I am a freelance application developer. I currently have a client who I began working with in January. A contract was signed stating the project was to be completed in March and that mockups and full requirements would be coming. I did not complete the project in time, partly because I was still receiving requirements and mockups up through April.

Scope creep has gotten worse as the days go on, and yesterday the client informed me that they do not intend to pay my final payment due to the project being late (and they take no responsibility for it). At this point, I am no longer interested in finishing the project, and I want to fire the client.

Problem #1: There is no termination clause in the contract
Problem #2: The application is not complete. The client has threatened to sue for breach of contract if I do not finish what I signed off for originally.

So far the client has paid me 75% of the total payment; the remaining 25% is the final payment that I have not (and apparently will not) receive. It's my understanding that this isn't a Material Breach because the client will still be getting a fully functional application that is just missing a few of their requirements. I have every intention of giving them every line of code I have written.

FWIW, this is a small claims case. The total payment amount for the project is supposed to total only $4000. I have received $3000 so far. However I am worried that they will try to seek damages for lost revenue for the project being late.

All in all, how do I fire this client without a lengthy and potentially expensive lawsuit afterward?

P.S. I am not interested in finishing the project and fighting for the final payment when completed. Despite there only being a few original requirements left, the client will continue to add new requirements and blame me for it being late. This isn't worth $1000.

  • Does the contract allow the client to refuse payment due to late delivery?
    – morsor
    May 9, 2016 at 8:33
  • I suspect the answer to this depends on (1) how determined the client is to sue you and (2) how likely they are to suceed if they try. (2) is more likely to be addressed on law.stackexchange.com.
    – user152
    May 9, 2016 at 9:03
  • How was the communication between you and the client? When he made changes, did you tell him the project would take longer? If so, then he is absolutely responsible for the project being late.
    – user152
    May 9, 2016 at 9:08
  • @morsor No, there is nothing in the contract about missing deadlines. There is also nothing in the contract about refusal of payment for any reason. May 9, 2016 at 12:59
  • 1
    Sounds like the contract, frankly, sucks. I think the best option would be to have an open and frank discussion with the client. Anything short of that is just a guessing game based on what they reaction may be.
    – Scott
    May 9, 2016 at 17:43

3 Answers 3


It's an unfortunate reality that State laws do not have strict requirements and licensing for computer developers/engineers. If they did, your business structure would have legal rights offered under State statutes.

Consider this a loss and a lesson to remember for future projects. Make it clear in your Terms that such unforeseen events will only extend your project wages, not decrease them.


Since the contract says nothing about you terminating it or the client withholding payment, you will need to sit down and negotiate a solution. It seems there are two options:

1) You leave now giving them all code - and no one owes anyone anything 2) A new contract is negotiated which deals with scope creep, late delivery and so on

It seems you have considerable leverage as you have received 75% and basically just want out - whereas they have paid partially for an unfinished product.


I would suggest to complete the project. But before resuming work on that, Send him tasks with mockup and flow of tasks.

You can send him all flow and mention clearly your intension that you will complete these tasks (because they are in scope) and want to close the project. There will be no further tasks except this.

If it doesn't fit to him then you can say to terminate the project. Please reminder that you already took $3000 from him.

It would always suggest a BEST approach to say HONESTLY and this works most of the time.

Good luck.

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