I met this client three times already. first time I gave them a quote based on the email conversation and told them in person my rate. second time we met at the office with another business partner.

The third time they brought another freelancer. i get the impression that we both work on the project for the price i quoted earlier. but this is all my assumption they haven't said a word about money figures.

I've provided over 4 hours of consulting already. I'm kinda getting annoyed because estimating and consulting I guess is not billable but then again I have spent x amount of hours thinking and giving advices on technical side of it.

Now they've released milestones and list of specifications. and it's hard to quote an hour for each item.

In general, I'm feeling a lack of incentive to continue. It seems like they want to keep going forward without talking about money. Right now, I have no idea as to what they thought of my quote, how I will get paid and when.

How do I ask for 30% down payment in order to continue? I feel like in order to make this worth my time, I have to receive compensation because it kinda feels like I'm doing work for free and I'm more anxious because although we seem to be going forward with the project (discussing due dates and milestones), no money has been discussed. I don't know if I'm getting quoted at 10 an hour or 40 an hour or if this other freelance developer will undercut me.

  • Are they asking for a quote on the milestones and specifications? Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 2:23
  • no mention of quote, hours or price just provide milestone dates based on teh list of specifications
    – KJW
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 2:26
  • 3
    Don't provide them milestone dates. You're essentially providing them project management and planning for free at this point. Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 2:33
  • Have they officially said they want you to do the project? I've run into the case where we have multiple discussion meetings, mainly around the feasibility/timing of it and getting to know the key players, but no commitment. Once they ended up with going with someone else (cheaper I think). In some ways this is business development time, but you need to get a commitment from them at some point soon.
    – Miro
    Commented Feb 17, 2014 at 15:56

4 Answers 4


Estimating and consulting are absolutely billable. If you're making an estimation and they're holding the other freelancer to that estimate then you've already provided them with tangible value.

Before you continue meeting or talking further about the project you should schedule a meeting or at least send an email stating that the rate and the terms need to be ironed out. If you feel like you are beyond that point then you should take the initiative and send them a proposal that they should review and sign before anything moves forward. The benefit of this is since they've completely danced around the issue you can control the terms.


Once I have met with a client and am keen on the project, I write a formal proposal confirming the milestones and payment terms which usually includes a 50% up front payment so the client is also taking a stake in the work.

The project can start once the client formally agrees to the proposal and the initial deposit is paid.

This method would probably help you avoid the situation you are now in.


Everyone will have a different approach, so find what works for you. That can be an amalgamation of what you find here and elsewhere, or it could be absolutely nothing you garner from answers found here.

That said, here's what I suggest to protect yourself and your time.

  • Offer a free consultation of 20 to 30 minutes

Inside that time frame you should be able to gather a decent understanding of what they are trying to do and have a ballpark figure of what it will take to complete (i.e. how long it will take, what it will involve, and how much it will cost). Ask a lot of questions here, probe for some details you know to be relevant but they don't understand the connection.

People tend to like "free consultations" simply because (in my opinion) they can get an understanding of their situation from a professional. In that time you can also find whether or not it is worth it for you to take on the client. Always remember that just because you meet with a potential client, it doesn't mean you have to take them on.

  • 1 to 2 hour meeting at your Administrative cost

Your Administrative cost is what you should charge for doing overhead. I like to go over what they are going to receive from you first. Once they know what they are going to get, it's easier to talk to them about how much it will cost. Be explicit with the cost of the project. Don't let them brush you off with a "we can go over figures later". Never accept that, just politely reply with, "I have the estimations right here in front of us. If you are unwilling to go over them now then I cannot continue working with you." If they keep pressing you remind them that you already gave them free time, from here on that will not be the case. You are a professional, as such you expect your time to be paid for. Paying for your time ensures that you give the client your full attention. If someone doesn't like to discuss money and how much you get paid in the beginning, then they will most likely be just as apprehensive when it comes to getting paid in the end.


This is a tricky question. We all are bound to do free estimation time, but not for good. I think there is a good top question here on How long should free estimation last.

Now, IMHO I would tell them that I feel like we've moved to another phase -low-level estimation. I would ask them if my terms are OK for them so that I know before we continue. I would also mention that if they hire me, I would need 30% upfront.

If they say OK, I would tell that that I am willing to spend another 1,2,3 (you decide!) hours doing free estimation as a sign of a good faith. After that we have to conclude a contract.

I think this will make it clear whether they are serious or not. Just stick to your words. And have courage to leave if need be.

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