I'll Take Firm Payment Dates, Please

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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LaToya Irby is a full-time freelance writer and a graduate of the University of Alabama. She primarily writes about personal finance, freelancing, and other self-employment topics.

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2 thoughts on “I'll Take Firm Payment Dates, Please”

  1. Ouch!

    Not only include firm payment dates, but also a revision policy. Spell out how many are included. If there are more than that, specify how and when you get paid for them.

    Glad you got your money in the end!

  2. Glad you got your money! I’m still waiting on a big payment from a regular client. We’ve been working together for five years on a weekly basis, but there are times when we both get busy and payment slides. Grrrrr…. I’ll hopefully get this balance in over the next few days. You’re making me think I need a new plan though…


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