When a project is in trouble, you will often find yourself in a stand off with a client. Usually it goes something like this: they weren’t happy with something, you managed to sort it out, but now they won’t pay you until everything is 100% perfect.
You might remember way back when we were discussing how to convert a successful pitch into a sale I talked about the dangers of deposits. When you have a projects that’s going off the wrong suddenly there becomes a very real chance that you’re not going to be paid the full amount. That means that potentially you’ve done all the work, devoted all your allotted time (and often more if a project is going wrong) and now won’t get half your money.
Where there has been an ongoing argument the issue of trust comes into play. The client is unhappy about the service so far, but worried that the second they pay you you’ll disappear and therefore feels justified in withholding the money. The issue for you is that this dynamic can’t go on forever, you can’t keep working on this project and not getting paid. You have much more to loose than the client. They might have an 80% completed project, but you’re missing 50% of your earnings.
Normally in a process you will have given the client an amount of changes. now sometimes when things are going wrong this goes completely out of the window, but where possible try and hold them to this. What you then do is give the client an extra ring of changes. So rather than have a constant back and forth on what you need to do in order to get paid you say:
“Normally Fred we give clients 3 rounds of changes, obviously this project has had it’s trouble so what we’re going to give you 2 rounds of changes for nothing to apologise. Write up a full list of everything you think needs doing. We’ll then divide that up into essential and non-essential activities. We’ll complete all of the essential steps before payment, which will leave only the tiny extras. This gives us both a clear understanding of what’s left to do and also assures us that we can get paid for the hours we’ve put in.”
In some cases a client might insist that you do everything before they give you a penny. Make sure you refer tightly to the initial brief and don’t do any extras. Ensure you’ve covered your arse should they decide to run out.