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  1. #1
    SitePoint Addict LittleFigment's Avatar
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    Client powerplay - how to reply

    Ok, i have a new client. Great design client in terms of liking what i do and being open to suggestions and taking chances.

    They are in the business of business for a long time. Its the start of the design process and they were told upfront over a 2 weeks ago terms, deposit and contract then work begins. This got fluffed a bit as more design was added to the list and specs increased. Deadlines didn't increase and rush fees came into play. So i started some work without deposit and contract.
    I suggested the rush fees or full payment upfront. They chose upfront.

    Now i trust this client and have good reports of them. And they are nice to talk to so not much worry there however i am still going to be firm with them.
    There is some other stuff that reassures me that i don't need to go into here.

    So after following up by email a few times about payment i get this reply that just screams power play to me. It kinda got my back up but then i seen it for what it is.

    This client is worth a lot of money and i see them continuing to be down the line.

    So what's the best way to reply, be firm, polite and refute what they claim and let them know what is standard business practice for designers.

    I received a "Payment is assured. Don't you trust us."

    And replied, "Not about trust, i just didn't hear anything from you on the issue"

    (Last message from the train...)

    I have instructed PA to pay you the full amount per the invoice immediately. Sorry for any misunderstanding but standard business terms would have yielded a much slower payment cycle than this - COD and all that... and we are actually paying you in advance for a substantial portion.

    Love your work but the business / relationship management side needs a little honing.

    Cheers,


    My first draft reply is:

    Hi CLIENT, i apologise if i seemed to be badgering you, that was not my intention.
    I perfectly understand that your company has its systems it must follow. As i originally said i am more then happy to begin work on receipt of the deposit alone and I have already committed considerable time to the project so far.
    They are standard business terms across the design industry and i guess i am unused to the process taking so long.
    I am grateful you were able to authorise the payment, I will resume the project immediately on receipt of it and the contract.

    Its great that you love my work. No greater complement
    I am looking forward to the rest of the design and a successful implementation.

    Enjoy your trip and happy St Patrick's day.
    I believe the client is just flexing their muscles and stating they are in control.
    How can i phrase it better and bring control back to me while keeping the client for future work?

  2. #2
    Xbox why have you forsaken me? moospot's Avatar
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    It doesn't sound out of the ordinary to me. If this business is well established, then they are probably used to paying things on 30 day terms or whatever. They probably aren't used to people questioning their motives. But, then again, you know them better than any of us can. At least, they are trying to be polite, honest and proessional about the whole thing.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Addict LittleFigment's Avatar
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    Do you think am i reading it all wrong?

    They were informed of the required deposit on our first meeting and that it was needed before design starts.
    And i requested the status of it many times since with no reply.
    At no point did they say they couldn't do it or there would be delays.
    And it is the boss boss man.

    I believe i was doing them a favour by not letting it hold up the process and in fact giving them a discount for upfront payment. The reply implies they are doing me a favour and advising me on my business practice.
    And that their business terms are the only business terms there are!

    At least that is the way i am reading it.
    Does this make me paranoid?

  4. #4
    SitePoint Addict LittleFigment's Avatar
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    And i want to reply that that is great. And work will resume when the payment and contract are received. Any easier way to put it as they may not fully comprehend that work will stop until it is received?
    Any way to say it without seeming to say that i don't trust them?

  5. #5
    Xbox why have you forsaken me? moospot's Avatar
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    You have every right to be worried as you had made clear your terms up front. But under the circumstances, I believe that they have every intention of paying up. They couldn't have been in business for years without having a reputation for paying their bills.

    I would just say that there is a difference between working with bigger businesses as opposed to smaller clients. There are processes and procedures that everyone has to follow. Whereas a small business owner can just write a check out of his or her checkbook.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Addict LittleFigment's Avatar
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    So you suggest just working ahead and wait for the cheque that i know is coming to come. It just might not come as soon as i want and deal with it.

    The contract however is another issue. Without that signed and returned i have no protection. Its getting close to the stage where i have to start handing over files so i want that sorted first.

    Thanks moospot. Your reply and sense is appreciated.

  7. #7
    Xbox why have you forsaken me? moospot's Avatar
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    They didn't sign the contract? I wouldn't do anymore work until you get a signature or your deposit. Definitely do not give them any files until you are paid according to your terms.

  8. #8
    SitePoint Wizard LiquidReflex's Avatar
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    First reaction to your draft was that you are already on the defensive, thus you are losing the power play already. The minute you apologize and start defending your actions, they know they have more control over you. You are also wording and writing in a "personal" way, which I think should be avoided. Don't use smileys in letters to your clients and don't stray away from the point (ie. enjoy your trip and happy St. Patricks day) ... also be sure to grammar/spell-check your letter before sending.

    I suppose it also depends on how you are trying to represent yourself. Are you representing that you are a "company" or a freelancer? If you are a "company", then don't waver at all. Don't try to justify that "it's an industry standard" ... this is how you run your business and if they want to work with you, that is how it needs to be. It's not about personal preference or trust, it's how your business is run: contract => payment => work. It's that order for everyone, no exceptions. Whether or not they have worked with a company who does it that way or not doesn't matter ... that's how you work.

