I'm thinking of bidding on a freelance editing job through a freelance job website. The employer wants people to agree to a bonus/penalty pay deal: You get extra money for finishing the work early, and lose money if you deliver late.

I've never heard of this before. Is this standard practice? I have no problem meeting deadlines, but I don't know whether some of these projects are deliberately set up to make you fail — like ghostwriting a book in two days, or something close to impossible.

  • How does that work? If you deliver on time, you get a 20% bonus. If you miss the deadline, you stop working but only get 80% payment?
    – morsor
    Oct 18, 2016 at 11:40
  • I've worked for an employer where this method using bonus/penalties was the normal way, so yes, it was standard practice. I have no idea if it is getting to be a general standard, I don't think so.
    – Maarten
    Oct 19, 2016 at 7:51
  • @morsor You have to deliver the project, whether it is on time or not. If on time, you get paid what you agreed on. If earlier, you get a bonus. If later, you get paid less.
    – Maarten
    Oct 19, 2016 at 7:52

1 Answer 1


Assuming (from the comments) that one must deliver regardless of being late and therefore being paid less, it sounds very asymmetrically tilted towards the client's advantage - even though the bonus/fee sounds symmetric.

Haven't really heard of such arrangements, but imagine they would occur in a buyer's market, where an oversupply of desperate freelancers compete for few projects. If this is the case, there is already quite massive downward pressure on the real hourly rate - meaning the bonus will probably never come into play.

  • Why is it tilted towards the client's advantage ? There are obviously restrictions that would apply, such as not allowing the change of requirements without looking at the consequences to the deadline. And you need to be able to plan very well.
    – Maarten
    Oct 19, 2016 at 10:37
  • I agree with you - in theory - if a freelancer and a client clearly agree on acceptance criteria. However, in my experience your 'obvious restrictions' are quite often vague (at best) or non-existent (at worst), making the late-fine way more likely than the bonus.
    – morsor
    Oct 19, 2016 at 10:42
  • How can you agree on a deadline if the requirements are vague or non-existent? Makes no sense to me.
    – Maarten
    Oct 19, 2016 at 11:04
  • I agree that deadline and requirements should be linked; often they just aren't - especially when the freelancer and client are inexperienced. If you have never ever had requirements that turned out to be insufficient, you been more fortunate than me.
    – morsor
    Oct 19, 2016 at 11:54

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