This is the second installment of a two-part article about getting the money that you deserve. I’d like to call this “The Art of Getting Paid.”
Before giving you the meat, a short quiz first: As a freelancer, which of the following is the most important to you?
1. Closing a project
2. Finishing a project
3. Getting paid for the project you’ve “finished”
Personally, I would put item number 3 on top of the other two. Call me greedy or anything, but at least I am not a hypocrite. In any business deal, my objective has always been to get satisfactory compensation for the value that I am giving. I don’t know about you, but for me I don’t see any “conflict” in doing something valuable for my client and in return being compensated for a job well done.
Closing a project is a part of your job as a freelancer or a consultant and one you should pay close attention to in order to derive meaning to what you are doing. Finishing it up is part of the deal you have with your client — it’s your business responsibility. But getting paid is an art that you should learn, because in most business deals, it doesn’t always happen in a nice way.
If you are serious and want to stay longer in this business, it is only appropriate that you learn the art of getting paid.
Listed below are some of the techniques I’ve used to get the money I deserve flowing my way. You can use it too and maybe build on it to develop your own techniques.
1. Present A Professional Image
When I was just starting, I was a cowboy. My theory back then was that if I could solve my client’s problem, he would be happy to sign the check and all I have to do is go to the bank the next morning and there my money goes.
Most of us cowboys learned it the hard way. Luckily for me, I was quick to realize that most businessmen have low respect for people in Marlboro outfit. And what they can’t respect, they won’t pay. Plain and simple business reality.
A simple change of look works magic. You don’t have to wear the most fancy fashion statement. Just something clean, professional and business like will do.
So the next time you ever submit a proposal, make sure you are properly groomed. It may not get you the money right away, but you will be sending the signal that you are serious about doing the business and getting paid for doing it.
2. Sign An Agreement
In a perfect world, everyone is honest and therefore there is no need for a written contract. If you are still looking for perfection in an imperfect world, time to wake up.
An agreement prevents further disagreement. I can’t emphasize this highly enough: your agreement must be (1) put in writing, (2) signed by both parties and (3) notarized by a lawyer.
When it comes to business, verbal agreement is out. People suffer from amnesia all the time especially when the issue of money is raised.
Be especially careful with notarized documents, too. It could also get you into trouble if you are not too careful. A contract is there to protect both you and your client. Or to put it gently, to prevent further disagreements.
Moreover, there are clients who are generally scared of anything that is touched by a lawyer. They would say something like, “We don’t need a contract. Trust me, I’m very honest.” And when you hear that, you already know who you are dealing with.
Tip 1: A really honest person doesn’t usually announce his honesty.
Tip 2: The real test of a person’s honesty is shown by his respect for the written agreement both of you honestly set out to agree.
3. Document Everything
Document everything from the time you started the project until it is turned over for implementation and all the other activities in between. That includes, of course, the billing statement. All documents must be signed by you or your team and your client’s project in charge and all parties concerned must have copies of the documents. Except for the Billing Statement, this may seem unrelated to collecting money due to you, but it will show them that you are doing your part and that you are serious about doing it.
Learn the art of getting money by following these techniques and I hope you won’t have to ask yourself again the after a long exhausting project: Where’s the money?