

This also helps in case one area takes longer and overlaps when something else was suppose to be worked on.

Also, don't make your contracts pages upon pages. Here's some helpful resources on contracts.

  • Thank you very good advice on the binding dates, I had never thought of that, I'll take a look at those resources too.
    – mylesagray
    Mar 5, 2011 at 16:32

I don't want to be rude but: You don't need a contract, you need guts to talk to your client. How do you pass from a 200 bucks site to an e-commerce solution? And why you accepted that weird payment or the fact that he threats you? quick advice: at the first sign of no paying, stop working.

Don't find a lawyer, just find better clients, there's a lot of good people out there.

  • 3
    I almost completely agree. He needs guts first and foremost, but he also needs a contract. A lack of guts caused this problem, but guts alone won't protect you from all of the things a contract will.
    – Jim
    Mar 5, 2011 at 16:48
  • I agree, Just need to man up and tell him how it is... But a contract will also help me to find clients who won't mess with me.
    – mylesagray
    Mar 5, 2011 at 17:03
  • 1
    @Myles yup! but also remember that a contract can put you in trouble if you land on another bad client and, for any reason, you don't respect a clause (delays are common). The contract is there to protect you AND PROTECT THEM. So, write a contract but also find nice people to work for. After all that's the cool part of be a freelance, you can choose your clients :)
    – Mauricio
    Mar 5, 2011 at 17:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.