I have a client who I've been developing a site for. I've spent about a week on the job; it's a small project.

After 1 or 2 iterations the client settled on a design he liked, and so the work began. The site is now finished to requirements, minus the content. The client has been promising me for months that he would give me the content (text and images) necessary to complete the job.

Suddenly, today, I get the email that he has now got a new developer, and he wants me to work with the new developer to move all the domains which I know manage to him, as well as hosting. Basically, he is abandoning all the work I've done for him on the site.

Since I did not ever state I would charge in hours for the project, but only a fixed cost on "project completion", can I still charge for the project by hours spent? Am I allowed to charge the entire original fixed cost? How have you dealt with with similar issues in the past?

  • What did your contract state? Is everything hosted on your testing server first? I wouldn't release anything until you've been paid for what you've done, personally
    – Canadian Luke
    Mar 6, 2015 at 18:42

3 Answers 3


Nelson's answer is spot on. I would add the following advice:

  • Always have all terms in writing (I don't know that you didn't but that is paramount in any business dealing)
  • If you are pricing per project rather than hourly, you need a clause that handles partial payments if the project is cancelled by the client after work has been performed. The payments can be anything from a small percentage to full payment, depending on where the project is at cancellation. In the graphic design field, this is known as a "kill fee" and is standard practice.
  • Project-based pricing might also have payments due at certain milestones, such as a deposit at contract signing so work can begin (especially for new clients with whom you have no history so the trust level is low), and after initial wireframes/drafts, etc.
  • You should also have a clause in your contract saying that you own the rights to your code/design/thing you're making, and that you either grant the client a perpetual license to the thing, or if you are deciding it's a "work for hire" the rights do not transfer to the client until after full payment has been received.
  • Your contract should also spell out the methods of communication and other details delineating expectations from the client and what you are providing (in as much detail as possible) with clauses for additional fees for scope creep, changes, etc., and a way for you to terminate the relationship if it becomes burdensome.

Since he is changing the condition of the contract, you will have to re-negotiate what your current work is worth and go from there.

Request payment for what you have done so far since you've been waiting longer than the fair duration (months). It is to keep the good faith that the work will be paid for. If there is resistance then there is most likely a desire to "bail" on you, take all you got, and pay you nothing.

If they refuse, realize that most companies do not release products until the payment has been made (i.e.: everywhere else). Exceptions can be made for clients with good standing but you already gave your fair share (waiting on them for months).

Honestly if someone delayed giving you content for months, they don't really care about you and I really sense they just want to rip you off by giving all your content to the new developer.


I would definitely bill them. But if you do not have a contract, they may or may not pay. In your shoes right now I would say "no problem, as soon as I receive payment on this invoice for the work I did, I'll move the domains." I would not do anything else unless/until he pays you.


Always make sure you have a contract, and always get a deposit.

I have this statement in the terms of my contracts. (Note, I am not a lawyer, I probably found this language in someone else's contract.)

"In the event of cancellation of a software development project approved by [Client Name], [Client Name] will pay for work already completed at the current [Freelancer Name] hourly billing rate."

ALSO - I ask for a 50% deposit on the proposed final price before I start work. People who are serious and take you seriously expect to make a deposit and pay this right away. This is how I word that (more stuff I made up, others may have better wording...)

"A deposit of 50% of the development fee is required to commence programming. The balance is due within 30 days of the final invoice which will be submitted after [Client Name] has had 15 days to test and approve the Software."

I know many do milestones like Voxwoman suggests.

It's very tempting to just launch into the work on small projects because proposals and estimates can be so tedious. If you haven't already I would make a standard contract/estimate type document you can get clients to sign off on before starting any work, and wait for that deposit.

I have been on the other end, where I hired someone then didn't want to stick with their design. I still expected I'd have to pay them for what they'd done so far.

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