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I'm looking to start freelancing as a web developer in NZ and have been prodding about the internet for tips and advice.

One article I found (Link forgotten, was on NZ Herald newspaper's website) suggested that it was good practice to present a client with the total estimated quote and charge 50% before work began.

Any new or cut features/pages would have an effect on the total quote but obviously unless the client cut so much that the total was less than half of the original the client probably wouldn't get any money back.

My question is, as a freelancer trying to get a good reputation in a country not known for it's exploding web-design scene... is this a good idea or should I charge after the work is done and risk non-payment?

  • You could divide work in to progressive segments and link payment viz milestones. As trust builds over time and customer gets you regular work you may make rare exception to delay a milestone - but that should be about it. – alpa Jul 20 '15 at 12:36
  • I know that when people work locally, eye to eye, they charge that way, 50% now, 50% after the work is done. However, in larger projects, milestone may be better so that client does not pay too much money immediately, and you don't wait too long for the 2nd half. – Peter MV Jul 20 '15 at 12:51
  • This answer suggests that a 20-30% deposit is good starting point, with milestone payments for the remainder, as @Peter suggests. – halfer Jul 22 '15 at 21:31
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It is critical that as part of your contract you have specific payment milestones, and you should not just wait until the end for a single payment. Look at the project and break it into good logical milestones negotiated between yourself and the client, with payment due at the milestones.

While getting a deposit is reasonable, I would not go for 50%. A portion startup costs are reasonable if you incur legitimate cost (equipment, licensing) otherwise you are asking them to trust you at the same time you seem to be showing little trust in them. How many of your suppliers (services or products) do you pay 50% to before receiving anything from them?

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  • I agree with your advice, but I don't know if the comparison with suppliers in general is a fair one. If you are including in that category, say, a plumber or a electrician doing half a day's work, that would not compare to a web development project that might stretch over weeks. In fact, for longer home-improvement projects, charging at least for materials up-front is quite common, at least here in the UK. – halfer Jul 22 '15 at 21:34
  • Materials yes, which is why I mentioned equipment and licenses. But not for labor.I agree that services done in one day, e.g. plumber or electrician, it would be all paid at once, but for extended home improvement, I would only post up front for materials – cdkMoose Jul 23 '15 at 2:15

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