I'm considering a freelance offer for a startup in the US (I'm European) and I'd like to know if I should request some sort of down-payment for these initial hours.

Basically I don't want to get ripped-off and I'm thinking that if I don't have this mechanism, then the client can simply not pay me after I work for some time and there's nothing I can do about it.

I reckon the project will be done in roughly 80h or so and I want to bill weekly.

So, two questions actually:

1) Should I use down-payment for an hourly-based gig?

2) What would be a reasonable net-X? How many days?

  • Via all kinds of freelance websites it makes the client seem serious enough and more reliable. In face to face contact, I have never asked for a downpayment and I havent heard of anyone doing that regarding Time & Material projects (eg hourly based gigs). For fixed price projects downpayments are much more common. Jan 7, 2017 at 11:45

4 Answers 4


Down-payments are a legitimate means of gauging a client's seriousness about the project and ability to pay. While there is nothing inherently wrong with requesting a down-payment, some clients might be as trepidatious about paying a freelancer upfront as you might be about working with no assurances about your paycheck.

An effective compromise between you and your client might be to establish milestone payments for the project. Depending on the project, your milestones might be:

  • Result or production based (as in an aspect of the project is complete and demonstratable)

  • Hourly (where the client has some way of verifying your work/progress after a certain number of hours)

However, if you believe you can convince your client to pay you upfront without scaring them off, I have two possible recommendations for traditional down-payments.

  • 20-30% upfront (for short projects, or projects where a contract is signed significantly before the start date)
  • Invoicing for 1-2 weeks of work upfront

Just make sure you treat the down-payment with the caution it demands. Depending on the terms of your agreement, payments received before completion may be subject to reimbursement if the project fails to reach completion.

Hope this helps!


Work as freelancer does not risky free.. so you will face good and bad clients during your freelancing career.

For hourly-based work, normally, we ask the client for weekly bid. However, you may ask for down payment for hosting or to hire a designer that maybe you. Just think of the work process and you may find a reason to get down-payment.

Hopefully, this situation not forever and next project the payment will be more smooth because the clients start trusting you and can ask for 50% downpayment without worry.


Down-payment is what I use each time in with new clients. It is a matter of distrust and no client should be offended with it. I'd rather having offended client who leaves me than work for garbage.

So for the first few months, I usually ask clients to pay for a week or two ahead. If I see the client is OK, I usually do not stop work on the first Monday which is not paid, but I wait a few days. If it's starting to become a habit, I ask client to start loading money for the longer period so that I do not stop providing service without money.

And this works well. Clients are not offended and I am not being ripped off. We are in business relations and I do not tolerate spoiled behavior. So just present yourself as a serious professional doing excellent work and request nothing less from the clients.


If the project is 80 hours as you describe I would ask for payment after 5 hours as a gesture of good will and then payment every 10 hours or so.

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