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Payment First?

When it comes to asking for money, people start to act funny. This is not a poem I swear.  Why is it that we have a problem asking for money when we provide a service?  Work isn’t free and money is a part of business.  I go as far as saying, pay me first, then I’ll do the work! How dare I!!!? It’s easy…

Time = Money

How cliché, right? But why do we keep forgetting this simple equation? Work aside, let’s speak on the types of services that take time. This includes coaching, consulting, teaching, meetings, anything on the phone or in person, and whatever else you can think of.

If you ever exchange your time for money, I say that you NEED to get paid first. Why? For starters, time is not a tangible object. Once someone gives you their time, you can’t return it. Since you can’t return it, who holds more risk? The person offering their time to you has much more to lose.

With time, it’s also usually pre-scheduled. Meaning, when you buy someones time, they are setting aside an hour (more or less) to spend with you. That in itself is time that can be spent on projects, tasks, family, or anything else really. To not get paid for that before hand, just doesn’t make any sense.

What about trust?

I’ve heard people say things like “Well we’ve never done business before” or “Why don’t you finish the work first, then I’ll pay you.” This almost sounds like fear to me.

If you break it down, there are lots of people out there that build their authority and trust worthiness in many different ways. A primary example would be through blog posts. Seeing someone pour out there knowledge on a specific topic, and verifying that info is legit builds up a small trust element.

When you decide to hire someone for the work, you intend to pay them for it, no? When you fill out someones quote form, or contact form, you’re essentially saying, “I made the choice to trust you for the work I want done, I’d like to know how much you’re going to charge me” And if you didn’t fill it out with that thought in mind, whose time are you really wasting?

I’m very big on telling people to find clients that WANT to work with them, rather than the other way around. Working with people who actually see the value in what you do is a no brainer! You can ask them for money, because they already trust you, and you need to deliver some outstanding work in return. Once both parties are happy, then that relationship begins to grow even more, and you’ve got yourself a client for life.

If you’re the type of person whose always skeptical on whether or not you should pay for something, then you may want to re-evaluate who you’re currently working with. There’s no required rule that says, half now, half later, or do the work and I’ll pay you when it’s done.

If you find someone who you want to work with, treat them how you would want a client to treat you. Trust that they’ll get the job done and you’ll pay for the job accordingly. If you don’t have that feeling off the bat, then hire someone else, because it’s not going to be a good relationship.

This is not written in stone

Of course there are times when half now half later is OK. I usually do it with bigger projects/payments. I may even break it into phases. BUT before I schedule anything, I always, and I mean always take a down payment. That’s the start of building trust.

If it’s small jobs, I generally take payment up front. I’m not in this business to take someones money and laugh in my secret layer over a few hundred bucks. That’s bad for business. In fact, that’s bad for EVERY business. I’m a company, I only do good if I make people happy, not pissed off. So the next time you’re looking for someone to do work for you, just keep in mind that trust is a two-way streak, and no one likes getting burned.

About the Author
What's UP! This is my site, I write 99% of the articles on here. I'm also the owner of I help out a lot of developers and designers getting into the web game. Helping is fun for me, so feel free to ask me any questions! I've made courses and have a membership as well to help get you on your feet!

0 comments on Payment First?

  1. Todd says:

    The only problem, and I mean the only problem, that I see with this, is, from the consumer perspective, if they pay for work and it isn’t finished, they have been burned. However, you brought up the point, and rightly so, that, hopefully a person has earned that person’s trust before they decide to do business. So, if there is an argument against paying before work is done, by a consumer, it is being burned by someone before. That is tricky, but I’m with you, get money up front, half, at least. I am also against getting the other half when the project is completed if the project being completed depends on the the consumer completing his/her part. Bills still need to be paid, but they are dragging their feet. No thanks. My part will be done by X amount of days, the final payment is due then.

    Nice job!

    1. Jonathan says:

      I totally agree! I generally set terms of payment in phases and define what completed means. It’s mostly for larger projects. For example, if I have three phases and the third phase is development and payment is due on completion, well completion means that I did everything according to what I said I would. Revisions are a fourth phase, but the development payment would need to be made. A lot of times projects tend to drag because a consumers version of complete is “everything I want is done” and a developers version of complete is just different.


  2. RichP says:

    For websites, I usually take 50% to get started and 50% upon completion before handing it over/going live. Just about everyone I have dealt with seems happy with this arrangement.

    But I do like the point above about “completion” being delayed by the client and this not being fair to the developer either.

  3. Lockedown says:

    Straight up, I get at least half up front for anything that will take more than a few minutes. Sometimes, I even get 100% up front…I need to do this more often.

    There is no reason to work with a client that doesn’t pony up for a deposit. You don’t need to explain why. If they don’t trust you, then you’re a bad fit anyway.


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