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EPISODE 76: How to Make Sure You Get PAID

by Mar 8, 2022Brand Your Voice, Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • Making sure money is hitting your bank account {in a timely fashion}
  • Billing clients—when’s the best time?
  • Avoiding scope creep
  • Putting protective measures in place 
  • Advocating for yourself

Let’s be honest. Just about every writer has a horror story to share ‘round the campfire about the client who never paid {cue blood curdling scream!} 

There’s a discrepancy between how much work writing is, and how much people who don’t write think it is. The sticker shock for writing services can elicit different responses. Some clients may see your prices and think, “Wow, I learned something new today about the value of copywriting services,” and others will try to bargain with you {major red flag, by the way.} 

We learned the hard way that running a writing business requires systems, processes, and major boundaries. The truth is, not all clients who don’t pay are complete jerks {but let’s be honest most of them are!} We’ve had a few instances over the years of clients not paying—and yes they were entitled jerks—but also, we didn’t pay attention to red flags or protect ourselves.

In one case, we were too nervous to have an explicit conversation up front about our fee. Needless to say, when he saw it, he freaked out. Although his assumption the business did work for free was {and still is} annoying, it’s a lesson in the importance of advocating for yourself on the front end. As a result, we ended up not charging him.

Another issue writers run into all too often is scope creep. You decide on project parameters with your client, you get started writing, and then a little more gets added to the scope. And a little bit more. And a little bit more. Suddenly, this project is costing you more time and energy, but it’s not costing them more dollars. 

Before we had our current standards in place, “making the client happy” was bringing our capacity for new projects way down, and we weren’t getting paid for all the extra work. This is what led to us putting firm boundaries around the scope of projects—before they even start. 

As a writer, you deserve to be paid. And the good news is, most clients are more than happy to do so. Not only do you deserve to be paid, you deserve to be paid on time. But the reality is, it’s your responsibility as the writing business owner to advocate for yourself.

 

Here’s a few ways to make it as easy as possible for your client to give you money {Pro tip: the fewer steps, the better.}

  • Protect yourself. If you typically get paid after the project is complete, we suggest requiring at least partial up-front payment. Yes, even if you get paid hourly.
  • Systems and processes are your friend. Set up automated invoices, reminders, and payment options.
  • Boundaries are also your friend. What happens when someone doesn’t pay on time? What are your payment terms {Net 10? Net 30? Immediate?} What are your accepted payment methods?
  • Communicate all of this up front. There should be no surprises for the client. And be confident in your pricing! You know the value of the work you do, and the right clients will recognize it.
  • Put processes in place. How do you delineate the scope, and what happens if they go out of it? What do you do about clients who want a refund?
  • GET A CONTRACT. It will protect you as much as possible. For example, if a client backs out mid-project, having a kill fee in your contract gives you ground to stand on, so you still get paid. It’s a clause that basically says if this project ends prematurely, this is the fee for killing the contract.

 

Homework: 

  • Set up {automated} email reminders + templates for invoices.
  • Get a contract!

 

Services/Products/Offers/Freebies Referenced (for affiliate links or list growth):

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

Marie:
…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.

Jessi:
All right. Hello. And welcome to an episode all about how to make sure you get paid for the hard work that you do.

Marie:
I'm so excited about this topic.

Jessi:
I knew you were going to say that because we say that every week.

Marie:
Okay. But like, seriously, this is important. And we're gonna share some horror stories with you so that you do not have to repeat our mistakes.

Jessi:
Absolutely. Yeah, Marie's right. It is a really important topic. I know we've talked about money in past episodes and we've talked around this topic as far as making sure that you have contracts in place, making sure that you are respecting your time and energy. We've talked about how to price yourself. We've talked about boundaries. And in today's episode, we really wanna talk about the actual money that hits your bank account and making sure that that's happening. Making sure that money is hitting your bank account and that it's doing so in a timely fashion so that you can keep doing the work you love and keep growing and expanding your business.

Marie:
Exactly. And get paid yourself, right? Because most likely, most of the people listening to this are not running a charity, they're running a business, and even charities need money coming in regularly to do the work that they're doing. So remember everyone needs revenue coming in, even charities.

