I’m not used to doing big projects. Most of my projects are either a one-time set of articles or a recurring set of articles. It’s easy to quote those since I do them all the time. Recurring payments are either set up on an automatic subscription or invoiced weekly. When I do a one-time set of articles, I ask for an upfront deposit and the balance due on my deadline.

Mistake #1: Not Getting Advice From Others

So when I was contacted last fall to do an ebook/ecourse for a client, I was a little stumped on how to set the payment terms. I knew how much to quote for the project – my hourly rate x the number of hours I expected to spend on the project. I also knew to get an upfront deposit – no way I could work on something that big without getting a deposit – and to get regular payments throughout the project.

Mistake #2: Not Having Control

The client wanted the project finished ASAP, so I thought three equal payments would be sufficient – one payment upfront, one midway through the project, and one due at project completion. The problem was we somehow negotiated that the project was “complete” when the client was satisfied with the finished product. Doh!

Mistake #3: Forgetting Everything I've Learned

Since I emailed a final draft two months ago and followed up with the negotiated number of revisions, the client’s priorities have shifted elsewhere and the project is not completely finished. I didn’t see that coming. As a business owner, I should have known that things happen, projects get sidelined, review and edit rounds take longer than expected and most of all payment due dates are not subjective.

There's a Lesson in Every Mistake...

Payment due dates are tangible: January 15, 2011, every Monday, 14 days after the final product is delivered, etc. I might as well have said, “You can pay me whenever you feel like it.” Lesson learned: set firm payment due dates. I do it on short-term projects, I should do it on long-term projects, too.
There’s a happy ending. I emailed the client several days ago and gently nudged to close the project and settle the balance. The next day the client wired the final payment. Whew!

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