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On late client payments, sticking to the brief, and the value of design

January 25, 2016

Answers to a few of the questions I was asked on Officehours sessions.

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How do you handle late client payments?

It’s rare when I’m paid late because I keep the files I create (and their usage rights) until after final payment. That wasn’t always how I worked, though. Not long after I started in business an overseas client refused to pay a final invoice after I sent the design files and despite being happy with my work.

Months passed before my contact at a print company involved in the project asked if I was having problems getting paid. When I said yes, I was referred to a debt collection agency — the first and only time during my 11 years in business when debt collectors have been involved. Unexpectedly, my client got in touch a year later to settle the bill. I then paid 30 percent of the invoice amount to the collection agency. Definitely not an ideal situation, but it taught me not to send final files until after payment.

There was no animosity between my client and I, but I remember feeling uneasy when the collection agency became involved. I was left wondering what kind of communication was taking place, so if you’re ever dealing with debt collectors, ask about their methods, if only for peace of mind.

How do you prevent a client from moving away from the brief?

It’s obvious when you’re asked to do more work than was originally agreed. It happens fairly often. If the request is small and won’t take too long, I tend to say, “I’ll get this done for you, but it wasn’t in the original project scope, so I’ll need to charge for any further requests.” The client’s happy, and I either get paid for additional requests, or the client then stays within the original project scope.

How do you communicate the value of design with non-design savvy clients?

The rates I set mean that the people I work with already place significant value on design. If a client’s happy to pay what I charge, they tend to understand the positive impact that good design will have on their business. You’re much more likely to struggle with this if you’re underselling yourself.

Good design, bad design

As Tara Gentile points out, “Pricing is one indication of quality. Your customers will use your prices to understand ‘how good’ what you offer is. If your price means your service appears lacking in quality, you won’t get the kind of customers you want — regardless of how ‘affordable’ your work is.”

I’ve a few upcoming Officehours slots if you have a question you think I can help with. And you’ll find a few more pricing resources here (always a popular topic).

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