Some clients are slow to pay. Some clients don’t pay at all.
And there’s no way to know, in advance, who these clients are.
Most of us can’t run a background check on every prospect. And sometimes people will surprise you in the worst ways. (I’ve had to chase money less than ten times in 24 years, but most of these disappointments have been with people I knew and thought I trusted.)
Your time is your most valuable resource. So sinking days or weeks into good work, only to get no reward for your investment of time, is a disastrous scenario. And slow payment or non-payment can have a ripple effect into your personal finances.
Get the money up front.
Ask to be paid in full before work begins. Or get paid in installments, with all money due before the client receives final deliverables, not after.
Do this, and you’ll never have to chase money again.
Here’s the exact clause I put in my proposals:
I require a [50-70%] deposit [insert exact dollar amount] to initiate this project and reserve my time. The remainder [insert exact dollar amount] is due by [insert date prior to final deliverables].
Starting today, make pre-payment part of your standard terms.
You needn’t wait until the proposal. Mention these terms in the first conversation about fees, then back them up in writing. Copy and paste my clause above if you like.
If the client (a) is serious about the project and (b) trusts you, pre-payment shouldn’t be a problem. (If either of those conditions do not exist, you probably shouldn’t be doing the gig in the first place.)
But, you may ask: What if the client rejects these terms? Typically, they will counter with preferred terms of their own. You then have multiple options:
- Stand firm on pre-payment: “This is the only way I work.”
- Counter with terms somewhere between theirs and yours: “I can’t accept that level of risk, but here’s how I think we can meet in between.”
- Accept their terms and the risk that comes with them.
You’re an equal trading partner with your clients, not an order-taker. So you are well within your rights to put your terms on the table. I’ve found that when you do, few clients will balk. I’ve used these terms for over 15 years, and I haven’t had a single client walk away on this basis.
If you don’t ask for it, you’ll never get it. Save yourself trouble down the road and make pre-payment part of your terms of engagement today.
Your time is valuable, and I hope I’ve rewarded it. If so, your shares are greatly appreciated, as I try to spread the gospel to as many freelancers as possible.
Wrestling with client terms, or any other thorny issues? I have a limited number of slots available for 1-1 coaching. Click here to find out more about how my customized coaching can help you level up.
Copyright 2022 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the footer section.