Jessi:
And I think it's also unfortunately really common for creatives, especially for writers to run into situations where they don't get paid for their services. And I think this shows up in a few different ways, like Marie said, we'll share some horror stories, but I don't think it's always a horror story. I think it's also sometimes a simple fact of maybe receiving some advice that doesn't necessarily fit with your business goals. Like for example, it's very common when starting out to be told to barter your services for testimonials and just so that you can have some portfolio pieces to share. I'm not going say that that's bad advice because it does work for some people. And there's a definite risk to getting stuck in that mode for far longer than you need to be there. And so when we're talking about getting paid, we're talking about yes, avoiding the horror stories, but also setting yourself up so that you can get paid quickly and early for the services that you provide for the expertise that you offer, rather than entering in a situation where you are approaching your work from the mindset of, oh, maybe I should do this for free because I'm getting something else, I'm getting exposure or whatever else it may be.

Marie:
Or like a legitimate service or, like a course or we've bartered, right. We've bartered before for like life coaching and things like that. So sometimes if it is, I'd say for bartering situations, if it's something that you would've purchased anyway, and you have enough revenue coming in from somewhere, even if it's like your second job or something like that, that you don't need the money. If those two conditions are met, then it can actually be a really good fit. If those conditions are not met, I mean, it means you're using your time for free that you could be using it with somebody else and then you could actually just pay for the thing and your rent.

Jessi:
Yeah. I think this is also a really important topic because a lot of writers will start out on platforms that take care of pieces of this for you. So I'm thinking about the Upworks and the Fivers of the world, where it's built into the system, the ways in which invoicing happens and payments happen and things like that. And so often when writers decide I'm going to step away from those platforms and handle that part of running a business myself, because I want to keep more of the revenue I don't want Upwork taking their cut. And I also wanna be able to charge more. There's a bit of a learning curve there because all of a sudden you have to gain this new set of skills, which is making sure that you're invoicing in a way that actually means that your client is paying those invoices. And so this topic comes up in a lot of different ways, even though it seems sort of straightforward on the per on the service. Like you do your services, you get paid for your services. End of story. But it's not quite the end of the story.

Marie:
Is it horror story time Jessi?

Jessi:
I think it is.

Marie:
Oh yay!

Jessi:
Which one do you wanna start with?

Jessi:
Well, I wanna start with the first one because when... first I wanna start with the first one. Y'all I'm hyper today and my brain is slower than my mouth apparently.
So I wanna start with the one about the entitled jerks, because I think that's what a lot of people think of when they think like, oh, a writer didn't get paid, what a jerk that like client did not pay their invoice. And we've had a teeny tiny handful of clients like that over the years. This was a client that we'd received warning about from friends before, but we decided, you know, we're just gonna roll with it. Like, it's gonna be fine. Everything will be fine. Just FYI, if you hear like red flags from other people about working with this person or company or whatever, like, listen, listen to your friends. But anyway, we made some crucial mistakes in that. Like, I don't know that we actually had a contract in place, but I feel like even if we had this client would have just stopped paying anyway, and I'm trying to remember what the situation was, where they stopped paying cause for a while they were paying, do you remember what happened, Jessi?

Jessi:
Yeah, vaguely. I think it was around us trying to advocate for ourselves.

Marie:
Oh, how dare we?

Jessi:
Right. The situation had, as Marie said, a lot of red flags, and this is sort of the first takeaway that we want to make sure is conveyed, which is when there are red flags around other things, often they can turn into red flags around getting paid. And in this case, that's what happened. We had someone who right from the get go was haggling with us on our prices and was trying to talk us down on our prices. And at this point we were pretty inexperienced. And so we were open to those negotiations, even when it put us at a point where we were not profitable because we wanted the experience.

Marie:
I mean, yeah, like looking back at that, that's been so many years ago that like, they would probably like literally keel over seeing our prices now because they're probably 10 times what they were back then.

Jessi:
Right. Yeah. And even, but what they were at back then was not low enough for them. And so that was one of those red flags from the beginning. And it showed up again on the payment side. So they did pay us a few times. And then a project went out, we sent the invoice and is another thing that we've changed is we used to invoice after the work. So we would charge at that point, we were charging hourly. We would work the hours and then charge for the hours. We've since shifted to charging ahead of time before the projects, that policy was not in place, then that's made a big difference. We'll talk a little more about that way of think about paying in a minute, but we sent out an invoice for work we had done. And I think they just didn't like the number, like...

Marie:
They were like, no.

