When I started my freelance business it was all daisies and roses. In those early days, each client who called me and said they had work and wanted me to hold a spot would, of course, come through.
I’m sure you can see where this is going…
The truth is, most of those leads didn’t come through, especially in the early days when my clients were lower quality with lower budgets.
One client in particular paid me a $2,000 deposit on a project. At the time, this $4000 total project was the biggest project I had done.
I was ecstatic that I’d be rolling in so much money.
Then the shoe dropped — the client decided they didn’t want to go through with the project and requested a full refund.
After I had turned away other work because this project was on my schedule.
Of course we had discussed the fact that deposits were not refundable, but was that detail in my contract?
Have you been on a roller coaster before? How about a really steep one? That’s really fast?
You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach as you reach the bottom of the fall and begin leveling out — or loops?
That feeling is fun on a roller coaster, but not in business.
Do you know that watching some roller coasters makes me feel physically sick? Yes, the thought of that feeling in my stomach makes me feel sick. I don’t consider roller coasters fun.
That may sound totally ridiculous to you if you know I’ve paddled a whitewater kayak over 40-foot waterfalls, or that it’s common for me to travel 80km/hour down a mountain on a road bike.
That not fun feeling is the way I felt when the shoe dropped on my early project. Simply sick to my stomach, like I get looking at some roller coasters.
If there is one thing to take away today it’s that you don’t hold work time without a deposit.
Make sure your contract specifies that, and be clear on your refund policy. If the client requests a refund because they decided not to go forward after paying the deposit, then the client has a problem because deposits are non-refundable and you’ve already turned away work that could have filled the same space.
This may sound harsh, but it’s the smart way to do business. Operating with a clear-cut policy will make you a smarter business owner, and hopefully make your clients smarter as well.
Stick to your guns and get off the roller coaster that could make you sick.