With the recent rise of working at a distance/virtually with someone and often never meeting this person face-to-face there are several things both parties need to do to protect themselves.
As a Contractor/Developer:
- Get three references from people your customer has worked with—Ask if they pay on time? Do they micro-manage? Are they easy to work with? Google them, check out their website. Are they established? Do they have an office? Are they willing to pay you for your time or want to nickle-dime you?
- Get payment in full, up-front, from new customers who can’t provide references. If references are provided then get 50% up-front, 25% when something is delivered, 25% when final code/product is delivered.
- If project is less than $500.00 get payment in full, up-front before any work is done.
- Make sure to provide your customer with specific times you work. You are not on-call 24/7 365—hopefully you have a life.
- Get it in writing—and make sure its signed so both parties know exactly what to expect.
As a Customer/Buyer:
- Get three references from the developer, call them. Has the contractor delivered on-time? Are they US based? If not do you have any recourse if contract is not ful-filled? Do they do their own work or contract out? Small doesn’t mean cheap. Are they making a living? (cheapest is not always the best or safest route to go)
- Google them—look at their track record and who’s saying what about them.
- Get the code to your project at all stages of the project. If someone doesn’t complete the job at least you have a portion of the code to move forward with. If at all possible give the developer access to your server so the work can be done there. (This may take a bit of time because this is the only leverage a developer has if a buyer doesn’t pay.)
- Pay quickly—preferably electonically—otherwise this may stall development.
- Get it in writing and signed. Just because you’ve agreed to something on the phone doesn’t carry much weight.
I hope this helps but there are no guarantees so you really have to trust your instincts. And even if you do all the ‘right’ things listed above things can still go wrong. But at least if you do your homework you are reducing your risk and both parties have a greater chance of having a positive successful, experience.