I hired a contractor for a very-short term programming gig. But he claimed that he took extra time in doing it. And wanted a bonus.

When it came time to pay, I got an email reading :

Can you please tell me how much to bill you for this project (including the bonus)? I hope you are completely satisfied.

This bugged me some, because I wanted him to give me the bill amount.

I decided to guesstimate some amount, including a bonus. And later regretted that decision (I feel I overpaid him).

How do you deal with contractors who want bonuses?

  • 5
    Did he do more than what the scope originally specified? It doesn't matter if it took extra time if he only met the scope, that's called "doing your job." If he estimated incorrectly, that's their problem and certainly do not earn a bonus for doing what you hired them to do and it takes longer than they quoted.
    – Jane S
    Jul 12, 2015 at 5:08
  • 2
    @JaneS - Good point.. no , he didn't do more than scope. Hmm, lesson learned , thanks ! Jul 12, 2015 at 5:21
  • 5
    Next lesson - get a quote from them beforehand and make sure your scope is clear and documented. :)
    – Jane S
    Jul 12, 2015 at 5:22
  • WTF`? He has a contract, he fulfilled the contract, he gets paid the contract.
    – TomTom
    Jul 28, 2023 at 9:11

5 Answers 5


Short answer: Nobody should receive a bonus for only doing what they were being paid for in the first place.

If he only did what was specified (as per the comments) and it took him longer than he thought, that's actually his problem. It's called "doing your job".

Make sure in future that you get a clearly defined, written agreed scope and a quote from him before he commences work. If there is a variation to that because the scope has increased, get him to quote for that separately.

Oh, and unless there is any special skill or reason you are hiring this person, I'd also strongly recommend getting multiple quotes (including estimated effort) from different people for the job. That should give you some sort of baseline to work with for costs.

  • 5
    If it's not a task that is well-enough defined to be estimated, you can hire a contractor by the hour or in stages -- but again that should be defined in advance. The root of contractor is contract; write one before work starts.
    – keshlam
    Jul 12, 2015 at 5:56
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    @keshlam Totally agree. Set your budget before you start, and at least get an estimate of how much effort is involved. You can then evaluate how to proceed if there are issues raised through the job by either reducing scope or pay the extra.
    – Jane S
    Jul 12, 2015 at 10:11
  • 3
    Rubbish -- it is completely impossible to accurately estimate and quote a software development project, so the industry doesn't bother any more. Contractors work on a time and materials basis. If you try to impose these rules on me I'd just no take the work -- and I'm exactly the sort of person you'd want working on your project (you'd have to trust me on that, sorry). You'll end up with people who don't understand what they're doing. The reason we estimate, rather than "quote" is because requirements are 'always' very poor. As for costing scope changes, it often takes longer than the coding. Mar 31, 2016 at 23:09
  • @SoftwareEngineer: That's fine. It needs to be spelled out in the contract. If they sign a contract for a specific price, they work to that price, and if that means someone more skilled makes more profit at that price because it takes them less time, that's a good thing. If you're hiring by the hour, there's often a reasonably amount of time allowed after which penalty clauses start kicking in, for similar reasons -- again, that's in the contract. Negotiate the contract terms before work begins; if you can't reach consensus on the terms both parties walk away and try with someone else.
    – keshlam
    Jul 26, 2023 at 16:42
  • "it is completely impossible to accurately estimate and quote a software development project, so the industry doesn't bother any more" - actually no. Price, Features and Time are the variables and you can never have one. If you go agile you can define a budget and rough timeframe and then see all but the most basic features cut.
    – TomTom
    Jul 28, 2023 at 9:10

I've had the same issue when I needed some web development that the developer said he had spent a lot more hours than he thought it would take.

We wrote an article for what to ask contractors in the construction business to hopefully help people not end up in a situation like yours. http://contractorquotes.us/questions-to-ask-before-hiring-a-contractor/

I perfectly understand how no one wants to be too selfish and underpay, but having talked everything over before starting the job, it'll save a lot of headaches.

  • 2
    Welcome to the site Thomas. While you disclosed your affiliation with the linked site, I'd suggest expanding on your answer as you don't address the OP's core question. As it stands your answer will probably get flagged as spam.
    – Lilienthal
    Jul 24, 2015 at 15:45

Even though you paid him more than he would have asked for, why do you feel you overpaid him? Because you fell the market is asking for less?

I don't see in your question if you were happy or not with the results? Are you? Either way, you felt compelled to give this contractor X amount of money more for his services because he mentioned a bonus. However, and like in any relationship, unspoken expectations are the main sources of conflict.

I saw in one of your replies that you think he didn't do any extras. Then why haven't you asked why you should give him a bonus then? Maybe he did something extra that you weren't aware of (very probably), but since you didn't asked you'll stay forever with this feeling of uncertainty about this exchange.


All the advice here seems to say don't pay the guy extra. And that's not unreasonable if the effort was reasonably predictable based on the job spec. It's possible that something came up that prolonged the job that either you yourself didn't previously know about, or failed to mention up front before the quote was made. You should find out if that's the case before concluding what to pay for the service. It may be that it's entirely reasonable to ask for more money.

  • Is there a particular reason you posted a second answer instead of amending your original answer from 2016? Jul 26, 2023 at 15:41
  • Because I didn't notice that I'd left a previous answer 😳 Jul 26, 2023 at 15:43

You have a contract. Which either says what you pay for the job, or what you pay per hour.

If the amount of work is hard to estimate then that should be made clear at the start, and you should be told early that an optimistic estimate isn’t going to work. With the option to continue, to stop, or to reduce the scope of the work.

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