Jessi:
Yeah. And then they, we had a subsequent meeting about other content that needed to be created. And I brought up that we wouldn't be able to move forward until the past invoice had been paid and then they just disappeared off the planet.

Marie:
Right. And I think at that point there actually maybe three invoices that hadn't been paid.

Jessi:
Yeah. We waited a long time.

Marie:
And you know what? We still have never been paid.

Jessi:
Yeah. So this is an episode about getting paid, starting with a story about how we didn't get paid.

Marie:
Right. And the reason I'm excited for this episode is because I do not want you to make the same errors we did. I mean, the good news is if this has happened to you or if this does happen to you, we survived. We got through it. I don't like those people. I mean, I'm not gonna work with them again, but like, you know, our business is doing way better than it was then. We are happier. We have better clients, a lot of that's cuz of the things we're gonna talk about in this episode. But like, you know, you live and you learn, right. Like fortunately it wasn't the money I needed to like actually eat that month. So, you know, but that could happen. It could happen. And so, especially if this happens with something where maybe you get a huge invoice that you're sending out, maybe this is something for, you know, five figures and you're really counting on it. And they're just like, eh, I don't like that number. I'd rather it be a lower number. And you're like, well, yeah. I mean, I would like, like a golden pony that this is the number, right? Like, and, and do know that like, sorry, I'm I am not a psychologist or anything like that at all. But like when somebody starts gaslighting you and when somebody just disagrees on reality with you like red flags, red flags, red flags do not work with this client anymore. Probably better to cut your loss if you have to. But like certainly do not do any more work for them. So that story number one.

Jessi:
You can tell Marie is passionate about this topic.

Marie:
Look, I'm trying to protect you my friends. I want you to have a good life.

Jessi:
Yeah. And I think there, it fundamentally comes down to a lot of times. I think going back to the gaslighting comment real quickly, because I think there's a fundamental discrepancy sometimes between how much work people think writing is. Yeah. And how much work it actually is. There's a big difference there sometimes, especially from people who have not done it themselves or have not spent much time doing it and are hiring a writer without having been in the writing trenches themselves. There's often not always, but often the sense of, oh, well I just need you to slap together some website copy or, you know, write a few social media posts and it's not a big deal. And so sometimes that sticker shock of seeing how much it actually costs for these services, some people are like, oh, okay. I learned something new today. And I will consider that while making, you know, my budgetary decisions. Other people get into the sort of, not, you know, the red flag zone.

Marie:
I will say anytime somebody says, could you just, Hmm. Like, yeah, yeah. Just, just per little ears up and just be like, because that is a sure sign that they could be devaluing you and the time and the expertise and energy that you're putting into the work.
The other part of it is, what was the other thing we were saying that I wanted to say something about, I was like flailing around as you were talking...

Jessi:
I'm not sure, but we could go to story number two.

Marie:
Yes. So story number two is a more tragic tale. That's maybe not what you sort of think of as like that jerk, right? Like this is one where it's because I didn't advocate for myself and I didn't set expectations at the beginning. Was the client also a little bit of a jerk or maybe just kind of unreasonable? Yeah. I think you'll see that, but like also I could have done more to protect our company. So this happened when a dear friend of mine had a colleague who was looking at switching to another job. And at this point, our business was actually part of what we did was writing resumes and cover letters for people. And so, so my dear friend told his colleague, well, my dear friend has a company that will help you with your cover letter and your resume, let me connect you with her.
And so the guy reached out and, and I agreed that we could work on it. And I then received the documents from him, turned it around. I thought it was quality. He thought it was quality. Everything was great until I said, and then here's your invoice for, I think it was like $50 and he blew a gasket. And at that point I realized my fatal error, which was, I did not actually discuss with him what the fee would be on the front end or even that a business had a fee, which is why I think that he's a little entitled perhaps to think that this, like, I don't know what I was at the time 25 year old, kind of, not too long out of college professional, but like early in career might actually want to like get paid for work that she did, but from a wealthy engineer, but anyway, sorry, slightly annoyed at this one.
However, it was definitely on me that I was too nervous and too non-confrontational about having the conversation about what our fee was from the beginning and like letting him know what that would look like and when we would send it and like all the things to expect with that, I was too nervous to have that conversation with him. And so as a result, we ended up not charging him because he was right. I never told him what the fee was gonna be. And so I guess he just thought that I was just, my business just did everything for free, I guess, but sorry, it's still a little annoyed, but like I share, I think I have more of the blame or just as much of the blame in that story. So that's a lesson in advocating for yourself.

