A lesson you learn fast in business is that most customers (however nice they are) don’t want to pay you—either what the job costs, when you need paying, or in rare cases, at all.
Most small business owners, especially the one-man-band, find the money part of business hard to deal with and in particular the part about getting paid. So I want to get this skunk on the table and promise you that asking for money from clients is like learning to ride a bike; once you figure it out, then you’ll never have to learn again.
Rule 1 - Never Apologise. You know the line “I’m sorry but I need paying”? STOP THAT NOW!
You run a business, not a charity; if you don’t get paid, then there will be no business (and probably no home). When it comes to asking clients for money, you need to be matter-of-fact about it. At the end of the job, simply send your invoice clearly stating the job is complete and you need payment … in some cases (e.g., when masters are involved) you may need payment BEFORE they receive the work, so again you simply ask them for payment before that happens. No apology, simply “the policy is that masters don’t leave until the bill is settled”.
Now at this point, most reasonable people will pay you, but some will come out with a whole host of excuses for not paying you—anything from not having a new cheque book to having had the key to their floor safe eaten by a unicorn. These aren’t your problems, and you should say so; you’ll be surprised how many clients suddenly stumped up the money when they realise you ain’t going to budge.
Now I know that some of you are thinking, “Will they come back and use me again if I have strict payment policies”? In my experience, the answer is yes they will. However if they don’t, how long do you think your business is going to survive with clients who are bad when it comes to paying you?
I’m happy to say that most of my clients understand and appreciate the value of my work (and get that I need to eat and pay the rent). Sometimes they don’t pay immediately, and on those occasions I call and find out that they’ve really forgotten or there’s been a minor issue—a quick chat and it is usually sorted.
You’re a professional. If anyone who wants to work with you thinks you are too expensive, then they should try an amateur … they will find out the amateurs cost a lot more!