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

Here are the answers to a few questions I was asked on Officehours chats.

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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 my client being happy with the work.

Months had passed when a print company involved with 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. A year later, my client unexpectedly got in touch to settle the bill, and afterward I then paid 30 percent of the invoice to the collection agency. Not an ideal situation, but it taught me not to send final files until after payment.

There was no animosity involved, but I remember feeling uneasy when the collection agency became involved. I wondered 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?

Now and again during projects I’ll be asked to do work that’s outside the original agreement. If it’s a small job that won’t take too long I’ll say something like, “I’ll get this done for you but it wasn’t in the original scope, so I’ll need to charge for any further requests.” That way the client’s happy, and I either get paid for other add-ons, or the client then sticks to the original brief.

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.

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.”

Good design, bad design

Catch me on Officehours if you think I can help with something and you fancy a 10 minute chat. More pricing resources here.

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