I have a new client which approved my proposal saying that we will split the project into milestones - first payment after the first milestone (30%). The problems appeared right from the start because she didn't have a brief or a lot of details about the project like design examples or some sort of wireframes or sketches. Basically, I was working in the dark somewhat.

PROBLEM: Anyway, she approved the first few wireframes, but after I finished the design, she was NOT PLEASED at all and doesn't want to pay before I make the necessary design revisions.

I don't have a problem with that, but I already did a lot of work and will like to get paid before investing even more hours into this. After long discussions where I tried to explain that I can definitely change the design, it's not an issue, but I have to get paid, she refuses, saying:

Paying is not an issue [lol] but what if she pays and still doesn't like the design I come up with.

The discussions seem to go nowhere and I'm honestly getting tired of this. What can I do in this situation?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – user9447
    May 7, 2018 at 13:15

5 Answers 5


Looking at your question I can see some points that cause me immediate concern:

"...first payment after the first milestone (30%)."

For me at least that's an immediate problem. I too have staged payments, but the the first stage is always a deposit. If you get paid before you lift a finger you benefit from several advantages!

...problems appeared right from the start because she didn't have a brief or a lot of details...

Another red-flag. If there were problems from the start, they should have been dealt with at the start. Beginning a brief of any kind without a decent scope in place is always asking for trouble.

The options going forwards

Right now you simply have two options, and they very much depend on your perception of the client and your interactions with her up to now. If you insist on getting paid, you will or won't GET paid, and maybe you'll terminate the relationship. Sometimes that can be worth it to secure the 30% and save yourself a lot more trouble with a bad client.

Or you let it slide, do (as little!) extra work as you can and attempt to patch up the relationship to your mutual benefit.

Good luck! In my opinion next time you should secure a deposit and a scope, and you'll avoid this situation in the future.


The client is taking advantage of you. Plain and simple.

If "payment is not an issue" as the client states, then the client would have no problem paying you what you are owed to the current point. Whatever that may be. If you had an agreement of 30% at this particular stage... then demand that 30% before doing more.

In my experience, any client that states "payment is not an issue" but then doesn't pay when invoiced... won't pay you if you allow that to happen. At that stage they are merely trying to "milk" you for anything they can get.

Stick to your guns, require payment for more work. There's no point in trying to placate a client with further work if that client is already showing a inclination to take advantage of you. Business is a two way street, the client trusts you to work, you trust the client to pay. You've held up your end. You've shown you are trustworthy and will complete what you agree to complete. Now it's up to the client to prove they can be trusted.... don't do anything more for the client until they show a willingness to hold up their end.

Based on comments on various answers, if there's no contract -- there's nothing you can do to force payment. But also be aware, that an "agreement " is a contract. I mean "an agreement between two or more parties" is the definition of a "contract". If you have written proof (emails) that the client approved pricing, and then approved work.... you have grounds to be firm.

Note that this is a BIG reason I avoid international clients in many instances. It's nearly impossible to collect from someone if they are in another country, let alone on another continent. And that may also be why some clients don't hire locally - they know you can't collect. I'll take on UK and Canadian clients that's it (I'm US based). The UK has some terrific leverage to use against companies that owe more than 5,000£ if the debt can be proven. But, I only discovered that fact about the UK due to a delinquent UK client and researching collection options.

If you do come across international clients, I strongly recommend at least a 50/50 payment schedule. 50% up front, then 50% upon completion (before final file delivery). If possible, 100% up front is best for international clients.

  • 1
    Perhaps you may want to clarify (as you have mentioned in your comment before) that "the wireframes were approved", not "designs" (on the 1st paragraph)
    – Andrew T.
    May 7, 2018 at 4:03

As an ex-freelancer, I see a few issues at hand here.

  1. Artistic services are often seen as a cheap commodity. If you acquired your client through a platform like Craigslist for example, expect that the client is not a serious business owner who is familiar with working with a contractor and they may try to escape payment. Freelance websites often force upfront payment for this very reason.

  2. You need as much information as you can get from the client before starting the project. I'd usually have a general info form that I'd have the client fill out which helps me better understand their needs and helps them gain clarity themselves. It's also the first stage of filtering out clients who aren't serious.

  3. Milestones, progress and constraints should be quantifiable, e.g. charge by the hour, 10 design drafts max, etc. Subjective scenarios can't be measured and a seemingly short project can end up spanning months upon months if the client is given complete leverage.

  4. Contracts. Use them. Both parties need to be held responsible and understand what they are agreeing to. There are 3rd party platforms like HelloSign that facilitate in providing a means to electronically signing a legally binding contract. This will also serve as another filtering process.

If a client doesn't agree to work within those guidelines, then ditch them and pat yourself on the back for avoiding a landmine.


Stop doing work. Now. You need to cut your losses. I would even limit the amount of time you spend communicating to the customer. They need to understand that everything is cut off and the project abandoned (unless they pay up).

If they are not paying at 30%, they won't pay at 100%. (Either because they don't want to, because you're not good enough, or just because of lack of communication.) It doesn't matter why. This milestone allows you to cut nonpaying clients (or for clients that feel obligated to pay, to cut nonperforming contractors).

Next time request a deposit (even 10% will make the client feel more invested) or have a 10-20% milestone that is for conceptual design. Also think about being more client selective. Really, I think the deposit is the thing to do to weed out non-serious customers.

Also, while you should ideally strategize to avoid/limit non-payment, you will have some, therefore, price your services accordingly - this is unfortunate for the paying customers but is unavoidable.


Since you used the terms "approved my proposal ... milestones", I guess this might be a freelancing site job?

In which case a written contract is most likely non-existent. As you basically bid for a job written by an anonymous potential client, then hope to get selected from a pool of random bids, then you get to work with this anonymous client which can set any terms he wants since he can always choose another provider from the pool of random bids.

So, this is a bit like a lottery where you don't know the person, or how they will react to your drafts, or how they decide to make payments or not. That's a risk you always take when working on freelancing websites. The only hope there, as with anything, is to earn repeat clients which already know what to expect from you.

At this point, I guess you can only take the action allowed by the freelancing website: probably try to politely somehow resolve this with the client directly, or try to mediate the issue via their support system, or ultimately just let it go and learn from this.

  • 1
    I hadn't considered that this could be one of those (shudders!) job sites. If that IS the case then all bets are off of course. Revise my answer above to include "never use these sites" ;) May 6, 2018 at 9:40
  • No, it's not one of those freelancing sites.I'm a freelancer myself but didn't have a contract in place - but even if I did, I don't have the funds to sue a client halfway across the world, so what would that accomplish? May 6, 2018 at 14:34
  • 1
    The same reasoning kind of applies, but without the assisted mediation option. Without a contract and no other means to protect the work, the client is free to not pay. The best you can try is to sweet talk this into some kind of compromise deal.
    – Lucian
    May 6, 2018 at 15:35
  • 5
    @MimyPolina, a contract's purpose is mainly to define the scope of the work and ensure that all parties actually know what they've agreed to, and how to amicably resolve any issues that arise that are reasonably foreseeable. A good contract actually helps prevent disputes, because you've both transformed all assumptions into ink which you've both understood. Basically, a contract is evidence of the agreement and its terms. Whether you have any intention of ever enforcing a contract in court is beside the point.
    – K_foxer9
    May 6, 2018 at 20:15

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