On refusing requests for custom terms and conditions

Last year a would-be Feature Upvote customer told me they could only proceed with a paid subscription if we entered into a custom version of our terms and conditions, as altered by their legal team.

The company is a big deal - you all know them - and the person dealing with me hinted that they wanted to get involved with us in a significant way.

After thinking it through, I declined. I simply didn’t have the time or resources yet to negotiate custom terms and conditions. Saying no wasn’t easy; I felt like vomiting after sending the email stating we couldn’t offer custom terms. I spent the next two days wondering if I had just destroyed a great opportunity.

Today, again, an organisation said they were interested in Feature Upvote, but would need changes made to our custom terms and conditions. This time I found it easy to say no.

I read recently that for years, Atlassian, while still a minnow but growing fast, also said no to all such requests. It worked out pretty well for them, and knowing this added to my confidence to stick to our “no custom terms” policy.


We had that situation a couple of times too.

My first answer is that our public pricing is for using our tool as self service, with no customization possible. Anything that requires customization of feature, volume, billing process and terms and conditions falls into our Enterprise Plan and will have to be negotiated separately.

If they are ok with this approach, we leave the door open for discussion and try understand what exactly they would need changed compared to our public offer. If the process to agree on a deal is too complex or time consuming, we aren’t afraid to bail out and tell them why (sometimes it can help stirring the discussion back on the right track).

I found this to be the right balance between not wasting your time chasing unicorns and keeping the door open for an occasional whale :joy:


Why did you decide to decline rather than charge a ‘custom agreement’ fee to cover the cost/hassle?

(This can be quite high to encourage the customer to push back against the internal depts. who impose this sort of thing - its happened to me a number of times where suddenly its no longer necessary. And if it is absolutely necessary then at least they are paying for it and then some).

At the moment I’m trying to keep things simple. An easy life before money, and all that.

Eventually I’ll probably introduce one of those enterprise “call us” pricing tiers and cater for the custom T&C’s. But not yet.

I’m not sure about that, speaking from my point of view. On one hand I can easily imagine price for which I’d agree to any change of T&C. On the other hand full scale enterprise agreements tend to come with lot of baggage and obligations. It could change your lifestyle “I’m master of my time” business to consulting-like job. Now if you already have multiple employees and can hire more to serve enterprise deals with a profit - that’s different thing. But for solo founders it could be a change for the worse, regardless of money.

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I had one customer, they wanted a “slight” change in the agreement. When I asked for the details, change was that we transfer them full and exclusive rights for the software, lol.

Generally, it never worked out for me. Custom editions, custom agreements, branded editions, whatever - this is just a lot of hassle and too much of side work for an individual entrepreneur. It’s way better to spend this time on improving the product in a way to benefit many users, both existing and new. Never done anything custom for the past 7 years or so and my life is only better compared to past times when I had couple of custom editions and this sort of thing.

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I’d say “Sure, but the cost to do this is $20m and you release me of all obligations and work on the product immediately.” In other words, sell out. If they accept, retirement time! :slight_smile:

My experience is that at higher price points (e.g. $25K deal size and above) it’s not uncommon to see revision to license agreement. Sometimes these will be made part of standard contract going forward.

I think you probably made the right decision. I have been in the same situation on various occasions and also said no. I just don’t want the hassle and potential legal issues. You either accept my EULA or you don’t. Sometimes they come back and buy anyway.

it can be problematic when the customer is much bigger than you. They may want things you can’t provide (on-site support, 24x7 phone support).

Also, it can be dangerous having one customer that is more important than all the others. That is a step back towards consulting.

An ice-cold chill just passed through my body… :slight_smile:

Or a step forward into a new class of customer if the request is representative of what is needed to sell a new higher value product. I think it depends on whether your high order bit is running a one or two person firm or you are trying to grow.

Yes, it depends very much on your priorities. Mine include avoiding getting involved in enterprise sales. YMMV!

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