Get clients excited about working with you by charging them early

“The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.”
—Robert Benchley

This quote is too funny – and so true. It seems today a growing number of individuals and businesses contract for work, applaud what’s delivered, use it and then neglect to pay for it. In the twenty-five years I’ve been writing for part of my living, I’ve never felt right about collecting a portion of fees – or the entire project sum – upfront. Sometimes you can’t.

Warning alarms should have gone off with recent client offers – and expectations – to deposit funds in full to a PayPal account. I hate PayPal for a lot of reasons, but that’s not why I chose to decline pre-payment. Seems to me work should be guaranteed so the client knows what he’s getting and is thrilled with the results before he’s expected to pony up. Sadly, it’s becoming more common for people to feel fine about stiffing providers once they have what they want in hand.

Marketing smartly with some unusual tactics can provider more income. Photo courtesy of stevendepolo via Flikcr

Interestingly, about twenty years ago, we set an unheard of policy with Halcyon Acres®. This is an equestrian facility that works primarily with Thoroughbred race horses starting under saddle and/or with equine brains previously scrambled. We created a flat fee (instead of daily) for training and required that portion of payment before the horse shipped in. Board was additional and per diem.

Many horses came from out-of-state with owners we never met, so there wasn’t that personal connection boon that served as the hallmark of small business commerce at the time. Naysayers proclaimed this wasn’t industry practice so clients would walk. A handful of prospects baulked and we referred them out to others. Each left the selected trainer holding the bill. Interesting.

Clients who came here were already invested so we didn’t spend the usual time waiting for late board payments. We indicated we’d stop training on horses if monthly invoices for care were more than 20 days overdue. Curiously, this policy applied to the marketing firm too for more than a couple of decades with our paid Recommendations and Strategies next step (instead of the industry norm proposal all the gurus asserted as a necessary next step). Dumb move not to see the relevance with these lessons learned applied to new copy writing customers.

It’s harder to land clients who pay, whether writing, training, marketing or with other business services or products, if you don’t have money exchange hands very early in the relationship. Once invested, clients generally strive to see a good return on their investment. When customers are billed for what you deliver early and often, they tend to view your contribution to their needs with a much higher value.

Tomorrow we’ll offer some tips for getting prospects excited about becoming paying clients quickly.

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