Check this out - as a personal favor to a long-standing client who just caught a big break and needed some design work done in a hurry (without a lot of cash on hand), I agreed to help them out by allowing them not to pay me for 90 days. I wouldn't have made this deal with any of my other clients, but I genuinely liked and trusted these people, I'd worked with them for a few years and they've always paid me on time.
The project (which turned out to be several smaller projects combined) went smoothly, and they were extremely pleased with the work I'd done. In fact, on several occasions told me how "fortunate and blessed" they were to have me onboard helping them.
Ahhh, everyone's happy when they're getting work/support without having to pay for it when they get it.
When the 90 day mark started to approach I sent the client a summary of my invested hours for the project (about 15 days before the actual 90 days). I didn't hear back from the guy - no email, no phone call, nothin'.
Several days later and just a couple of days before the 90 day mark I sent a follow up email to both him and his partner indicating that I hadn't heard back but I would be sending a Paypal invoice in a few days.
Finally, a few days after they'd actually received my Paypal invoice I received the following email (and yes, this is almost EXACTLY what I received):
Just wanted to let you know that I’ve received your invoice and will start whittling away at it as fast as I’m able. If you could break your invoice down into smaller payment amounts then I can start chunking away at it . (I tried just now to do a couple hundred towards it and it wouldn’t let me make a partial payment.) Or if there’s a physical address I can send payments to then I can try that as well. In fact let's do that. That way whenever I do a check run (at least weekly), I can have you at the top of the list and send you money as often as possible till we’re all caught up.
One of our partners is already out of biz cards (!) and we’ll need to get her some more asap. We’ll need at least 500 again or if there’s a good price break on 1,000, maybe we should go that direction. Wish the money flowing in was overwhelming us but it’s not quite there yet! People are loving our products and training events. Traction is happening slowly but surely."
What the heck is this garbage? Instead of paying me when and what they agreed they're trying to pull some "We'll kick you some money when we can" stunt.
Let's take a moment and analyze what's REALLY being said in this email:
- "...start whittling away at it as fast as I’m able..."
- Hey, I'll get the money to you as fast as possible, so don't rush or pressure me.
- "If you could break your invoice down into smaller payment amounts then I can start chunking away at it "
- Even though this wasn't part of the deal, you getting paid is now contingent on you taking time out of your day to behave like a financial institution.
- "That way whenever I do a check run (at least weekly), I can have you at the top of the list and send you money as often as possible"
- No, I am not going to commit to an actual time or amount, but I am definitely going to hook you up by having you at the top of the list - am I a great client or what?
- "One of our partners is already out of biz cards..."
- The client trying to distract me from the real issue.
- "Wish the money flowing in was overwhelming us but it’s not quite there yet!"
- Money's not coming in for us, soooooooo I am going to make my problems your problems as well.
- "People are loving our products and training events."
- Another distraction ploy.
- "Traction is happening slowly but surely."
- We'll pay you...someday.
So what do you think, did I analyze this email correctly?
Did I get the REAL meaning of what this guy was saying?
The sad thing here, guys, is that I not only liked but trusted these guys - they're "good people" at least I thought. While they relied to me to hold up my end of the deal, and even praised me for the work that I did, they did not hold up theirs. If you don't think it can happen to you, you're wrong.
So what did I say back to these guys? How did I handle this?
Well, that goes beyond the scope of this post, but if you're struggling with stuff like this, or you feel clients try to take advantage of you, check out my Verbal Kung Fu for Freelancers book, I think you'll really find it helpful.
PS - If you've purchased the Verbal Kung Fu for Freelancers book and would like to know specifically what I did to handle this situation just email me and I'll be happy to hook you up with the goods. In the end, the client did pay me all of the money, but it took them abuot two years to do it!