Jessi:
Yeah. And to kind of continue that...

Marie:
...on the front end.

Jessi:
Yeah. On the front end. And then also during the project. So one of the most common things that a writer will run into really any creative, you know, designers run into this as well, is scope creep, this idea that, okay, this is the project. And then a little more gets added and then a little more gets added and then a little more gets added. And at no point, is there another discussion about what that little bit more and a little bit more and a little bit more is going to cost you or is going to cost them. It's gonna cost you a lot more time and energy and it's going to cost them more dollars, hopefully, if you have that conversation, we have had instances where we did not have that conversation over the years. We've had clients who, especially before we had some, you know, standard processes in place for the way that our packages looked, the scope got a little out of hand.
And that's another instance where actually not the client's fault. It may be a little disrespectful sometimes depending on how they request it. But it's actually a us problem because I speaking personally, was sitting in people pleaser land of I need to make sure that this client is happy. So of course I'll just do that one more thing. And then that other thing, and then that other, other thing until they're really happy because I want that glowing testimonial. Unfortunately at the end of the day, that meant that our capacity went way down and we weren't getting paid anymore for the extra work. And so this is less of a specific example cuz it's happened more than once. And it's what led to us eventually putting some pretty firm boundaries in place around what the scope of projects looks like ahead of the project actually starting.

Marie:
Another thing that has happened to us that has been painful, has been when a client gets a portion of the way through a project and says, you know what, nevermind I wanna refund. And I'm just shutting it down at this point. And let's say you've delivered 20% of the deliverables. And they're like, well, that just took you, it's that word, just. Watch out. It just took you like, you know, blah, blah, whatever, you know, three hours of time to do that. And it's like, so what, so those three hours, I'm just like a worthless person who deserves a pay rate of $0. No, but you have to advocate for yourself on this. You must because if you don't have a policy that is in your contract, something that they see your terms and conditions, your contract, something that they have to see acknowledge, sign, click a checkbox, something to say like, yeah, I saw this, then like they're, you know, just as entitled to just walk away, not pay you anything like, or I guess it could go to small claims court or something, but like, are you really gonna do that for like a $500 invoice? Probably not.

Jessi:
Yeah. Maybe a $5,000 invoice or yeah. You know, I think it depends on the scope, but I also think that there, there becomes a point where, you know, is it more hassle than a it's worth? And how do you cut off that right from the beginning so that it never happens, which isn't to say that you won't ever run into situations where maybe part way through a project, you decide you aren't a good fit for one another. There are a lot of reasons projects get shut down. It's just a matter of protecting your interest so that the work that you have done, you still get paid for.

Marie:
Yeah. I'll say like, if you were to look at our contract, our client like boiler plate contract, it is a litany of our battle scars. Cause it's everything that's gone wrong.

Jessi:
Yep.

Marie:
And then we're like, oh, we better put a clause in for that. But you, you dear fresh faced writer or maybe veteran writer who's just been really lucky or you're listening along like, yep. I'm also a grissled veteran and I to have battle scars, like maybe you'll hear a few of our stories and you'll be like, oh, I should add that in before I get whacked. So that's the goal of this episode.

Jessi:
Yeah. So let's talk about the less horrifying side of this and the more.. the ideal really, which is that-

Marie:
[inaudible] side.

Jessi:
Yeah. So like you, as a writer, you deserve to be paid for the work that you're doing your clients more or less they're when they look for a writer, they're usually looking for a writer who they are going to pay for their services. An understanding when someone is saying, I need to hire a writer that they are hiring, which means they're giving money to a writer. So-

Marie:
No blueberry muffin payment!

Jessi:
The good news here is you're already coming to the table, both understanding that this is a transaction. There is money be that is changing hands for a service us. And so that puts you in a good position, right? From the get go. The exception being that resume client who...

Marie:
Living in another planet that man.

Jessi:
It's good to make sure that you are on the same page too. And it should be apparent sometimes it's not. So that's something to maybe make sure is something that happens in those very first conversations, you know, talking about, okay, this is my pricing structure. You know, what is your budget? Having those conversations right from the get go so you don't end up in a situation where you find out on the back end that they thought that they were getting pro bono work.

