There’s one aspect of running a business that creatives, or the more sensitive souls among us, find especially painful. And that’s asking for money in exchange for our services. Somehow associating money with our creative work makes us feel insincere or challenge our artistic integrity. But the fact is that when you run a business, one of the prerequisites is that you do collect payment from your clients. When it comes to asking for payment, do any of these thoughts ever run through your mind?
- I’m afraid I’ll look greedy.
- I don’t want to get into a confrontation.
- Creativity shouldn’t be about money.
- They will realise I’m a fake.
- How should I even ask?
That’s cool, I guarantee you’re not alone with your thoughts, most sensitive people will run through the same list of questions. It definitely doesn’t mean that you’re incompetent in any way, and you should absolutely tell that voice that’s telling you you’re a fake to suck it.
But since asking for money can be such an uncomfortable thing, it really pays (ha!) to have processes in place that will make it easier for you, and which will make both parties feel more comfortable. Here are my top tips for making it less uncomfortable to get paid.
1. Get paid up front
Have you ever ended up doing work for free just because you found it too intimidating to chase a client for payment? Sure, sometimes agreeing to collect payment after the job is done works. But sometimes you send out your invoice and don’t hear back, or your client starts bartering after the work is already done.
It can feel weird to get paid before doing any work, especially when you’re starting out, but it’s really not that unusual. You as a business owner have a responsibility to stay in business. That’s not a luxury, or cold hearted, it’s common sense. It also means your clients will have some skin in the game and take you seriously when they book your services.
2. Set up a payment plan
Setting up a payment plan is a good idea if you sell services that are a bigger investment for your clients, and which need to be booked in advance, such as photography packages or bespoke design services. A payment plan will help your client to spread the cost over a longer period of time, and also allow you to know you have money coming in at certain times.
3. Have a contract in place
It’s crucial to create a contract or a statement of work, which outlines everything that is included (or not) in the price, and any terms you might have. Your contract should also clearly state any deposits and further payments, and when they’re due.
4. Don’t be afraid of deposits or retainers
This is especially relevant if you offer a service, such as wedding photography, where the event might take place in the future, or when you have a waiting list for your work. A deposit is the best way to make sure your client is fully on board, and understands that they are not only paying for your talent, but also your time.
5. Educate your client
Educate your client throughout the process, repeat your terms as many times as possible, starting from your initial emails, your contract, and any welcome pack you might send out. There is no such thing as too much information.
Having terms in place helps people understand you are a real business, and not just offering your services as a hobby. For example, you want to be specific about what happens in the event of non-payment. It’s much easier to refer back to you contract, which states that all work will stop at the event of non-payment, or that deliverables will not be delivered, when dealing with a lovely client who keeps promising to pay you tomorrow.
6. Invoice promptly
Make sure you always invoice your clients promptly, on the dates that you have indicated. It’s up to you to set the tone of your business, so if you are slow at getting your invoices out, your clients will take that as a sign that they can also be slow with their payment.
7. Be friendly but professional
When sending out invoices use friendly language. Talk about how excited you are to be working with them, and reiterate some of your terms and timelines in a gentle way. This will remind your client about what goes into your work, and helps them to value your time.
8. If your client is not paying
Don’t instantly assume the worst. It could be that they are having some cashflow problems, or that they are simply someone who means well, but is not very organised or good with keeping on top of their finances. Sometimes a client can just suffer from a bad memory.
Having said that, you still deserve to be paid.
If you need to send a chase-up email, always keep the first one lighter in tone. Remind your client to get back on track, without making them feel bad. Express how excited you are about the work you’ve produced, and talk about the whole process so that your client will reconnect with the value you are providing.
If you still fail to receive payment, it’s time to enforce your terms. Keep personal feelings out of your communication, but make it clear that work will cease, or products won’t get delivered, unless you’ll receive payment by X date.
I hope these tips will help you put in place processes that will make getting paid a lot less painful for you!
As an extra, you can download these free email scripts for getting paid, which you can then personalise for your own use.
As an Inspire Your Inbox subscriber, you can download this worksheet from The Library.
(Hint: you can sign up in the green box at the top of this page, or if you're already a subscriber, you'll find the password at the bottom of every email).