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When to Ask For Your Consulting Payment

By Michael Zipursky
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Once consultants get past figuring out how to charge clients things tend to get jammed up as they try to decide how to best request payment for their consulting services.

I’ll cover how to go about this properly in a minute. You’ve probably faced this question too at one time or another.

Part of you wants to ‘demand’ payment right away so you can run to the bank, deposit the check and smile when you see the funds in your account. The other part of you is worried that being overzealous will come across as being pushy and looking desperate.

While most companies bill with terms or net 30, 60, 90, etc you don’t have to. Now if you’re working with an established firm that you trust and their accounting department can’t get the money out any faster – then you can accept that. And you’ll be glad to do so because you know they are good for it.

But in almost every other situation, you can get your money much quicker than that.

Here are a few ways:

  • Have your client pay you a percentage before you start and then the remainder upon completion.
  • If your working on a monthly on-going basis, you can ask for payment at the beginning of each month, and send your client at the end of the previous month.
  • You can also set up project milestones or goals. At each step as you hit a milestone you invoice the client.
  • Or if you trust the client you can do the work and bill them at the end of each month.

There’s no right way or wrong way to do this. It all comes down to figuring out what you’re comfortable with.

I’ve always found that arranging a monthly retainer whereby I work with my clients each month and bill them at the end of the previous month so I’ve received payment by the beginning of the month works best. I’ve received the money and it’s in the company account. I don’t have to think about it anymore. And my full focus can be on developing and implementing successful strategies for my consulting clients.

Go with whatever works for you. You can even try out a few models and see what you are most comfortable with – you’ll know when you find it.

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