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how and when do you get paid and how many changes do you allow?
payment clients quote

 3:06 pm on Sep 15, 2009 (gmt 0)


I find it difficult to set a guide which I can include in a quote as to how many times changes are allowed by the client.
For example:
New web site: I design 5 designs and go back to the client, He/she needs to pick one and he/she can decide what changes I need to make, or if client does not like any of the designs I go back to the drawing board, but how many design changes do you allow and how do you mention that in a quote? Sometimes I feel I give the client to much freedom and end up spending too much time on changes as the client can not make up his/her mind.

Also, what structure do you have for payment?
Do you ask a percentage of the total after the contract is signed or do you ask percentages as per finished fase of the project, or do you just get paid at the end when all is done (not a very safe option I think), or....?

Please share so I can get some ideas of what would suit me.



 4:06 pm on Sep 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

I don't do much freelance any more, but there was a time when that's all I did... so I can relate some things I learned.

This may be unusual, but I allow unlimited changes - because I charge by the hour. I found after doing a half-dozen projects that estimates on a new project were usually nonsensical guesses. On some projects I'd nail the design and functional spec in one meeting with the client, for others it would be a 6 month long process involving committees and consultants and red tape, sometimes even lawyers, professional photographers, writers, etc.

Sometimes I offer the client a "guess" and - sometimes - a "maximum" for portions of the project, like - "I figure this portion of the project will take 12 hours, but I won't spend more than 15, so you can budget accordingly at my hourly rate of $X/hr.".

On some projects the horizon is invisible, and you can't know how long it'll take until you get started and get a feel for the tasks required. Then, I'd say "guess is 12 hours, it may take longer and if it will I'll let you know before I've used up 3 of them"

Hiring a plumber is no different. I recently had a leak where we didn't know the extent of the problem until after ripping a hole in the ceiling. Then, he was able to diagnose and estimate with more accuracy, but also by then I was committed to the job, whatever it cost.

The key is to have frequent communication with the client, updates on progress, and make sure you communicate clearly about their budget, and their expectations. As the contractor/freelancer you need to be very firm and very blunt. Clients can smell honesty and transparency, so make sure you reek of both in all your communication.

Knowing they're paying by the hour, the client stays focused and involved, and they TEND not to dally around with silly scope changes that waste my time.

My policy was: for any NEW clients, 50% up front, 50% upon completion. For repeat clients that paid promptly, I would relax that and invoice upon completion, or at stages throughout a long project. But if I for some reason couldn't finish the project satisfactorily, I would refund (but depending on the circumstances, sometimes I would only offer to refund the second half).

There are many decisions you need to make on your feet depending on your comfort with risk, confidence with the project, trust of the client.

Some clients have no tolerance for "it might cost this much, more or less...". If you encounter a client like that who will not pay by the hour, ones who need a firm number on paper in a contract, then feel free to shoot for the stars with an outrageously padded estimate to cover your butt, and offer only 2 rounds of revision (or whatever you want to include in your estimate), and be very explicit with what work you are (and aren't) going to do.


 4:32 pm on Sep 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Great that gives me a first idea. thank you for the lengthy reply. I would like 2 hear some more from others...How do you deal with this


 6:06 pm on Sep 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'm buying more than selling at the momement but heres how its working out.

I try to choose a company based on seeing a good deal of previous design work from them first so that I'm happy to go with a quote consisting of 2 designs - of which one will be chosen with only minor changes made.

If it needs more than this then they havent understood (or I havent communicated) the requirements well or they are the wrong supplier.

The buyer has to take responsibility for knowing what they want - communicating the brief before contracting takes place and being clear of business objectives. If the designer understands the business objectives properly you can make a lot more assumptions during design/build - Sounds like maybe you need to some more pre-sales / vetting ?

I'm starting to tire of the 'unlimited changes' model used by offshore developers because it just makes projects over-run with so many iterations and communication of changes.

Re payments. I dont pay until I have what was agreed. If the supplier insists or the project is more than 3 months then I might pay for some milstones - psd and possibily split the fuunctionality into 2 or 3 phases - but each has payment has to be for something with resale / asset value , so i wouldnt agree a milestone for a detailed spec or pay for project management - these are the suppliers costs.


 2:27 am on Sep 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

My policy was: for any NEW clients, 50% up front, 50% upon completion. For repeat clients that paid promptly, I would relax that

This usually works out well. I certainly would not do 0% up front for new clients.


 5:26 am on Oct 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

50% deposit for new clients is a good policy. You might consider specifying the number of revisions. Also make sure to include your hourly rate for additional work.

Recently I got a call from a guy starting up a new digital media business. He was looking for contract web design resources. He went on to explain "due to the poor economy, he is forced to structure his business on a 'When I get paid, You get paid' basis." I found this a bit sketchy for a business in the highest rent office building in the county.

