I've found an illustrator, who's work I really like. I saw his work online so have never met the person in 'real life'. He's named his price which is quite a lot of money. Therefore, I have concerns about paying someone who I don't really know. The last thing I'd want is for them to take off with my money without doing the work.

I've proposed half now and half on completion, although half is still quite a lot of money. If possible, I don't want to go through one of those freelancing sites, like Elance, as I can imagine they'd probably take quite a large cut.

How can I tackle payment safely so that I know the freelancer won't run off?

  • 1
    For you as a client sites like Elance are a decent deal, it's the freelancer that pays the price usually. Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 19:13
  • “…although half is still quite a lot of money.” Then you are are in a paranoid/somewhat-dysfunctional relationship with your freelancer if you are thinking like this. A 50/50 split is the best way to handle tasks like this. Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 15:27

3 Answers 3


For fixed price projects, depending on the size of the contract I always did 50% up front and 50% upon delivery. For larger contracts (+1500 euros) I took 30% up front. The freelancer thinks the same way: "I'm not going to do work if there is a chance the client just runs off with my work and doesn't pay me!".

There is always a risk, but if the freelancer has decent references there is no reason he would want to run off: if he just does his job he gets another 50% or 70%.

I never worked with escrow services, it just costs extra and I never heard of a freelancer taking half and just running off. Which of course doesn't offer any certainty, and I should mention I never worked with freelancers or clients that where more than a few hundred kilometers from me.


This service seems like it offers the protection you require and gives a third party the funds until the freelancer has completed and delivered the product


Escrow.com reduces the risk of fraud by acting as a trusted third-party that collects, holds and only disperses funds when both Buyers and Sellers are satisfied.

  • 2
    Shame on whomever did the downvote. This is good, Dean - don't be dismayed. The inherent challenge with escrow services is that they aren't able to evaluate quality as a parameter. I learned this recently in similar fashion trying to not get ripped off while importing some goods for my business - the banks (which can function as escrow) can only vouch for the form (i.e. x number of boxes were delivered at such-and-such location, or they weren't; but there's no guarantee the boxes aren't full of crap once you open them!) Same applies to online escrow. It's a toughy.
    – Xavier J
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 23:15
  • Thanks for the research Dean, while it's helpful as a service to consider I was looking for a bit more advice in general. Your answer doesn't deserve being down voted, so please don't be disheartened.
    – Ally
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 0:08
  • Hey Dean, welcome to Freelancing SE. Sorry about the spam flags, we get a lot of people trying to promote their products here and end up deleting a lot of really low quality stuff, so hope you understand. With that said, we do generally expect answers to have a little more depth to them on our site, as our goal is to be a wealth of Freelancing knowledge. It sounds like you have some experience with escrow.com, so if you shared one of your experiences with the site, or explained in a bit more detail how it works, that would really help our mission to make the Internet a better place. Good luck!
    – jmort253
    Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 1:21
  • @jmort253 Hey, that's fine but looking up my account on other SO sites would show I'm not a spammer :) I have given as much info as I know but my aim was to just provide the OP with a link to a resource containing the information that may or may not be of some help. I've never used the service personally I simply did a bit of research to find the info Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 13:44
  • @DeanWhitehouse apologies about the deletion, however that edit was not by a moderator. I originally deleted your message (I take full responsibility for this) because it looked too much like a generic promotional post. I didn't, however, take action on your account, and would have undeleted had you not posted again with more info. I apologise for not giving you this info beforehand.
    – Amelia
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 15:37

So you want a feast without spending an ounce of flour? If you find a solution I would like to hear it as well :).

Working with a remote freelancer is always risky. That's why you always start with small and in time increase amount of work. Why don't you give him to do only a part of a job?! Paying 50% of the small part is worth of risk. If you however started with a large project, then you're probably not so good with money planning and you will eventually be hurt. You have to build trust with the remote freelancer first.

Next, web services like odesk or elance offer clients a great comfort since you can review freelancer's portfolio and your money is pretty safe in fixed-price projects. And they charge you for that safety.

Lastly, services like Skrill offer money escrow so you may take a look at that as well.

PS. I am writing this thinking that you two cannot sign a liable contract e.g. you cannot sue him efficiently. If you can sign a good contract where he can financially be responsible for bad work, then sign it.

  • Thanks for the answer, it's a one off piece of work I need, so don't really have the luxury of small pieces of work first. Your idea of skrill escrow sounds pretty good, I will look into that, I don't mind paying a small amount for only the transaction safety service. This liable contract method sounds useful, can I ask him to sign something like that over email? For what it's worth, I'm based in the UK, the illustrator is in the US.
    – Ally
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 12:08
  • I really cannot advise on legal matters. I am not a lawyer nor live in uk/us. Maybe someone else will know.
    – Peter MV
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 12:23

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