I am in a very sticky situation, I agreed with a customer I'd do a job that takes 1.5 months for 25k$. The customer sells my job artifacts to a very reputable client and adding that client to my resume as a freelancer is excellent.

The problem is that after 1.5 months, the customer kept telling me to do these "little fixes and changes" so the outcome will be usable for the reputable client. The problem is that these little changes accumulated to an extra 3.5 months making the work I've done valued at 100k$. I've talked about this with the client, he's valuing my work at 75k$ and he is willing to pay 20k$ over a span of a year and another 30$k as 1% of useless stock options for a company he just opened that uses the product I developed.

He is older and has year of experience in negotiations and I basically just want to do my job and get paid. I didn't have a walk-away point and I just keep thinking maybe it's worth getting scammed if I atleast get SOME money and that reputable client. He also wants to hire me for 1 day a week for a year so that's 25k$ (which I work for but it's promised work)

He already licensed the product I developed to clients and we have 0 signed contracts between us. Only SOW documents and chats. So I technically have the upper hand but I'm afraid to use that advantage and think of getting on with my life, get scammed and enjoy some perks.

EDIT: he hasn't paid anything yet

  • 2
    Has he paid you the original $25K?
    – RonJohn
    Feb 10, 2021 at 0:35
  • 2
    Without a contract, does the "customer" have any legal authority to license your work to other clients?
    – chepner
    Feb 10, 2021 at 21:09
  • 2
    You need professional legal advice, not financial advice from random Internet strangers.
    – chepner
    Feb 10, 2021 at 21:10

3 Answers 3


Get a contract.

You should not have started anything, much less delivered anything, without a contract. You are seeing the downsides of this right now.

Make it clear to your customer that you have fulfilled the agreement for the work he asked you to do, and that any further changes will require further payment. Send an invoice for the amount you were promised.

Do not give him any further work until you have received some payment.

If there are no contract between you then your customer does not have the right to license anything of yours to a third party.

This is where you have very much the upper hand. He has actually sold something which doesn't belong to him, and he desperately needs your permission to do so. Don't give it to him until he has agreed in writing that you will be paid a price that you think is fair. Make it completely clear that you do not give him permission to sell your work without your written permission, and also suggest that if he does so then you will both sue him and let the person he sold it know to that they have stolen property. (If it comes to that you could, if you like, go straight to the end customer and offer to sell them the work they want, at more than your customer pays you but probably less than they pay him.)

Don't worry about upsetting him.

If he was the sort of person who would be upset by someone playing negotiation hardball he wouldn't be doing what he is doing. I guarantee that if you can get your payment and then agree to do the work he wants at a fair price he will be completely happy. And if he isn't you don't want his business

  • It's entirely possible the client will be upset when someone plays hardball against him, but what''s he going to do, not give OP any more work he doesn't intend to pay for?
    – HAEM
    Feb 11, 2021 at 7:39

Should I walk away from contract if I already did the job?

But you have no contract.

we have 0 signed contracts between us.

Get one. Now. With a clause which handles "little fixes and changes" at an adequate hourly rate.


A contract agreed verbally or over email is valid, even if it isn't signed. The later matter of unresolved negotiations are just that, unresolved and legally meaningless.

It sounds like you haven't sent your customer an invoice for services rendered. If you don't want to negotiate endlessly, draft an invoice (based on your agreed contract and any agreed amendments), send it, and proceed from there.

  • 1
    While verbal contracts are valid, proving them is... tough if there's no third party corroboration.
    – RonJohn
    Feb 10, 2021 at 21:27

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