Hello I am new to freelancing. I have accounts on freelancing sites (Upwork, Freelancer). My skills are in the field of Machine Learning and Data Analysis and I have complete knowledge of backend and frontend development.

My question is while bidding for projects, I get an option to charge for the whole project or charge for milestones. What would be a better option from the perspective of me getting the project?

Also if I charge by milestones, I am uncertain as to how to describe the work for each milestone (as far as Machine Learning and Data Analyst is considered). Any help would be appreciated!

  • Milestones and whole project bids are for fixed price. In my experience, I can only do fixed price when I have fully completed a similar project and all I am doing is some minor customization. Are you sure you are able to do the project for a fixed price and manage all the customer "can you change this a little?" which will eat up all your profit? When I haven't done this exact project before, I'm only bidding hourly - no fixed price.
    – David R
    Jul 30, 2021 at 20:09
  • So if I am taking a new project which I haven't done before, I should choose the milestone option and not the charge for whole project one? Makes sense. You wanna set this as your answer so that i can accept it?
    – spectre
    Aug 1, 2021 at 5:50
  • If I haven't done that project before, I wouldn't even bid milestones. The problem is that we can't forecast what the client wants in each milestone. Yet, the client wants a full project price. This is a simple Risk-Reward calculation. The client wants us to take on unlimited risk for a fixed reward. To me, that makes no financial sense. Places that can do that both have deep pockets for when they make a wrong bet AND charge a whole lot for what they do.
    – David R
    Aug 1, 2021 at 15:13
  • Few business people understand what it really costs to get fully custom software. I've seen fixed prices listed on this platform that were as low as 1% of what I thought the effort would cost. On other platforms, I've seen fixed prices that were far lower than that. When I select my clients better, I get better prices and they are happier.
    – David R
    Aug 1, 2021 at 15:41
  • 1
    You don't have enough information to describe the milestones - means that you don't have enough information to bid.
    – David R
    Aug 1, 2021 at 18:00

1 Answer 1


Generally, clients prefer fixed price as it fits into their illusion of financial predictability.

To the freelancer however, fixed price can at times be detrimental - not only financially but also to the client relationship.

I agree with the comment that states that the only time and place for fixed price is if the project is a complete clone of a previous project - as customisations tend to accumulate and inevitably lead to massive and often seemingly never-ending scope creep.

Having negotiated a fixed price, the client will naturally attempt to extract as much work as possible from the freelancer, as there is nothing stopping them from doing so; nothing is too small as they have already paid. With an hourly rate and a short feedback loop, the dynamics change - as all changes will cost money, meaning the client will evaluate whether a change is worth it.

Fixed price has more potential to end badly with arguing and threats of litigation, whereas an hourly rate typically leads to shorter faster projects where the client may not have gotten every single thing they wanted, but end up satisfied with what they got and might return in the future.

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