Monday, May 14, 2012

Stand By Your Business Policies... And If You Don't Have Policies In Place, Get Some!

Last week I finally received the go ahead to start a ghost writing project I’d been negotiating with a client for several months. This will be a long-term project (around six months), so my terms included the standard down payment plus scheduled milestone payments. The client agreed, so full speed ahead, right?

Well, there was one small thing… The client contacted me last Tuesday to ask if I’d started working on the project. I let him know that I hadn’t received the down payment yet and (aside from any paid projects received before receiving his payment)would promptly began as soon as I did.

He responded telling me not to worry about the down payment – he would be sending it as we discussed and I shouldn’t worry because the funds are secured. This irritated me. Keep in mind, this wasn’t his first time hearing my terms. He’d agreed to them BEFORE I agreed to take on the project, so I kept my responding email message very simple and to the point. I stated, “It is my business policy not to begin a writing project until the down payment is received.” Thankfully, he immediately issued the funds, and I was paid within 24 hours.

I give my accountability partner credit for teaching me that handy, dandy tip about informing clients that “x is my business policy” when the need arises for me to enforce my terms of service. She has a Master’s degree in psychoanalysis and uses her extensive knowledge of human behavior quite frequently in her copywriting business. She and I were discussing the issue of enforcing our terms of service with clients a while back, and she explained that she finds using the “business policy” statement tends to reduce the likelihood of arguing with clients about issues like down payments, number of revisions, etc.

She speculates the reason this technique works is that it’s a reminder to the client that you are in fact a qualified, professional operating a business and not earning pocket change with some new found hobby. It’s not so easy to argue against a business policy – it’s understood that everyone must follow the exact same established terms, and there’s no negotiation.

Business policies and procedures help establish the basic structure for your operation. Clients don’t need to guess about your rules and guidelines, and can choose not to do business with you if they don’t agree with your terms.  Your policy can include very simple terms, for example: “50% down payment required to begin project.” “Client receives two complementary revisions. Subsequent revisions will be billed at that standard hourly rate.”

Do you provide clients with specified terms of service outlining your business policies and procedures? How often 9if ever) do you meet with resistance?


Lori said...

Great phrase, Kim! I'm going to adopt that one, too.

I had something similar a few weeks back. He isn't used to working with contractors, so it wasn't surprising that he said "The contract looks good. We're good to go!" without signing it. LOL His "good to go" email may have stood up in court, but I don't take any chances.

I said "Great! As soon as you can fax a copy of the signed contract back to me, we can get going." The deposit came two days ago as that was part of the contract, too. I'd already started on the work because I had the contract, but he didn't know that. :)

Kimberly Ben said...

Oh, I've dealt with clients who weren't used to dealing with freelancers too, Lori. There's usually a bit of a learning curve involved, but if the client is willing to be flexible about the way they've "always done things," it can turn into a very good business relationship. :)

Designed by Lena