Marie:
Right. Right. Most clients are more than happy to pay you, like Jessi said. And also the responsibilities on you, the business owner to advocate for that and how that's gonna happen because not only do you deserve to be paid on time, but you deserve to be paid period, but you deserve to be paid on time and the way that you have designated to be paid.
So let's dive into the how things that we suggest you do. Some of this, you may say, you know, that's not for me and that's fine. Because maybe you have a better system or something else is working for you right now. I will say that if you hear this and you're like, I'm not gonna do that because it makes me nervous and it feels confrontational, that's something to sit with for a little bit. And don't dismiss these I ideas out of fear, dismiss them cuz you have something better. Something that protects you because I am not a confrontational person. But I wholeheartedly believe in all these things and how they've supported us and our fellow business owners from all different industries over the years. And it's just kind of the way you gotta run a business. Cause like, you know, out of every, hopefully it's out of only one out of every hundred clients you get, there's gonna be kind of an entitled jerk and maybe more than that percentage, hopefully not.

Jessi:
And hopefully you are able to get your business to a point like we have over the years where you're qualifying your leads enough that you don't run into too many jerks. I think that that happens a lot more in the early phases when you're still figuring out exactly who you're serving.

Marie:
Yeah. And they prey on the uncertainty. So like bring confidence as much as you can muster to the table.

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. So let's dive into some of the hows, starting with making sure that you're tracking your revenue. That what's coming in, what you think is coming in, what you're expecting to come in. Maybe you haven't sent an invoice yet, but you know, you're going to be sending an invoice. How do you know that? How do you track that? When do you send invoices to your client? Is it all of them on the same day of the month? Is it at a certain period of time? Is it right when a project starts? Is it after you know, every two weeks? Is it different for every client? If so-

Marie:
Please dear god no.

Jessi:
So how do you know when someone is overdue for an invoice? You track that and these might seem like kind of basic questions, but one of the problems that we had early on before we had a lot of this automated was we were trying to make time for all of those questions while also making time for all of the work we had to do and things would fall through the cracks. And unfortunately some of the times the things that fell through the cracks were sending invoices to clients, which did not help us.

Marie:
No. So yeah. So two terms, I guess, to make you aware of or things that if you are not tracking and by I'm tracking, we just mean like literally writing down somewhere. It could just be like in a Google sheet on your drive, it could be a notebook on your desk. It could literally be anywhere but booked revenue. So what's your booked revenue. Do you wanna explain that one, Jessi? I know that's like your favorite number.

Jessi:
So many spreadsheets, you all spreadsheets in our lives. It's wonderful.
So booked revenue is the amount of money that you are expecting to come in from work that has been confirmed. In our case, confirmed means a contract has been signed. We don't have a contract, get a contract. We will repeat that throughout the episode.

Marie:
Do it! We will also link you to some contract resources and the show notes. Yes. OK. Sorry.

Jessi:
So booked revenue for us contract is signed. That means that we can with pretty high certainty guarantee that this money is coming in. So that's booked revenue.

Marie:
The other one that you wanna track is real revenue like actual cash in the door, right? So, so let's say for instance, you land a client who is gonna pay you $5,000, spread out a thousand dollars a month over five months. So when she signs her contract, your booked revenue is $5,000. But your real revenue from that is $0 until she pays her first month. And then your real revenue is $1,000. Right. It's helpful because you can see, oh, Hey, there's 4,000 more dollars coming in from that client. But right now, all I have in hand is a thousand of those. So tracking both of those is great. Um, and you need to know both of them. However you wanna track that is fine. If you have like a bookkeeper, you may have software that does this for you. There's a bajillion different ways to do it, but like do it somewhere and keep on it, keep on it. Because the last thing you want to forget, like Jessi said is like, oh gosh, I forgot to send her her month three invoice. And now it's like month, 3.9. And I don't want her to have to get two invoices at once. So basically my fault. So we're gonna have to stretch this out over six months and I'm not gonna get paid for until I've like way finished the work.

