I'm doing a small bit of work for a client. I sent a written estimate and a written contract for both parties to sign; both were agreed to verbally, but I haven't received a signed copy of my contract yet. I later learned that I would be subcontracting to a company that has a retainer with this client, as they can't perform the fix; as such, I sent my contract and estimate to the company, who approved it (verbally).

As the work was fairly trivial, I've completed it. However, I haven't yet received a signed contract; I expected that this would be sent to me before now.

Is it unreasonable to deny delivery of the work until the contract is signed? I'm being asked for an ETA for completion, but I don't want to deliver without a contract. What's the best way to deal with this situation?

4 Answers 4


It is reasonable to expect a contract to be in place before the work is delivered. Personally, I would expect the contract to be in place before work begins.

My guess is they consider their verbal recognition of the contract sufficient, and you don't. A polite clarification that you require a formal recognition of the contract shouldn't cause any hard feelings.

Re: Project Completion ETA

Hello [client], the project is finished and ready for delivery. I will submit the deliverable to you as soon as I receive a signed copy of the contract I submitted to you on [date].


  • Thanks. I based my email on your template and the results were instant - I received the signed paperwork within thirty minutes.
    – user8159
    Jun 26, 2015 at 17:24

I believe communication is best key here.

You need to let them know what you expect and prepare for worst.

If they value you they will understand and either be corrected or correct you(if you missed out).

I think expectations need to be clearly defined hence contract.


It's not unreasonable at all.

You can simply mention that you only need the contract signed and the files will be sent as soon as it's done.

The way to ask for this is (reword it better though):

"Files are ready to be sent! Please let me know when you can sign the contract and send it back in order to complete the process, then I'll be able to upload the files to XYZ within the next hour. Also, let me know if there any issue or question regarding the contract and how to add the digital signature on it."

Then you tell them to have a good day, and you sign your name.

And you attach the contract to the email. And you wait!


Absolutely not. I agree with the prior poster:

Dear Valued Customer,

I have undertaken the fixes we already agreed to verbally, and they are ready for delivery at such time as I receive the signed copy of the contract already in your possession. If you have misplaced the contract, I can send you a replacement copy. This is for your legal protection, as well as my own. Thank you in advance. I await your transmission of the signed copy of our already agreed to contract, along with your instructions as to the delivery of the already completed work product.

If they have a problem signing the contract, you'll have an even bigger problem receiving payment. Standard best business practice is of course to withhold all work, until such time as they sign the contract.

  • I experienced just that: "an even bigger problem receiving payment". I think jedd.ahyoung had been lucky. I ended writing "We cannot work togheter since you want me to work for free and without contract. The software will end working on [date]". They immediately pay me... in following years I lost a lot of time with this customer, never satisfied, always asking for more (and for free). I had to sued him to get annual fees. I lost more money, payed a lawyer... I learned if things start 'strange' it's a good signal to change customer immediately. Leave him to your competitors.
    – Fil
    Aug 7, 2017 at 17:08

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