Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Let's Talk Money.

Unless you come to your own business from a finance or accountancy background, the chances are you'll have a somewhat tentative relationship with money. But if you're going to make a go of being your own boss, it's really important to come to terms with money and be comfortable talking about it.

Pitching For Business
If you're like me, you'll get all excited, putting together a great presentation, concentrate lots of effort into developing a rapport with the respective client and convince them you're the right person for the job. If you're expecting them to take it further, don't be a coward and sidestep the money talk. It's too easy to be 'too polite to mention it', but believe me, if you don't raise the subject, you'll regret it.

Know your worth and when the time is right - probably once you're pretty sure they want to go further - raise the subject of your fees. Hard to say, I know, but it's much better to find out sooner rather than later if they can't afford you. Remember you've got to make a living, you're not a charity, so be firm.

Before you speak to a prospective client, make sure you've decided a suitable rate. If the business is something you'd still want to do, but you find their budget isn't sufficient, there are polite ways to reduce your rate, without setting a precedent you end up being stuck with. For instance, say something like;

My usual daily rate is £x, but I might be able to adjust that for this project.


Although my normal rate is £x, this is a particularly interesting project and I may be able to help you at a special rate.

Remember, it's much easier to adjust a fee down, than to raise it.

Get It In Writing

Once you get the go ahead, put everything in writing and get a signed contract. I know it seems like you're saying you don't trust them, but actually it presents you as a professional. Don't work with people who don't treat you with respect, and this is an aspect of your relationship where you both need to be respectful. I judge businesses by the professionalism of their accounting.

If you don't have a contract, have a look around online to see if there's anything you could adapt, if you're not sure, speak to a solicitor who'll draft something for you. OK, it costs, but it's cheaper than running into problems later.

Getting Paid

Once you've done the work, your next challenge is to get paid. The first responsibility is yours. You must send an invoice promptly. Businesses of all sizes detest suppliers who send in late invoices. It causes them problems, and more importantly, if they decide not to pay, it will cause you problems too.

When you're in business for yourself, cash flow is critical, so make invoicing your priority. To be honest, I used to hate doing it, I've always had much more fun from doing the work and them moving on to the next project. But when it's your livelihood, you can't afford to be like that.

Make a small ritual of invoicing and enjoy it.

Chasing Up Payments

It's sad but true, you'll have to chase payment sooner or later. Keep a close eye on what's due that's outstanding. It's polite to send a statement detailing the amount owed and the time overdue before you get heavy, but if that doesn't see a result, it's time to get on the phone. Find out the name and email of the person responsible for paying you and contact them. Don't send anything to a department, make sure you have a real person to contact.

You'll probably want to work with them again, so keep it civil. Firm but polite is key. Often you'll find it's lack of organisation rather than deliberate delaying, and sometimes the accounts payable people have a hard time, so try and be reasonable.

In my experience persistence is the best approach. Half a dozen polite calls seems more effective than a couple of heated exchanges.

When it's your own business, talking money is essential, so don't be a coward, pluck up all your courage and start getting comfortable with it now.

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