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I need useful advice. I'm a web developer from Ukraine with many years of experience, yet have never worked with clients from Western Europe and America. But now I'm considering that.

I know it's very popular marketing strategy in the world to offer something basic or initial for free (so-called freemium) in order to attract a client and if he wants more, he has to pay for the more (so-called premium).

In view of that, I'm considering an idea to advertise on my own website an offer to a prospective client of the first screens of his website's homepage for free. Using frameworks and pre-made components it doesn't take much time to create the screens or sections and present them to the client. And if he wants the next screens or jobs, he may continue cooperation, but on a paid basis.

Another option is to give the first portion of my work simply in advance and if the client wants to go further, then he first pays for the first portion he has already got and only after that I do the next job for him. If he however doesn't want to continue, the first portion becomes my gift and it's ok.

At that I don't want to require any advance payments from the clients and want to deal with them directly out of freelance platforms. Hence, the second paid job for the client I would like to accomplish in advance from my side as well. But if he won't pay for it in arrears (i.e. will steal it), that would mean two jobs for free. And the more will be the second stage, the more I will lost.

To mitigate the risk, I'm considering to make the second stage small. But the question is, how it's convenient for the Western clients to pay small amounts? Moreover, are there some legal or financial restrictions in EU or America for small payments? Or another issues?

Any your idea and advice would be appreciated.

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  • Most web developers and other such artists don't offer something for free as such. Instead, they may develop a portfolio to show prospective clients. On larger projects, often they may develop a mockup or model of their proposal in order to show the patron what they are proposing. The client does not get to keep those unless they buy the full project.
    – David R
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 14:29

1 Answer 1

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Your strategy can work, if you find clients with the right personality for such an approach. E.g. it‘s easy to pretend interest, just to get something from you.

Small payments:

The (administrative) effort for a payment is quite independent from the amount. However, due to charges of currency transfer it simply may not be economic with small amounts. E.g. your bank may eat up much as well.

You may send the wrong signal by or of being „cheap“. E.g. if you scan freelancer platforms, you compete with programmers from India, where the requested prices are just ridiculous, at least within Europe, including Ukraine.

Taxes and fraud

This may be more valuable to research. E.g. tax duties may be complicated for you at the moment, if regulated at all.

High volume transfer of small payments may raise the suspicion of money laundering, fraud or similar. Just to make you aware of it.

Western style of job offers

Interestingly companies don‘t make a difference between hiring an employee or a freelancer (which is a different business). It works like this:

  • Somebody, e.g. a project leader spots a demand for his/her project
  • S/He formulates tasks, expectations, requirements
  • Usually publication, search and prescanning candidats is delegated to Human Resources, either internally or externally
  • If a handful of prospects are found, there will be interviews, to learn about each other
  • This includes details e.g. about contracting, payment, quality assurance, keeping biz secrets and the like
  • In best case one (1) person will get the job

To apply you typically need to submit your CV, a short letter, relevant documents (diploma etc.). That‘s what HR understands and can trade with …

In return this means that contacting individuals like said project leader can work. But most of the time you‘ll take them by surprise: they didn‘t wait for you, just published several job offers and your qualities were not amongst them at the time s/he thought all out. This means: be prepared to build longterm relationships before the first chance for a contract arises with him/her.

Greetings from Germany, and wishing you success


Further questions from the comments:

And please could you add a little more point(s) about the main dilemma: to offer upfront work vs to require upfront payment? I read some pages in the internet advising to always get paid before starting a project. But what if a new client would hesitate to send money to me as to an unknown person? Is the cooperation by small milestones of upfont jobs as I described the middle ground?

WHEN to pay WHICH amount ... is a matter of negotiation between both parties. So there are no rules, strictly speaking, though there may be conventions, i.e. how to handle it in your clients branch or industry. Examples:

  • after the fact: contract, start working, send bill as negotiated, e.g. at beginning of next month, allow 1 month for compensation; so you'll have it approx. 2 months after start of each fiscal period (here: months)
  • at milestones: similar. Start, work, send bill at/after passing milestone, allow negotiated compensation periode (can also be 2 weeks, as an example)
  • before the fact: make your start dependent on prepaying a certain amount, bill regularly (which includes one time only at the end) as lined out. (Can it be, that you have to pay bills, too?)

It depends on your risk accessment and risk appetite. If it's a trustworthy client, there is hardly any problem by definition. If you can't be sure, worst case is approx. spending time for nothing.

If your client hesitates, try finding out, what's his reason. Is it convincing? Does s/he try to trick you? Is it uncertainty, e.g. of situation or you as a contracted specialist etc. Whatever you'll find out, it should determine your approach to payment.

If you feel better, try negotiating a stop condition, too, i.e. "if payment X doesn't arrive within Y days, I'll put my work (or better: reserve the right to put my work) for you on hold, until Z ..."

And frankly, if s/he doesn't want to send money, BECAUSE you are a stranger ... why would you want to work with or for this individual? I assume, your (life-) time is more valuable than that ...

And what if I can't yet sign legal contracts?

Don't really understand your point. In my country a contract exists legally, once we agree, even verbally. However, if trouble comes, and it most likely will, it will be hard to give evidence about what was or wasn't negotiated, expected, promissed etc. We are all humans, so it starts with "simple" misunderstandings.

So putting it down on paper won't hurt. Involving your attorney will be a good idea: probably your client can throw any amount of attorneys on you.

However, many times things go well, even without written contracts. Again, your tool is accessment of your client, to mitigate risks.

~ ~ ~

Finally, it's good to research, how other people see it. However, don't stick too much to it, as some may simply be wrong in some way. You may know it from books, which advertise "approach X" ... which may have worked for the author, may be only once, ... and is less effective for my situation ...

Try and see what works for you. Try being the partner, your client wants you to be, OR the type of personality you are for your client.

You see, as a client I could exchange one webdesigner by a dozen others. Unless ... it's different with you, as you provide something which is hard to find for me (and which I badly need).

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    MS-SPO, thank you! Unfortunately, I can't yet upvote you answer due to my low reputation. And please could you add a little more point(s) about the main dilemma: to offer upfront work vs to require upfront payment? I read some pages in the internet advising to always get paid before starting a project. But what if a new client would hesitate to send money to me as to an unknown person? Is the cooperation by small milestones of upfont jobs as I described the middle ground? And what if I can't yet sign legal contracts?
    – user29106
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 18:04
  • @freestackuser, thanks+no problem. Please see my add-ons above.
    – MS-SPO
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 19:08
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    MS-SPO, thanks again! Under "I can't sign contracts" I was meant I'm not presently an entrepreneur. Yes, I can sign agreements as a natural person and settle the issue judicially as well. Still, I don't want to turn to such a "3rd party" like court let alone when a client is from another country and or the amount is not worth for. That's why I'm looking for another way to resolve the dilemma how not to lose time and clients at the same time.
    – user29106
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 22:54

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