I've been working with a UX/UI designer freelancer to outsource some of the work. In the past, he was great: good ideas, great ethic etc. That's why we kept him, send him ad-hoc requests on part-time basis.

On the current/last project - he slacked. He spent time on things that we didn't ask him to do. And the things that he did do, were poorly done. To summarise:

  1. Spent time solving tasks he wasn't asked (we provide a task doc, with a list of tasks to complete).
  2. Spent 2 weeks doing a 2 day job. Who takes 1 week to design pricing tables, and the final result doesn't even have prices on them?
  3. Lack of communication. Not a single question asked this time about the project. How is that even possible?

In general, I feel like he is burned out / demotivated to work on this project. However, I don't think we should be paying the price.

So we know that we will not be working together, but how to we part ways? Not pay? Pay what we feel is fair? Should I explain the logic behind it?

  • 17
    You have some nerve to ask whether you should screw a freelancer on a site full of freelancers.
    – mustaccio
    Nov 27, 2020 at 14:46
  • 5
    Spent two weeks or billed two weeks? That's an important distinction, deadlines are quite often divorced from work hours. Your question looks like you don't make it.
    – jaskij
    Nov 27, 2020 at 15:57
  • 4
    Didn't you get some kind of estimate? Why was a freelancer "allowed" to just burn through as many hours as they please?
    – nvoigt
    Nov 27, 2020 at 16:56
  • 4
    Shouldn't you refer to what is specified in your contract with the freelancer ? Does it say anything about unsatisfactory results, overtime or avoiding full payment ? Nov 27, 2020 at 17:23
  • 4
    Is it possible that the freelancer was over-extended and asked someone else to do the project? Send a letter acknowledging good past performance and surprise that the current project was substandard. Detail what was not accomplished and ask that the amount owed reflect the final product submitted. If possible, offer for the freelancer to fix the problem within x days. If freelancer isn't interested, then terminate relationship. Good work previously is worth a ques or two, to me.
    – tblue
    Nov 27, 2020 at 18:34

1 Answer 1


This happens all the time. Constantly. It's "your loss" unfortunately and that's that.

Pay, politely explain that the work was disappointing, and move on, never use them again (unless in the future you change your mind).

Unfortunately all you describe is "the job was done poorly". All design work is subjective, and, (as with musicians!) it is completely commonplace and normal that designers will run over time.

If you're paying for (say) programming or house building to be done, you have specific rational goals, it's common with programming to "only pay for points A, B and C but not D" from a contract or whatever, since programming is rational and can be explicit like that.

Design simply isn't like that, unfortunately.

Just like with musicians, you pay 'em and if you don't like the result, it's a loss - try again with another.

Unfortunately that's the situation. I would strongly suggest absolutely don't compromise your reputation on the freelance scene by not paying. Unfortunately design costs are a "suck it up" cost.

Occasionally you'll pay, and just not be happy - it's a cost.

Design is usually the most important part of a project in reality; Designers have a tough life; they always get paid even if unfortunately the job went a bit soft and shitty: because it's totally subjective. And it's just unrealistic to punish designers (same with drummers!) for smoking pot, being a bit late, missing a meeting or the like. I'm afraid!

If full payment is truly not realistic:

What language to use with the freelancer? I suggest

"Since {extremely short description of the problem}, you can't realistically expect us to pay for this. Unfortunately we won't be able to use you again. As a good faith measure we will pay you a small amount of the fee on this project, no questions asked. What about 25%? Let us know your thoughts for a quick resolution so we can both go about our ways."

Regarding {extremely short description of the problem}, I'd say

"Since the work is unusable and it was four weeks overtime, you can't..."

The key IMO, do not get in to a discussion of the whys. Leave it as a fait accompli one-word summary. (eg, "unusable").

  • I understand where you come from, and this is the position I've taken in the past with creative work. This time, I'm reluctant because it's evidently 'lack of effort' and complete ignorance to our deadlines etc, hence looking for extra feedback/thoughts.
    – GRS
    Nov 27, 2020 at 14:55
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    @Faittie Yeah, the question is not really not to pay, but to dispute the amount (which is large). Regarding employees, yes, there are costs, but the salary is usually smaller & the vetting is more diligent in the first place.
    – GRS
    Nov 27, 2020 at 15:08
  • I hear ya; answer edited FWIW ! Good luck !
    – Fattie
    Nov 27, 2020 at 15:17
  • Great answer! The only bit missing is what happens if OP still decides to not pay - the freelancer hiring a debt collection agency (or personally filling suit for non payment in court), which will likely inflate the bill further. It sucks, but it's just cost of doing business when hiring freelancers.
    – Aida Paul
    Nov 27, 2020 at 15:55
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    "And it's just unrealistic to punish designers (same with drummers!) for smoking pot, being a bit late, missing a meeting or the like. I'm afraid!" > If I was a designer working my ass off to remain professional, be on time and deliver quality work (as subjective it may be), I would be offended with this declaration... I really don't like the "xxx will be xxx" (replace xxx with whatever job title) approach, even if there's always some part of truth in it...
    – Laurent S.
    Nov 27, 2020 at 16:26

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