Clients taking you for a (money) ride? Drive them straight to the bank with this smooth move!

This is the part of your business you HATE the most: GETTING PAID.

Not the receiving money part per se, but the getting that money into your account part. We all love to have been paid. But getting paid? Oh, boy, we can hear you grinding your teeth all the way from over there…

Before you start steaming out the ears just thinking about that client who still owes you money, let us tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. And we’ll show exactly how you can avoid this pain in your bee-hind.

If you’re a freelancer, a solo-preneur, an entrepreneur, a small-business owner, or even an agency in a creative field where payment is not a standard “slam, bam, thank you mam” exchange, but a process that needs calibrating and finagling according to the project at hand, you’ve experienced the ridiculousness that is “getting paid” for a big project.

So, how can you fix it once and for all, ensuring customers will not only pay you, but LOVE to pay you?

Step #1: Realize It’s Your Fault

Aw, that stings. We know. We threw some hissy-fits ourselves before fully coming to accept this first step, but it’s totally true.

  • How many times have you looked at the floor, fumbled with your keys, and mumbled out a “whatever” price when a client asked you about the cost of a bespoke project?
  • How many times did you feel pressured to quote a number on the spot before having time to fully evaluate a project, only to be left pulling out your hair later when you realized that you totally undersold yourself and wouldn’t even be making enough to pay rent that month?
  • And how many times have you been so eager (read: desperate) to get a project that at the first sign of protest from the client you blurted out something like: “Don’t worry, we’ll figure the price out,” or “I’ll do my best to minimize costs,” or “But I’ll cut you a better deal.”

Oh, if WE could only forget all those times… trust us, we would. But instead, we’ve decided to learn from them.

When quoting a price, you — the business owner — are the one in the driver’s seat. And when you let the car veer off a cliff because you can’t muster up the courage to declare your value? You can’t blame the passenger. He may be annoying as hell, but it’s your foot on the pedal.

Besides building up your confidence to own your price tag with absolutely no trace of doubt, there’s something else you can also do. And it’s much, much simpler: Make pricing part of your brand.

Step #2: Understand That Your Payment Process Is Part of Your Branding

Branding is not just your logo and your tagline and your colors. Branding runs far deeper in the organization of your business, and both your work and payment processes make up part of your brand.

If you’re hoping that clients will simply see the brilliant quality of your work, realize on their own how much you’re worth, and shower you with all the money your heart desires… you’re in for a rude surprise!

It’s not that clients don’t want to pay you, or that they want to cheat you out of money. It’s just that, like all human beings, your clients are thinking of their own sweet pockets before yours. And their pockets say: save money!

When you allow clients to call you at all times of the day and night, when you bend-over-backwards to get their projects done on their ridiculously impossible timelines, and when you flinch every time they bring money up? You’re branding yourself as the “green” amateurish professional who’s just happy to get work — any work — and lucky to get paid any amount at any time, maybe even never.

Every one of your business interactions define the relationship you will build with your clients, including how, if, when, and how much you get paid. And these interactions determine how clients perceive your brand. If what you’re offering are premium-quality high-end services that are great value, you better be ready to show that.

Step #3: Own It!

So how can you take the wheel in this pay-me ride and drive your customers right to the bank without veering off the no-money cliffs?


Show your value

It’s your job as a professional to show customers that you’re worth it (and show them exactly how much “it” costs), before asking for the price. And the best place to show your value and price it? Is your website.

Explain to potential clients exactly what value you will bring to them (through a portfolio, case studies, testimonials, freebies, etc) and exactly how your work will benefit them.

This way you can create value expectations before clients contact you and give yourself a head-start in the price negotiations, knowing that they already understand your value.


Clarify the costs

It’s not always easy to price creative projects in a fixed way as you can products, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give potential clients an idea of your prices. You can create sample packages with your most requested services to provide a general idea of prices.

If sample packages are still too rigid for what you do, you can give examples of past projects (outline the objectives and the achieved results) and give the price of the project. A lot of people resist this idea, as if their pricing is something secretive, but really? What’s so secretive about prices? Wouldn’t you prefer it if clients knew what to expect to pay before they contact you?

You know your value. And potential clients clearly see your value—that’s why they want to work with you. But the path from value to cost is never obvious. And it’s your job to clarify it.


Explain your process

Include everything! From how customers can contact you, to how you take on contracts (and DO have contracts!), to when and how payments are expected (before, during, or after certain steps in the process), to when and how you will deliver the goods, and even to when and how you will be communicating with your clients (unless you really love those super-rush midnight-madness calls…).

Spell out EVERYTHING on your website to create the right expectations and set the correct guidelines with your clients from the get go.

But PLEASE? Don’t do so like a snoozing bore! That’s why you got that excitingly intriguing brand voice and those fab branded graphics after all, remember? Make it fun, make it interesting, and explain it in stories!

Getting paid is not a dirty phrase. It’s what keeps you in business. And being in business with highly appreciative clients is the most wonderful thing there is.

If you want to be appreciated for your work and be rewarded with more than just nice words and compliments, you have to take control of your payment process. By clearly explaining your process on your website you can attract the right clients and put off the wrong kind of clients (that never pay!).

Let your website have that first, awkward money-talk with prospects. That’s why it’s there!

Now you tell us!

How do you handle initial money-talks with clients?
Have you ever found yourself in any horror-story payment situations? How did you solve them? (We love us a good story, you know!)