I was recently asked by someone close to me, “how do you make sure you get paid on time?”
When you work for yourself, or have a side-hustle, it can be easy to be puppy-like at the opportunity for a new client (especially when starting out) breezing over your terms and conditions, as you focus all your energy on wooing your new business.
Fast forward a few weeks: you’ve worked the last 3 weekends in a row to get their project to a stage where it was so polished you could see all your freckles in its reflection. You’re tired, drained… and debating whether you can even afford to splurge on an iced coffee.
Meanwhile, there are a few thousand dollars sitting on a spreadsheet in your google drive. Unpaid.
Enter, the first in my suite of handy templates to help you build your side-hustle or improve your current business comms with ease. Because the key to smooth business is, without a doubt, communication.
The interesting thing about making your terms and conditions clear from the very beginning of the business relationship – unapologetically – is that you’re actually winning more client respect by doing so.
Making it clear that you value your time shows your clients that they should also. We all know that photographer everyone wants? The one with the waitlist that people schedule their weddings around – he asks for a 40% deposit upfront, no argument.
And that personal trainer with the reputation for results? He asks for cash straight out of your sweaty hand at the end of your session.
Ever wonder if part of the reason operators like this are booked up is due to how much they actually put boundaries around their own time, and the kind of people they work for?
Do you really want to work for someone who’s going to string you out for more than 90 days?
If you’re reading this blog, you are someone who values customer service, working hard and having an amazing reputation. That means you deserve to be paid accordingly.
Here are my top tips for removing any payment quabbles.
- Agree on the brief & deliverables first: Make sure both parties agree on the outcomes – get really clear on what success looks like. If the client changes the agreed brief or exceeds the number of agreed revisions, you are within your rights to request extra payment. On the flip side, if you don’t meet the brief, it’s clearly on your shoulders to bridge the gap in work before you can ask for payment.
- Make the payment conditions clear: Ask for written agreement upfront. Don’t worry about any awkwardness – because honestly, is there anything more awkward than having to ask for payment 3 or 4 times?
- Only look at breaking down payments if it works for you: Never agree to chunked payments after all the work has been delivered. Chunk the work and payments due together. That way if the client wants the rest of the work, they will need to pay for the previous chunk first. This protects both you and them, and your relationship overall.
Your client should only be engaging you if they can afford you – you’re doing no one any favours by putting them into more debt than they can manage and you into a position of debt-collector.
- Remind them of your value: Make sure to include reference to the unique skill sets you will bring to the project, and how it intersects with your broader WHY – this will remind them why it’s important to pay you properly – and on time.
- Finish off with how it will feel to complete the project: engage the client in visualising how it will feel having worked with a professional like you (without any pesky admin hiccups).
Here’s an email template you can adapt, to make your terms and conditions super clear.
Thank you for our (meeting/phone call) on (insert date). I have put together a quote below. I am excited about this project in particular because (insert what you’re most excited about, the thing about them that resonates with your WHY). In particular I think my skill of (insert specific skillset unique to you) will be helpful in really smashing this out of the park.
So we can set ourselves up for a successful project and effective and efficient working relationship, I thought you might find it valuable to have a summary of our agreed deliverables handy for your reference:
(list as dot points, or attach your proposal).
It’s important to me that we both agree on the brief (above/attached) to make sure I can deliver (and hopefully exceed on your expectations). Please let me know via return email of any adjustments.
A couple of quick housekeeping matters – I know we are both busy people, so I wanted to make sure your whole experience with me is really smooth, including sorting payment. As a (small business/sole trader/ lean business model) there is a very direct relationship between getting paid on time and (my/my team’s) wellbeing and the health of my business. To grow positive long-term relationships with my clients, I have put the following very simple policies in place:
- I take great pride in choosing work I am passionate about, delivering my work on time and to my very best ability. In return, I kindly ask for on time payment from my clients. I find this builds a healthy trusting long term relationship – something I would love to build with you.
- My terms of payment are (e.g. 7 days/ payment on delivery of the project with x revisions, X% upfront with the balance due on completion). If for any reason you think you won’t be able to meet these terms, please let me know so we can discuss an alternate arrangement – such as breaking down the work into segments with payment due on completion of each segment.
(insert name), again, I am excited to bring my best to this project, and I can’t wait until we sit down together for the final coffee to celebrate ticking this off your to-do list for 2019 with a flourish!
And that’s it! I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you use this template and if it was helpful to you in the comments below or give it a share if you think others would benefit from it.
Sarah Thompson is a communications coach who helps change makers tell their stories with more clarity and power, helping them change the world for the better, and make money to grow their business and vision.