The title may not be the best thing to describe my question and I apologize for that

I am a client with a project that is basically a private social network, the project is aimed at a certain family and it will have calendar, events, phone book, family tree and some statistics

I have used various websites to find an experienced freelancer to do my project and I happen to come across this company whom showed me some really nice results

We made a contract outside of the website, listing all of the project's features, how it should work, and the milestones. We came to agree to have an upfront payment of 15% from the total amount, then after each milestone is approved we pay the amount agreed for that milestone. The contract was signed and scanned then sent back to us.

The project was supposed to take four months, but it ended up taking over eight months, and before receiving the work of the second milestone, the freelancer demanded the payment before sharing the work with us. Obviously that is not following our contract and I mentioned it to the freelancer, but they simply replied with "Our management does not approve of your contract" and I ended up paying for absolutely nothing in return

While that experience was very bad, my manager was to try again but I am not sure how to be able to avoid such incidents with freelancers. I understand that not all freelancers are the same, but I do not was to be paying for something that I am not going to receive.

What would be the best way to ensure that this does not happen again? a contract through a lawyer?


2 Answers 2


Yes a legal team or advice will help.

If your contract with the freelancer you describe was never signed and returned to you... it's really your folly for proceeding with anything. There's no "agreement" without signatures from all parties involved. Note that's only if all parties can be bound by the contract terms or punitive measure in the contract can be pursued.

The best way to protect yourself is to only hire freelancers within your own country, have a contract and never agree to any work being done or any payment being made until the contract is signed and returned.

By only hiring within your country, everyone involved will be bound by the same laws and, if necessary, contract disputes can be handled far more efficiently.

One of the biggest mistakes I've seen be made is to hire a foreign developer, pay them a bunch of money, then have absolutely zero recourse when they fail to deliver merely due to international laws or the financial burden inflicted by pursuing them. This is a big reason many United States clients only work with freelancers in the US.

All this has nothing to do with skill or ability, it's about being protected at least in some way. There are thousands of great freelancers all over the world who are not only good at their jobs, but are absolutely ethical and upstanding. I am in no way trying to disparage or denigrate any freelancer from any country/region. However, when considering self-protection, it's often impossible to enforce any contract over international borders unless you have some well-experienced international legal team to turn to. That is the primary issue.

  • The contract has been signed, that is why we proceeded with the project. I have tried looking into freelancers from my country but barely anyone showed up in the major freelancing websites, so this option is not available even though it seems to be the best way to get our work done easily. As for an international legal team, I doubt that it is possible. So from my understanding, there is nothing wrong that I did, and its all a hit or miss when it comes to online freelancers? Feb 19, 2018 at 8:33

In addition to using freelancers from your own jurisdiction, one can also seek to minimize risk by NOT engaging in a '100% deliver everything' fixed-price contract.

Even though (upper) management understandably prefers having a fixed price, it very often turns out to be an illusion. The freelancer seeks to minimize their risk by padding estimates considerably and the client by staging payments - but in the end it often ends with lengthy arguments over what is covered by the contract.

The alternative is a 'pay as you go' contract where the freelancer is paid for their time. This approach requires that you as a client are able to maintain a short feedback loop and run the project so you at any time can back out and have at least a partial solution for which you have paid a reasonable price. If all goes well, the whole solution will be delivered - but if you need to jump ship, it will be possible.

To management, 'pay as you go' often sounds like a potentially endless waste of money - but the fact that all time costs money actually drives the project forward - or gets it cancelled. 'Fixed price' runs a larger risk of going into a long non-productive stalemate.

An added bonus with 'pay as you go' is often less late-project-arguing over what constitutes a bug (that must be fixed for free) and a not-free change request. In fixed-price projects, clients understandably attempt to extract as much 'free' work from the freelancer, often leading to a deterioration of the relationship.

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