Jessi:
This is also a good point to, I think, stop and talk very briefly about paying prior to the work being delivered versus after. Cause it's really hard to figure out your booked revenue. If you are billing people after you work the hours at an hourly rate, that may work for you. There's not necessarily anything wrong with that system. However, it makes it real hard for you to make predictions about the future. So if we know that we have this person, who's paying us $5,000 and we know that in order to, you know, pay for all of our operating expenses, pay our salaries, all of this, we need to make $25,000 in a month, we already know based on that book revenue. Okay, well she is paying us thousand dollars a month. So now I have 24,000. I have left to make for not just this month, but also the next four months because that thousand dollars is slotted in. If on the other hand I had all of my clients were being charged after the fact, I don't actually know where I am in my goals. Like, am I close? Am I far I can maybe guesstimate it, but I don't have any exact data until after the month has passed. Which means everything is always sort of a scramble to catch up or a surprise.

Marie:
Right. So it's something to consider is project based pricing. The other thing you can do too, even if you are doing project based pricing, there is nothing to stop you from getting paid, at least a portion, on the front end. Like let's say you think it's gonna be a $5,000 project, but you don't know, but you're sure it's gonna be at least $500. So you could send them, and I would do the, like have the conversation with them on the front end, then say like, I'm gonna have a deposit invoice sent to you for $500. That's gonna hold the spot on my calendar. And it's gonna just ensure that I'm there for you and that we're getting this project started and that's upfront. And then otherwise these are the milestones for the rest of the payment. Maybe it's reach certain deliverables or whatever.

Jessi:
Highly, highly, highly suggest. Even if you are a writer who charges hourly, finding a way to get some sort of payment upfront. It's just, it's a ways to make sure that your client has a little more skin in the game that you know, that they're respecting you and your invoicing systems and you're not finding out anything that would be a red flag after you've put some work in.

Marie:
Yeah. And you know, we actually even just had a conversation recently with a client who I remember, he said, Hey, could we could, I do like half up front and half when you're done. And we responded with, so actually our is half up front for that type of project. It was like half up front and then half, one month later. And that way, like if the project dragged on longer than that we were sure that we were gonna get paid in time so that we could pay our team to actually and ourselves to do the work. Cause I'm actually on that project. Right. So, it was important that, and he was like, sounds great. No problem. Like nine times outta 10. They're not gonna argue with you.

Jessi:
Yeah. We don't want this to be the, oh, all clients are scary and money talk is scary podcast episode. You're fine. It's it really is often more of a personal hurdle to get over and personal, like muscle to stretch and grow than it is a problem with clients. Like I said, they're coming to the table expecting to pay money. They just wanna know how they wanna know how much.

Marie:
They just need an instruction from you and they need, they just need the data and the instruction to know like, can I afford this? And what's the process. That's really all they wanna know. They're not like, and are you evil? Like they're not, they don't need, that's not something they're wondering.

Jessi:
Which leads us to our next point, which is make it as easy as humanly possible for them to give you money. The fewer steps, the better. The easier it is for them to get things set up and rolling. The better they'll feel because they'll feel like they've made progress on their goal, which is to get a writer in place. And the better you'll feel because you'll have that money in the bank, you'll have that project booked. And you'll be able to start thinking about the project instead of worrying about whether you're getting paid for the project.

Marie:
Yeah. We have a client who explicitly asks us every time. Can I pay that recurring invoice on auto pay? And we're like, yes, you can. But like if you don't have a system for that, maybe that's something to look at. Even simple payment processors, like PayPal allow you to set up like recurring payments. Sometimes it just requires them to check a little box or toggle something to say that they have permission to be charged monthly or whatever the rate is. You know, the rate of frequency is. Can they pay you with a credit card? Do you wanna accept credit cards? Can they pay you with bank transfers? That's easy a lot of time. And you also don't have to deal with the merchant fees. Can, you know what a it is if you only accept, you know, physical checks being mailed to you, someone's gonna be like, oh, I gotta scrounge around in this cob web written file folder for my checkbook. You know, like that may be hard for them to do so. Like what is the easiest thing you can do one click, two clicks no more, no more than you have to do.

Jessi:
Yep. And the easiest isn't just in the actual payment, it's also in, what's surrounding the payment. So automated payments where the money's automatically taken out every month are great. If you can get that set up, but let's say you can't, maybe you do charge hourly. And so the rate changes month to month, or maybe you just, you know, for whatever reason that doesn't work for you. Well, there are other ways to make it really easy on your client. Like sending invoice reminders a couple of days ahead of the invoice being due. Invoice reminder the day it's due. And also if they're late on a payment, regular reminders, you know, three days after five days after so that they are being constantly reminded of the fact that they owe you money. And that's part of the agreement, not in a like, Hey, gimme the money now or else type of way, although it may get there. And we'll talk about that in a minute.

