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What to do when a client cancels

Careful! This post is looking a little old and could be inaccurate in many, many ways

So you’ve got a new client, designed them a site they like, and started to build it and then the client disappears. Your contact is always out of the office and emails just seem to get lost in the ether. When the client does reappear they’re suddenly unsure about the website and are ready to call off the project.

So what do you do?

Of course your first instinct is to find out what’s wrong and try and fix it. However the client also cites that they have limited funds for the website and the cost is now too great for them. In this instance you have a few options:


Either you have received part payment prior to starting or your contract covers you for payment if the client pulls out of the project. In these cases you may have to accept the payment you already have, or bill for any outstanding work done and move on. In some cases the client may ask for the work that has been completed so far if they don’t then the design can always be used on another suitable project.


You’ve already done most of the work, so you may as well finish it, right? Wrong. In most cases you will just weaken your position with the client, especially if you drop the price by a significant margin, or even offer to complete for free. By doing this you are giving the client permission to use similar tactics in the future. It’s also possible this client will pass on the news of their dealings with you to other prospective clients and earn you a reputation for being a pushover.

Give Up

If you have nothing in your contract about what occurs in these instances you may find yourself in the situation of having to just give up. If this is the case then think of it as a lesson learned, add a clause to your contract to cover yourself in the future and re-use the design where appropriate. At least this way your reputation remains intact and your client knows you’re not willing to be pushed around.

What to do next time?

The best thing to do next time is to ensure you have all the information required for the project before you start any work, that way the project can be completed even before the client changes their mind. But for when this situation still happens make sure you receive either part payment prior to starting the work or ensure your contract states that all work is billable to the client if they wish to cancel.