Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Clients who pay vs Clients who don't

I just feel like having this image of the labyrinth up today.
It's not consciously related to the below post.

The other day, I was talking to a friend on the phone. Being a 'freelancer', she was grousing about what most if not all 'freelancers' grouse about ... clients who want their work "yesterday!" ... yet when it's time to pay, are nowhere to be found and suddenly don't answer phones or e-mails. Most, if not all 'freelancers' will echo those stories ... of 'chasing after clients' and calling them repeatedly to get payment for work done by the deadline.

To anyone who falls into this category, I suggest changing that label 'FREElancer' immediately if you apply it to yourself. I don't use it anymore. The word 'free' makes it sound like we do things for free. There was a time when I used to do many things 'for free', thinking I was 'helping' ... but now I don't ... unless it's something that I'm really moved to do for free from my heart - in which case I know the Divine is paying me (more than humans could ever pay me, might I add). You know, many Trinis do not appreciate or respect 'free ting' (like free open air concerts and free seminars). Only 'freeness' (as in bachanaal, fĂȘtes, free rum and roti at political rallies and shameless copyright infringement).

While listening to my friend on the phone, my eye fell on the bright yellow plastic call card of a client I had done some work for recently. It was the first time I had ever done work for her. Not only had she paid the requested 50% down payment ('mobilisation fee') without question or hesitation before the job had even been started ... but, once the job was completed and handed to her, I received the balance within four days (two of those days being weekend days, so they don't really count). I did not have to call her repeatedly or send her e-mails to remind her to pay me. "What a rarity," I realised ...

So, as soon as I put down the phone, I called the client and, in essence, said to her: "Hi, it's Elspeth. I'm calling to thank you for respecting me and the creative process by paying on time and without fuss - both the down payment and the balance. Not all clients do that and I really appreciate how you were with me/us." (In the earlier stage of the job there was an artist who also got paid on time).

I suppose it was unexpected. She sounded surprised and touched. Maybe for her it was also a new experience ... someone calling to thank her for her work ethic.

On the other side of the coin ... I once wrote a letter of 'termination of working relationship' to a client who repeatedly disrespected the payment process. Perhaps he didn't 'know any better' and that was his work ethic. And perhaps I should have spoken up sooner. I always got paid eventually, but it was the process of calling repeatedly, without having calls returned that eventually added up. In the end it boils down to ... even if they don't respect you/the process, you have to respect your self.

No client is worth it - having to call repeatedly (we are not beggars) to get our due. It felt great to write that letter. I was losing nothing. The funny thing is, I posted the letter ... and once it had slipped into the mailbox, he called on my cellular to tell me: "The cheque is ready. You can come and collect it."

However, the deed had been done and I didn't regret it. I was free and I had chosen self worth above money.

This is what pays most in the long run.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you posted this E. That's one thing I quickly implemented and tell all my business coaching clients to do as well. A 50% deposit. Anyone who is unwilling to make that monetary commitment is more times than not going to have problems coming up with 100% in a timely manner as well. Saying when I get paid, then u'll get paid also seems to be 'appropriate' to many of these types. We have to look out for our own overhead and cash flow, cos even if we do get paid 'eventually' Digicel, Flow, and other entities still want their $$ now... I'm sure your client was touched by your call. I let my prompt Avon clients (yes I call them that instead of customers) know all the time how much I appreciate the respect they give my time and service, and I am quick to terminate those who don't. There's too much good stuff and experiences and relationships out there, to expend time and lose energy constantly enabling the sour.

Elspeth said...

Well said, girl.

Kaivalya said...

This is a good post! I too have found that people don't appreciate something that's free. I will occasionally teach yoga for a lower cost, but I always ask for something. In the Reiki tradition, this is called 'energy exchange'. A practitioner never gives a Reiki treatment without some sort of exchange, whether it's monetary, in-kind, or in-spirit.

Kris Loya said...

i would write a thought out comment but my head is hot dealing with this same situation right now an ah reallllly doh want to cuss on yuh blog. i'll go cuss on mine lol

Elspeth said...

Words of Truth, Kaivalya.

Webgrl - let it out!

Unknown said...

here, here!

Lynn Cohen said...

If I am commissioned to do a piece of art for someone I collect 100% up front...then I do the work and do my best to get it to them in a reasonable amount of time.
Take no chances.

And if I were to do the 50% up front I would not deliver the goods until the rest was paid in full. Just my idea on the subject.

In counseling practice I tell people on the phone before they come in the first time that they must pay at each session in full or their copayment if using insurance in cash or check.
I have had a few bumped checks and would like to go to all cash but that happens rarely.
I also have a late cancel policy that says if they don't give me 24 hours notice they owe me my full fee for that hour and I do not bill insurance for it.
They sign that they read and agree to this and I repeat it at the first session. I live up to it too!
I had one client recently who balked at having to pay it and quit.
Fine with me. I do not appreciate sitting here with no one to see and losing the fee and in many cases I could have filled the slot with someone who needed it.

I think the laberynth is our unconsious going in circles to figure this all out...and I feel for the most part that after more than 20 yrs in business for myself I have.

I too do a pro bono if I see it as important to the client and my heart says yes to it.

Elspeth said...

Wow, Lynn. 100% upfront! That's great. You sound like you've got it down after all those years. It really is a matter of respecting oneself and stating up front what your deal is. If the client can't agree or deliver, then too bad. There's more (and better) where it comes from. Move on. Next. This is a global thing ... and it goes for professional and personal relationships. As Trinigourmet says - how much time and energy can one waste where there is no appreciation, respect and exchange?

Unknown said...

i found this blog

Elspeth said...

Interesting. Confirmation of a word to no longer be used.