Getting from Praised to Paid
The party is over. Everyone has agreed that it was fantastic. You were fantastic. They could not possibly have done it without you.
Wonderful. Any chance of any money, honey? Mostly, it’s no problem. Sometimes? Well. Not so fast.
People are funny. You might, in your innocence think that a client who praises you to the skies and back, would also be ready and willing to pay you in a reasonable way—on time and without quibbling. After all, they have just lauded you and recommended you to all their friends as the best in the business.
However, sometimes clients just don’t get that their wonderful family party, is also your business. You may be the best thing since sliced bread, but you also need to um, eat, and preferably better than sliced bread!
Over the years we have heard some hilarious stories with clients. There was the family who lived in a massive house, drove a Roll Royce and insisted on the most luxurious, the very, very best of everything for their event, who simply and shamelessly refused to pay a penny afterwards. Yes, they loved it all, but didn’t feel they should have to pay now. The party was well and truly over. Good thing, we had, (a) insisted on getting a substantial deposit before the event, and (b) were prepared to be quietly, professionally persistent, Eventually we got paid most of the money owed, but, boy were they offended by the indignity of being chased for payment. That family became a lost client, but on the other hand, we did not really relish the thought of ever working with them again. Rule Number One. Do a check on clients, no matter how richly they may seem to live. Sometimes they really do live in straw houses.
There was the dentist who decided out of the blue that rather than pay his invoice, he would simply offer annual dental examinations and cleaning instead. No negotiation, no discussion. He assumed everyone would be thrilled. Only, not so much.
The divorced couple who were paying half each for their daughter’s wedding? She was in business for herself, understood the demands of cash flow and paid her invoice precisely as agreed. He was chased for his share for, well, let’s just say a very long time. It did not help that he was driving around town in a white convertible Mercedes, which he called his, “Babe Machine.” Lovely guy.
How about the husband who left his wife, and all his supposed fiscal responsibilities the morning after his daughter’s lavish wedding? “Well,” he plaintively said when asked for payment, “I want to start a new life!”
You are an Event Planner. That means that you are a People Organizer. Sometimes organizing people is like trying to herd chickens. But, you can do it!
Your ideal scenario is to get paid promptly and fully, and to keep your client for future occasions.
Discuss money and your terms right up front, before the event. Your clients should understand your payment expectations very clearly at the beginning of the process of building your relationship. At an early planning meeting, show the client your contract form and explain how payment terms are set up. You can be as friendly as you like. Always remember, however, that the foundation of a client relationship is built on professionalism. Professionals require to be paid.
So, design your contract so that payment terms are clear to all. Explain how those payment terms are to be met. An early deposit is a great sign of commitment and an indicator of willingness to pay. Do not be embarrassed. Go for it.
Many planners now ask their client to bring their payment check to the event so that terms can be immediately settled. That might seem a little brusque, but these actions are made by the planner who has learned from unfortunate harsh experience.
If vendors are to be paid separately by the client, work with them. Explain to the client that the band will expect to be paid on the night before they start the two hour drive home.
Offer a discount for pre payment. People love a bargain. Even people who have just spent $100,000 on their celebration. You can afford to offer a 2% discount to ensure that your cash flow is healthy.
Make the terms of your invoice a little unusual. Most people’s eyes glaze right over the standard, “30 days net” payment terms. If you say, “Payment is due immediately when invoice is presented.” Or “Full payment is due 17 days from date of invoice,” clients are likely to pause, consider, and pay up. They recognize you mean real business.
Mostly, your job is creative, artistic and fun. Mostly, getting paid is a rewarding dynamic too. When it’s a difficult element, be prepared to chase the money in an organized, friendly way without getting too stressed.
After all, as the old Yorkshire expression says, “There’s nowt so queer as folk!”