Is this a new trend?


 6:50 am on Oct 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

When I get paid, You get paid' basis

Great. Now his shoddy work will hold up you getting paid, and even when he gets paid, there is no way for you to know.


 9:46 am on Oct 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks for all the replies! I have now set it up that I get paid in three slots. I divided the project into 3 phases: phase one includes determining what is needed and creating 3 designs, phase two includes client picks one design and gets 4 rounds of alterations, design is implemented into site and is shown to client, last phase includes setting the site live setting up email accounts, teaching client CMS.
I understand being paid up front but that feels awkward to me as the client does not get anything for it. Splitting it up in this way the client does pay for what is done and gives me some insurance.

Re: When I get paid you get paid basis - I would never do that. You can not be very professional as an employer that is the way you run your business. He then would be coming from the point of: there is not enough money going round in the world, there is a lack rather than there is abundance and I am going to pull some of it my way. He will always have a lack with that attitude and you will pay the price.

On the other hand he could just be a rich shady businessmen.
Either way: how serious are you? I would not take you too serious if you would accept this deal. Be assertive and stand for what you are worth.

End of phase one: 40%
End of phase two: 40%
End of phase three: 20%

That is what I will do in short. The above phases are detailed in the quote with a neat flow chart.

[edited by: httpwebwitch at 1:29 pm (utc) on Oct. 22, 2009]
[edit reason] spelling touchup [/edit]


 9:48 am on Oct 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Sorry about the weird order of text in my post above. Somehow the paragraphs got mixed up. Anyway you'll get my drift.


 12:58 pm on Oct 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Splitting the project into three phases is a good idea. Especially if at the end of each phase you deliver a tangable product. This is important on many levels, 1.) If the client experiences some financial difficulties mid-project, he/she can walk away and you still get paid for the work you've done. 2.) The presentation of this idea is a selling tool. Your clients will appreciate not being locked into 100% of the project contract. 'Walk away at anytime' is a warm fuzzy that works in your favor. 3.) It helps bring a steady cashflow into your business. 4.) Increases communication and face time with the client. These are opportunities to sell!

Agents or Sales Reps are great people to help your business grow. It allows you to focus on your craft. None of us got into this business to haggle over price or argue in court. Let the people who are good at those things do it for you. Plus, if a sales rep is good, they should be able to pay their own salary. And you just keep building your portfolio!

Good luck, Dude!


 4:34 pm on Nov 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

I have now set it up that I get paid in three slots. I divided the project into 3 phases: phase one includes determining what is needed and creating 3 designs, phase two includes client picks one design and gets 4 rounds of alterations, design is implemented into site and is shown to client, last phase includes setting the site live setting up email accounts, teaching client CMS.

So at the end of phase one you send the client an invoice for 40% even if he/she hasn't picked a design?

What if the client doesn't like the 3 initial designs? Do they still have to pay?

I find this initial design phase to be the most time consuming for me. I would ask for an initial deposit before even starting any design, just to make sure the client is serious. You never know when they might just be looking for ideas just to take them to someone else who's cheaper than you.


 6:55 pm on Nov 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks again people for your input. very appreciated. Great comments Rollout! It is indeed a good business tool especially since clients feel they get some value for their money and can understand why they need to pay me in phases.

itworks (great name): I have not come across a client who does not like any of the designs. This comes down to being very thorough in acquiring the necessary info to come up with the right designs. I also include one design that is not great. When I design usually the first one is not that great and I improve as I go along. I still include the not so great design as it makes it more likely the client will be drawn towards the other designs and selection process becomes easier for him/her. This is a technique used by real estate agents: show them first a not so great house and keep the 'surprise' house till last.'Well this one is certainly a lot better than the other ones...'
In case it would happen that neither designs are sufficient I go back to discovering what they want. The feedback I would get from the first three designs helps with that. I consider it my bad if I can not come up with three designs that are sufficient or it could be that the client is very indecisive which I can address.

I get your point in clients wanting to try you out, but I usually establish a strong business relationship with him/her so they feel I mean business. It is a matter of trust especially on their behalf and I have found that if they go ahead with you than they already have the level of trust. Coming up with a strong concept that shows them they are being taken serious helps. On the other side if you just say yeah I will come up with something without showing them a thorough quote and the process (all done in professional way - my quote consists of 15 pages, incl. terms and flow charts etc, a template I adjust for every client) then they are more likely to 'try you out'.

Step into their shoes, make them feel heard and understood and tell them you are their partner in achieving their business goals builds confidence, trust and loyalty.
I love to help my client reach his/her goals and therefor often advice on more than just web site design. Clients often leave excited and inspired after a talk with me about their ideas and their business. That adds more value again.

In the end I think building trust is one of the fundamentals. After all a client really does not know what he/she is going to get until they see the designs...

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