By Brendon Sinclair

It’s Time for Some Business Brainstorming!

By Brendon Sinclair

The following is republished from The SitePoint Tribune #421.

Some time ago in the SitePoint Forums, johnyboy came up with a “mad crazy payment scheme idea” for discussion in the forums. It attracted a bit of interest and some terrific responses.

johnyboy’s idea was to build clients’ sites for free, with payment being a percentage of the sales. I really like how he’s applying alternative thinking to construct a different business model for future enterprises.


But here’s some advice from someone who’s been there: the concept may sound okay, but in practice it might end up being the worst thing he’s ever done.

Several years ago, I took a vastly reduced payment from a client by accepting a percentage of sales instead; this involved developing the site as well as marketing it. The first month was fine and I was paid. In the second month, sales went through the roof so the client owed me quite a chunk of change. Conveniently, the client now failed to see what I’d provided for the money owed, and refused to pay.

The coda to this is that stupid me agreed to a similar deal with another client a year later. Needless to say, I was done over again!

I have never, ever seen this sort of arrangement work effectively. There are too many factors out of the web developer’s control; while measurement is one thing, actual payment is quite another!

Having said that, I’d still encourage anyone to re-examine their business model or billing and payment practices; indeed, anything that might make a difference to your bottom line is worth investigating.

Brainstorming ideas, like johnyboy has done, can lead to innovative practices that help your business cash flow and generate long-term business success.

  • I’ve been burnt in the past too when clients failed to pay what was owed – when possible now, I build kill switches into my websites which phone home to my server to check if all is well..

    You’d be surprised how effective a message like this can be:

    “XXX has failed to pay for this website which has been frozen until prompt paymeny is made”

    It has helped me to obtain prompt payment from 2 clients who thought they were safe because the code was on their own server.

    I’m not stupid enough to think this couldn’t be circumvented easily, but many clients are.

  • Shouldn’t payment arrangements be built into your original contract with the client? If they’re in breach of their contract, you bring in the lawyers.

  • danh2000

    Fair comment Tyssen, but that’s often a lengthy, time-consuming and expensive process that nobody would choose if avoidable.

  • @danh200,

    Have you checked with a lawyer about how advisable it is to post a comment like that on someone’s website?

  • junebug

    Yep, it’s true. Court battles are way more work (time and money) than it’s worth. However, you should have all the details outlined in your contract. Usually clients don’t follow through with your agreement because they think there “really” wasn’t one to begin with so make sure it’s on paper.

Get the latest in Entrepreneur, once a week, for free.