There are several ways and reasons to ask a client for deposits or upfront payments, but before I usher into that, you should know when to ask a client for a deposit. You can probably understand the value of charging a deposit if you've ever invested hours of labor into a project only to spend months and months wrangling for payment.
You're at least ensuring that you'll be compensated for part of the job by asking for an advance fee that a client pays, even if things don't work out.
Demanding a deposit and making an upfront payment request, on the other hand, carries a risk. There are legitimate consumers who believe they shouldn't have to pay anything up in advance, typically because previous service providers didn't have that policy. You may proceed with confidence, though, because specialists in all sectors need a deposit before they begin work. When it comes to asking for an upfront payment, there are a few situations when you should be bold.
The project will take some time to complete.
Projects might last weeks, months, or even years, depending on the sort of business you run. If you postpone payment until the completion of the project, you'll be working for the duration of the project without receiving any compensation.
This sort of delay will make it virtually hard to keep the lights on and pay any staff you have unless you have a full list of clients paying you for work you've already performed. The deposit amount is a matter of personal decision. Many companies need half of the payment upfront, with the balance due when the project reaches a predetermined completion date.
Conversations about money might be difficult for some organizations, but they don't have to be. Tell your customer during your early talks that if they want to move further, you'll send over the contract, and work may begin after the payment is received. For larger projects, you may set up milestone payments, requiring an upfront payment of a certain percentage upon signing, another % once you've supplied the customer with templates or examples to sign off on, and so on.
Make sure that everything is spelled out in the contract, and consult an attorney to confirm that your language makes the contract enforceable if payment is late.
You run the danger of not being paid.
One of the most compelling reasons to request an upfront payment is that it lowers your risk. Whether you're getting paid an hourly rate or a flat amount for the whole job, if the agreement and payment terms state that payment will be made after the work is completed, there's no assurance your customer won't back out. You'll be forced to devote time and money to ensure that you get compensated and that overdue invoices are paid.
Large initiatives aren't the only ones that benefit from risk reduction. Even a simple activity that takes only a few hours might leave you shorthanded. If you don't get paid, even a 10% or 20% increase might make a difference.
You'll need the client's cooperation.
Client engagement is required for the majority of initiatives small business owners undertake. Whether you're creating a logo, building new software for a company, or providing any other sort of service, feedback can help you decide whether to keep going or make changes.
On the front end, clear direction makes it easier to understand what the customer wants right away, avoiding lengthy rounds of changes. A client who is willing to pay in advance is more likely to engage in the process. Because money is on the line, you'll discover that when you need support and feedback, such a customer will be all in.
You'll require consistent cash flow.
It is not inexpensive to run a business. You're probably well aware of the numerous costs connected with running a business, from the premises you rent to the people you pay. You'll soon go out of business if your business only accepts payments at the end of projects.
You may continue to pay your expenses over the days, weeks, and months that your team is working on the project if you make upfront payments.
Good clients should be aware of this since they, too, require consistent cash flow to exist, so they pay upfront and make payment requests themselves. By demanding a deposit, you'll ideally attract clients who understand the challenges that a startup encounters. It can also mean that they may be supportive of other aspects of your operations as well.
There are project-related expenses.
If you're a small firm or a freelancer, it's likely that you don't have a large bank account to fund your clients' initiatives. This is especially true if any of the jobs must be subcontracted to a contractor or third-party supplier.
You can't bear the weight of these expenses on your own. The advance deposit can be used to cover any expenses you incur while working on the client's project. If you're comfortable being open and honest with your customer about your approach, make sure they understand that their deposit is what makes the project feasible in the first place.
Another way the deposit protects your firm from non-paying customers is this. Without a deposit, you'll lose all the money you spend on subcontractors, supplies, and extra equipment if the customer chooses to abandon the project halfway through. You'll want to cover it ahead of time, preferably with some time and energy buffer built-in. Even if the project must be abandoned, a 50 percent down payment allows you to at least call things off.
Conversations about money might be difficult for some organizations, but they don't have to be. Simply tell your customer during your early talks that if they want to move further, you'll send over the contract, and work may begin after the payment is received. When disclosed as part of your standard operating procedures, the dialogue becomes considerably less awkward, and the customer may choose to pay or look for a supplier prepared to accept that risk.
When it comes to establishing a career, many freelancers are at a loss. The key concern is whether or not they should request a deposit before starting the project. The requirement for a deposit stems from the fact that a freelancer must pay bills while on the job. It is also a commitment on the client's part to take the work seriously.
A freelancer, on the other hand, may be concerned that he may lose the job if he requests payment in part before work begins. There doesn't have to be a conundrum. The importance of requesting a deposit from your clients is explained further down.
It protects your interests.
Let's assume you've been approached by a potential customer for the first time. You've done some basic research on him and have some misgivings. You may wish to terminate the agreement before it begins, depending on the type of information you've discovered. The next best option is to request a deposit of one-quarter to one-third of the entire charge.
It is courteous to request a deposit.
Requesting a deposit establishes you as a professional who values your job. It is common practice in the business, and savvy clients will expect you to make payment requests upfront or chase overdue invoices. You are more valued in the eyes of your existing and potential clients if you are seen as a professional from the start.
A deposit establishes credibility.
When a client agrees to pay a deposit, he is expressing his confidence in you. One who is hesitant to do so either does not trust you completely or intends to pay nothing when the task is finished. You also get confidence in a client who agrees to pay a deposit. It's a safe bet that the outstanding balance will be paid on time.
A deposit binds a customer to certain arrangements.
A client who has not made a deposit might unilaterally modify arrangements without taking your position into account. They have the authority to alter plans or even to terminate a project. This might result in poor business for you because you may have passed up other opportunities because of your business relationship with such a customer, only for the job to fall through. In this instance, you lose in both directions. A deposit enables you to create other solid company plans and keep to a set schedule.
You can use a deposit to pay for subcontracted services.
The last thing you want to do is pay for these services out of your own pocket if you have to outsource some elements of your job to other service providers. A deposit will enable you to pay ‘your staff' on schedule, resulting in increased production and earnings. With these considerations in mind, you should never be afraid to state unequivocally that a deposit is an essential component of your organization. You don't ask, but rather inform your prospective clients that it is your company policy to need a down payment before beginning any work.