    Quote Originally Posted by LittleFigment
    This client is worth a lot of money and i see them continuing to be down the line.
    The way it sounds right now, I don't believe this is a correct statement. The client is worth a lot of "time & work" ... not money. If you are already experiencing payment issues with them (and the project hasn't even started yet) who is to say that they don't keep sending you work but don't pay on time? I had a client that loved working with me and would constantly send me work but they would never pay their invoices on time. I stuck with them for about 6 months because it was a continued stream of work and billable hours, but it would go 3-4 months before I'd get paid for it. I finally decided that I wouldn't work that way anymore and dropped them.

    Wait for the signed contract and deposit the payment before proceeding with any work. They are hoping that you'll be wavy in your stance so they're pushing you to see how you'll react. I'm willing to bet they have clients/customers who try to do the same thing to them (I'll pay later, don't you trust me) ... but they don't allow it. Why should you? It may not be easy to stand up and be that firm, but if you want to be respected and keep the control, you'll need to be. Good luck!
    Kevin Hauge : Modern Leaf Design : Follow Us on Facebook
    Client Axis v.08 - client / project management script

  9. #9
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    I wouldn't apologise either. Thank the person for moving on the payment. Remind them, if you feel like it, of your business terms which are expressly detailed within the contract (which you really need to get signed. I would suggest calling and setting up a meeting quickly so the boss can sign the thing in front of you there and then).

    Within the corporate world some people use email much like they do a letter - its the public corporate face of the business and so can be a little impersonal. Perhaps a quick face to face meeting where you can interact on a much more human level - like take the boss out to a quick lunch.

    Either way get that contract signed or you have no real power of your own to beat back any power plays they might make.

  10. #10
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    Love your work but the business / relationship management side needs a little honing.
    This coming from the company that hasn't even signed your contract yet? Actually they are right in a way, because to be strictly professional, you should never have started any work without that signed contract (plus deposit) in your hands. The moment you began work on the project without this paperwork, they knew that they could start pushing you around.

    They talk about trust - why should you trust them? As far as I can tell, they have done nothing to earn your trust yet; but IMO, you have shown a lot of trust just in performing work for them without even a signed contract.

    I would not apologise. I would pick up the phone and talk to this person - maybe set up a meeting. Make it clear that you will not continue work until you receive the signed contract and at least the original deposit requested. Send confirmation in writing by recorded delivery.

    In the future, I suggest that after winning a job, you arrange a meeting with the boss in which you deliver the contract, project specification and initial invoice and ideally leave that meeting with his signature on all documents (including the cheque) - if they require time to read the contract/arrange the payment, simply send them copies a week in advance and arrange a meeting to collect. Make it clear that upon collecting these materials, you'll be ready to begin work on the project. Stick to this, and you'll find people will treat you with the respect you deserve.

  11. #11
    Webwellwisher Robert Warren's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleFigment
    Ok, i have a new client. Great design client in terms of liking what i do and being open to suggestions and taking chances.

    They are in the business of business for a long time. Its the start of the design process and they were told upfront over a 2 weeks ago terms, deposit and contract then work begins. This got fluffed a bit as more design was added to the list and specs increased. Deadlines didn't increase and rush fees came into play. So i started some work without deposit and contract.
    This was mistake number one. Have you since gotten them to sign a contract? Does the contact spell out all these terms?

    I suggested the rush fees or full payment upfront. They chose upfront.

    Now i trust this client and have good reports of them. And they are nice to talk to so not much worry there however i am still going to be firm with them.
    There is some other stuff that reassures me that i don't need to go into here.
    Be careful mixing personal feelings with business needs. (I've heard the "we're all friends here, don't you trust us" line as a prelude to a first-class backstabbing too many times.)

    So after following up by email a few times about payment i get this reply that just screams power play to me. It kinda got my back up but then i seen it for what it is.

    This client is worth a lot of money and i see them continuing to be down the line.
    Not if they're not paying you, they're not.


    So what's the best way to reply, be firm, polite and refute what they claim and let them know what is standard business practice for designers.
    It doesn't matter what's standard for designers. What matters is what's standard for you, which should have been clearly laid out at the start in unambiguous terms and put down in a contract.

    I received a "Payment is assured. Don't you trust us."

    And replied, "Not about trust, i just didn't hear anything from you on the issue"
    Okay - general rule of thumb when writing this kind of email. Never, ever assume malice when incompetence explains it just as well. Never appear panicky in correspondence when you're discussing money, and always communicate in "I guess you just forgot" terms. Don't accuse or threaten. At the same time, have your legal bases covered and have your nuclear option warmed up and ready to go.

    I believe the client is just flexing their muscles and stating they are in control.
    How can i phrase it better and bring control back to me while keeping the client for future work?
    Don't apologize. Don't argue based on "industry standards"; they have their needs, you have yours. If you don't have a contract yet, now would be an excellent time to let them know that they need one if they want copyright ownership over anything. Don't say any more than you have to, if that.

    As far as power goes, the first party looking desperate loses. Always. Power isn't taken, it's given; the more you try to assume control over the relationship, the more you'll lose it. Remember that as you write up your letter.

    (Oh, and yes, 30 days term is a very reasonable payment term, unless the client agreed to pay up front. My first impression is that they know they have the upper hand with you; they're not exactly flexing their muscles, but rather they don't feel the need to respect yours.)


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