[Inaudible]

Jessi:
And, and honestly, more of an appreciative way. Like we really appreciate the work that we're doing for you in order to continue doing the work we're doing for you. We need this invoice that you already agreed to and signed a contract for paid by this date and not having to manually send those out is easier on you. And it's easier on because there's less of a likelihood of you forgetting to send it and it being an invoice surprise.

Marie:
Yes. So, yeah, like Jessi said, you know, systems and processes are your friend having as much of that automated as possible as your friend. Another thing that's your friend, and this is like our favorite topic is boundaries. So again, you know, like our contract is just like battle scars, but one of those battle scars is clients who would step over the boundary of not paying on time. And first of all, you have to decide like what actually is on time? What is, how do you determine your payment terms? Is it net 30, meaning 30, within 30 days after receiving the invoice? Is it net 10 as in 10 days after? Is it immediate? That one's always a little fuzzy to me cause I'm like, who's actually gonna like the second you send it, they're like waiting at their computer with baited breath to pay your invoice. Like that's not usually what happens unless it's, you know, tickets to Taylor swift concert or something. But like other than that, you know, you are gonna be having to decide and tell them what your payment terms are so that they understand what on time means. And then like Jessi said, you can you smiling me like that?

Jessi:
I'm just laughing at you for making a Taylor swift reference. You guys. She is the least hot culture savvy person in the world.

Marie:
I know who Taylor Swift is. Have I listened her last, like seven albums? No, but I know who she is. And I think she's okay. Anyway.

Jessi:
Moving on.

Marie:
Yeah. So, like Jessi said, like if you can write up templates or something like that, even if, even if you are sending them out manually, you can still simplify your life with some processes around templates for like, you know, Hey Sue, I know that this is, you know, coming up it's it's due in three days, you know. Hey Sue, just remember this is due tomorrow. Hey Sue, this was due yesterday. I don't know, went picking on Sue or Sue. But you know, these things happened. Maybe Sue went on a ton of vacation and having the time of her life in Costa Rica. And she's gonna see that like overdue and be like, oh no, I better pay you. Right. And so like, whatever you can do to like set yourself up reminders or better yet automate this stuff, the better, it will take some work on the front end, but you know, let them know what the payment terms are up front and then set up reminders. It'll help everybody.

Jessi:
Yeah. And then figure out what you want your line in the sand to be. Figure out what the consequence is if they don't pay. And I mean the easiest consequence, the easiest-

Marie:
Or else!

Jessi:
Or else. Yeah. Such a scary word consequence. But you know, at some point, this goes back to, to the, one of the first examples we gave with the jerk clients. One of the problems that we like, one of the things we did wrong, there was, we kept working for them when they weren't paying us. And then these unpaid with us, and then these unpaid invoices started piling up until finally we were like, Hey, maybe we should just stop working for them because they're not giving us any money were just free work at this point.

Marie:
Cause they're evil!

Jessi:
So you also need to decide, you know, sometimes Sue's in Costa Rica and she's just a few days late and it's fine. We don't need to like halt production or anything like that. But at what point do you say, Hey, just so you know, your invoice is still overdue, we're going to pause the project until we're paid up. That is a perfectly reasonable request. And I think that that's a perfectly reasonable thing to say once, you know, maybe a week has passed and they haven't paid their invoice. I throw a week out because that's about the time period we use. You may find a different time period works for you, but please at some point, have a consequence for not paying because otherwise that's an invitation to get taken advantage of, even if they don't realize they're taking advantage of you because they're not all jerks. Sometimes they're just maybe unaware because they, you know, maybe the invoices went to their spam inbox and they didn't see any of them. And all of a sudden you're having a conversation with them a about, Hey, just so you know, we might have to stop the project and they're horrified and pay up really quickly because they didn't realize it. That's happened before. And it happens sometimes. So it's not consequences in the terms of like, you know, this is us like pulling on, pulling on the, like the gloves and like, you know-

Marie:
Yeah.

Jessi:
It's in the interest to being fair to everyone. And it's in the interest of keeping you in a place where you feel honestly not resentful about the work that you're doing.

