Do you require up front payments?

By Laura Haight

I learned a valuable lesson about human nature early in my consulting experience. Although 99 percent of clients are interested in a good business relationship with you, there's always one who makes you rethink your procedures. It's the reason why your microwave came with the admonition not to dry your animals in it!

I had a business connection to a website developer in Boston. Periodically, he would have a client who needed new content for their website but didn't have anyone to do it and didn't want to do it themselves. He would steer these clients to me.

That was great. It's easy to do content remotely: some phone calls, some web conferences, a look at some of the competition. And I thought I was being very professional about it, having provided the client - a home improvement firm - a written quote on nice letterhead, sent via email.

After several phone calls, a couple of sets of revision and a fair amount of work on my part, the company disappeared. My calls went unanswered and - more significantly - my invoices went unpaid.

I learned then to get some money up front. From everyone.

The question is: how much. So I am curious from more experienced service providers how much of a downpayment you ask for? Do you do this with all your clients or only those who are new? Are your expectations different for longer term clients?

Share your experiences.