Never launch a website until you receive final payment. Some exceptions apply, but we’ll get to that later. Simply put, a client’s lack of planning does not constitute an emergency for you.
Most projects will encounter some sort of delay. That’s fine, because in your proposal, you allowed enough time for testing, bugs, reiterations, vacation time, sick days, weekends, Sharknados…anything you can think of. Because you have been doing this long enough to know that something always comes up. As long as you stick to your delivery date, the less the client knows about “delays” the better. Deliver on time, and no one’s the wiser.
But what happens when the client causes the delay, yet somehow still expected to deliver on time? Assuming you have established a deadline prior to start, you must let the client know that delays on their end will inevitably result in a delay of final delivery. When you book a project, you put your team together and create a schedule based on a number of variables. Skill level, budget and availability of resources. So if a project becomes idle, so do your workers and no good comes of that. You now put those idle workers on another project, only to have the client want to start up again, and of course that means, right now, today.
You shift gears, have your workers stop their new project, and get them back together to finish up, doing your best to make up for the client’s delay. After all, you want to make sure the client is happy. You want to make the deadline.
As the deadline fast approaches, it’s clear the client does not have all the material together so they ask you to launch the site anyway and they’ll give you all the final content after site launch. Um, OK?
You’re now launching an incomplete site, because you want to help the client make their deadline, but you’re not going to get paid because the site is…wait for it, wait for it, INCOMPLETE. How many issues do you think will come up by the time you launch the site and the time you get final content? If you guessed one zillion, you’d be correct.
Trying to get your final payment now becomes an exercise in patience, self-control, and inner reflection “how could I be so stupid?”. With little regard to your efforts, the client will start to grind you down. Requesting small changes, resize an image or two (“just a quick 5 minutes” they say). All until they are satisfied. Now they might start having issues with their new email, or newsletter…all points that really fall outside the contract, but that doesn’t seem to matter. You can say NO all you want…but you want your final payment, so you acquiesce, foolishly thinking OK, NOW, now they’ll pay?! But on it goes.
The exception to this rule is client legacy. If you’ve done work for them before, and they’ve always paid on time, then of course you trust them. And don’t forget to break your payments up so in the event you are left hanging, it won’t be for more than 25%.
Be firm, make sure to add “will not launch until final payment is received” into your contract. If a prospective client has issue with that, you should probably walk away. If they ask to launch the site, then pay later, run.