I am a web developer and SEO for my brother.

He has an insurance company and specialises on a certain type of customers that I address with special websites and SEO for him. I'm doing this for several years now and payments come sporadically and are still very low compared to what I put in in work days / work weeks. For me that is ok as we agreed upon that in the hope that one day he will be able to pay me more. Since about 1/2 a year we have kind of a written agreement (not signed) that I will get every 10th customer payment 2 years after first customer contact (because it usually takes so long until he gets payments from the insurance companies for the respective customer).

But 2 years are a long time if you invest a lot of work and (although I see that things improve for him) he is overworked, 100% busy and still struggling a little with business.

My Question: How could I make sure that I get my money 100% without making him a poor man today? What kind of contract would you come up with? What are your thoughts on this kind of business agreement?

Maybe as a last comment: I really like support him - but some times I feel like I maybe will never get my money..

4 Answers 4


Just very bad business on your part. I understand supporting family and everything. However, doing business with family is always a bad idea. The closer you are to family the worse the idea becomes.

You've set things up so you won't EVER be profitable.

Either just do it for free or "whatever and whenever" he feels like paying you - realizing you may never earn anything --- or charge for services when the services are rendered, like all business do.

Regardless of the client, any client, I would never agree to payment two years after services have been rendered.

My general practice with friends and family is.. I either do the work, whatever it is, free of charge, or I don't do the work at all. This is really the ONLY way I've found to avoid resentment from one part later.


Agreed. Your brother's situation will eat at you over time when you could spend the same hours working on your own book of business. Start branching out to find small businesses with the money to pay for your work then your brother will see that you're worth more than what he's offering.


You should start reducing your dependency for business on your brother or any other family member. The thumb rule is never to sell or provide service on credit to your family members, you will eventually be the last one to be paid and will always be doubted for the product or services you sold. There are several articles written in popular business magazines on why one should not sell or even lend to family members, google it and you will get this information.

You need to create a simple written agreement that you will get the money after two years and then move on to take other work (simple things like written agreements become an issue in family dealings and hence the first point that selling products or services to the family should be avoided). This agreement will ensure that you will get some money after two years if not now, something is better than nothing.

I am sure there are enough potential clients who will appreciate your work and will be ready to pay the right price. You need to show them the value - read some articles or books on value selling and show your potential client the value you will bring to the table and why you are different.

All the best!


Your brother is taking advantage of you because you let him. There's these things called boundaries. It's your job in life to establish boundaries that help you control your life and keep out the drama, deadbeats, a-holes and whatnot. Control of your life should be your goal not making sure your brother is the only one who benefits from your work which is the likely outcome here.

I once worked for my brother for free because I strongly believed in supporting family and figured we were on the same team. Two things changed my mind: 1.) He complained more about the great free work I provided than he complained to people he paid who did lower quality work. 2.) I caught him paying someone else a huge amount of money to do what he was happy to let me do for free. In other words, he had the money, he just didn't respect me enough to pay me even a token amount. Mind you, I had paid him cash so he could do his work for another relative in the past. And he didn't say, 'no'.

Speaking of point 2... when you give someone time (money) they put it towards what matters to them. Not you. For example, if a client begs you for an extension on payment they will still pay their light bill, maybe even go to the movies or buy a new car. They just aren't paying YOU.

I was a lot younger and more naive back then when I learned about my sibling. Now, I've seen it all and at the end of the day, unless you have a joint bank account with your brother, "keep it moving". Get real clients. If your brother is good at business he can succeed without you. If he's not he will fail and that's on him. I'd give you a different opinion if he'd given you a more reasonable deal but the one you described is a joke. The same kind any con artist off the street would give you.

But, OK, you say, 'answer my question'. To make sure you get paid, you need a contract where the payment is not based on his performance but is just based on the work you did. And gives you the right to audit his books so you can see what he's making. This is all a hassle and you're not going to want to pay a lawyer (worst case) to sort it all out when you're dealing with relatively small sums of money. A good business principle to follow, is not to lend money unless the borrower is credit worthy. You are giving your time (money) to someone who isn't worthy. You are hoping what he's doing will pay off. He probably has zero record of taking the kinds of things you're giving him and turning a profit so there's super high risk here. Your best move is not to do something so risky.

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