As an independent service provider or freelancer, the best time to get paid is before you execute the job. The next best time is immediately after you have done the work. But what if you face obstacles that threaten to delay the payment of your fee?
Recently I found myself in a similar fix. I had negotiated my fee and presented my invoice a week before the job in question. Right after execution, I was asked to drive over to see the client's accountant because my cheque was ready. I got to the office and sat in the lobby. After fifteen minutes the accountant's assistant (AA) appeared.
AA: "I'm sorry but you'll have to come back tomorrow. The cheque is not ready."
Me: "This is not what I was told. Why do I have to come back tomorrow?"
AA: "There's a small problem. We mad a mistake on the cheque and we have to write it again. Our boss who has to sign is not even around. I don't want to promise and fail. So please come back tomorrow by 5PM.
Me: Why should I bear the brunt for a mistake which is not my fault? I presented my invoice last week and I've just finished the work successfully. Do you understand how frustrating it is? You put all your heart into delivering only to be tossed around when it's time to get paid?
AA: I'm sorry.
Me: Well I'm sorry too. Coming back here tomorrow will just be an extra cost to me. Will you add it to my fee?
AA: If you like, give me your account number. We'll pay your cheque directly into it.
Me: That's not the point. Your office told me it was ready. I intend to get paid today.
The accountant's assistant looked at me with a quizzical look and excused himself. Immediately I called up the person who asked me to come to the office and barely containing my anger I told her what had just transpired. She assured me that she would sort out the problem. Barely five minutes later, the accountant himself entered the lobby. Apologizing profusely, he gave me the some documents to sign and handed me my cheque. With a smile, I headed off to make a deposit at my bank.
What did I learn from this encounter?
A problem prevented is a problem solved
I could have spared myself all this drama if I had negotiated a full payment upfront by offering an early bird discount. If a full payment is not possible, try and get a part payment. In the event that there is a delay, you will be dealing with a smaller amount rather than worrying about your full fee.
Don’t take no for an answer
I will never know whether the accountant's assistant was telling the truth about the mistake on the cheque. What I do know though is that if I had simply accepted his explanation for the delay, I would not have gotten paid that day.
If I had not asked, how would I have known that an internal problem was to blame for the supposed delay? Based on that information, I was able to ask more questions and insist on getting paid that day. Faced with the pressure from my questions, I was not surprised when the accountant's assistant fled the scene!
Don’t lose your cool
Internally I was furious at what appeared to be a classic case of 'go-and-come' delay tactics but I did not let it show. Losing your temper will only complicate the situation and take you further away from your goal which is to get paid as soon as possible.
Appeal to a higher authority
When it was clear the accountant's assistant was not going to pay me, I called up the person who contracted me and she helped to solve the problem. I was prepare to go even higher up if she had failed but always remember Lesson 4. Don't lose your temper. You may encounter the very people you annoy if they hire you in future for a new job.
Now go out there and ask for payment of what is due you!