Marie:
Right? Yeah. You want to feel excited and energetically positive about the work you're doing and your clients, and this helps them feel that way about you as well.
A few of other things to bear in mind, you know, how do you determine and delineate the scope? How do you know what a scope creep if you don't know what the scope is? Right. So having like a really clear conversation with the client on the front end about what the scope is.
Just this week, I was in a call with a client and she was like, oh, you know, I think I would also love your help with this flyer. And I said, sure, yeah, that's, that's something that we can help with, but it's not in our current scope. So I just need to send a separate invoice. And she was like, sure, sounds great.
Easy, positive conversations about scope are totally possible. It is not scary. I mean, it was a little scary in the moment, but like, it was fine. Everything was fine. It's almost always gonna be fine. And if it's not fine, that's probably like not a great client to be working with. And if it's also something where they're like, oh, I didn't realize that. Okay. And so then you can just say, okay, can you maybe help me prioritize the tasks? Maybe there's something that is currently within scope, but you would rather have this so we could shuffle it out, trade it out. Like you can work with them, just make sure that you're not offering more work for free. And so how do you know what the scope is until you set it up and delineate it with them? That's just an important conversation to have on the front end and throughout the project as needed.

Jessi:
And then make sure that the scope is reflected in the contract.

Marie:
Yes. The contract, the contract. And then the other thing that we wanted to chat with you about was just having a plan in place for what does happen when a client wants to stop the project where they may wanna refund. You can do whatever you wanna do here. Just make sure you're protecting yourself. I would suggest that you make the contract as strict, as possible, as strict as you feel comfortable with. And then if you want to roll it back because you know, your personal besties with this person or whatever, you can make that choice to do that. But at least the contract is protecting you as much as possible. So get a contract, get a contract.

Jessi:
Yeah. There's a phrase called a kill fee that you may or may not be familiar with. It's very brutal sounding.

Marie:
I'm gonna kill this project.

Jessi:
Yeah. But it's a really helpful thing to think about, including in your contracts and in just the way that you work with people. It's essentially a clause that says, if this project ends,

Marie:
Prematurely,

Jessi:
Prematurely, this is the fee for killing the contract. And you can determine that fee, however you want. It could be a flat fee. It could be based on the number of hours work could be based on percentage of project, complete, whatever works for you. But having that in your contract gives you ground to stand on when a project ends unexpectedly so that you still get paid. And like Marie said, if you want to roll back, what is ever is in the contract, just based off of the individual situation, that's totally fine. But at least you have a starting point.

Marie:
Right. So your homework is to go back to that, I think the thing that really helped us more than anything was to have a system in place for reminders for invoices. So whether you're automating this or not, if you can, yes. Do it. We, we use a program called Dubsado. We can link to that in the show notes as well. And you can do that in a automated way, or you can just send out the emails yourself and just set up like a little, like reminder in your calendar or something like that to send it out. You could even preschedule them within your inbox, just make sure you stop them before they get to the overdue, if they do actually pay. But anyway, your task is to go ahead and write out templates, those emails. So you probably want something where it's like, okay, here's your invoice. And then you want something that's like a reminder a few days before it's due and then you're gonna want reminders after the fact, for the day after, maybe as long as like a week or so.

Jessi:
And it doesn't have to be every day. So the way we do it is we, we send out the three days ahead here, your invoice is coming up on the day of the invoice. We send the invoice itself. And then we do one day after three days after, and then five to seven days after.

Marie:
Right. And we automate it, but you don't have to, like, you don't have to have fancy software to do this, but it will just make you feel so much better in that moment when like, because right now you're feeling calm and you can write those in emails. In the moment where somebody's like three days late and paying you and like the bills are coming up and you're like, I need to do this. You're like shaky palm then you're gonna be like, emailing them out of desperation. Like, could you do this? Or like, or you're gonna be angry or something is gonna come through in the tone of the email. That's probably not your most like professional calm self. So I would suggest writing now when you're feeling good, hopefully when there isn't an issue going on.

Jessi:
Absolutely.

Marie:
The other piece of homework is get a contract.

Jessi:
Yep. We will link to some resources in the show notes for a few of the different things we've talked about today, including contracts and including that piece of software that we use, Dubsado, so you have some resources to get you started. At the end of the day, though, we really just want you to be thinking about how you can protect yourself and make sure that you get paid for the work that you're doing because it's good work and you deserve to get paid.

Marie:
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. Make sure to visit our website, northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you, and happy content creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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