How to handle potential client problems

Getting paid to do the work is how we stay in business. It’s very important to be prepared to handle potential client problems with payment.

Payment in Full

When working with indie authors, I expect full payment in advance, so I don’t have problems with people who don’t make a final payment, but not everyone can do that. Some clients will definitely balk at this—they want to see the final edit or know it’s complete before they fork over all that money.

So I would suggest getting a solid chunk as your down payment—at least 25 percent, maybe one-third. Some editors also bill an additional quarter or third as the edit proceeds – so, when they’re halfway through they bill the second amount. That’s a good way to head off problems, though be sure this is something you discuss with the client ahead of time so they’re not surprised. They may want to have an update delivered at the same time, so be prepared to give a general evaluation of the ms when you invoice for this second payment.

Client Cancellations

Sometimes clients book slots and then want to cancel, and again, full payment in advance is my go-to solution for how to handle this particular client problem. So does the fact that I don’t allow authors to book with me until their ms is complete. When they reach out to me a book a slot they are all ready to go.

If you don’t want to do that or don’t think it’s realistic for your clientele, then I would recommend creating a penalty for canceling an edit—this is typically that you keep the down payment.

If you don’t make it clear that the client is booking a particular slot on your schedule, and that it can’t be moved around at will, clients will expect you to accommodate them.

This is especially true if you book clients before they’ve finished writing the ms. A lot of editors do this, especially for repeat clients, but it supposes the author won’t have any of the problems authors often have when completing a ms—busy time at the day job, trouble solving a plot issue that slows down their progress, false start on the story that requires significant rewriting, etc. These are the typical problems that will result in an author wanting to cancel or reschedule an edit.

In any case, you will need to be sure your clients understand the consequences of canceling or rescheduling. You may want to be more flexible—say, you only charge the deposit if they don’t give you thirty days’ notice or if you can’t book another client into the vacated spot.

No-Show Clients

Sometimes clients are just no-shows. While you can’t always predict this issue, you can certainly plan for how to handle this potential client problem. They booked an edit to start March 1, March 1 comes and goes, and nothing happens. You send a note on March 2, and still nothing. March 3, also nothing. You waste the week twiddling your thumbs. You’ve been ghosted!

You can’t necessarily prevent this from happening. You can take some steps, such as emailing the client a reminder a few days ahead of time so that if something has come up—the client has lost their job and can’t afford the edit—they might own up and tell you. This gives you a little time to see if you can move someone else into the now-open slot or otherwise reconfigure your schedule (and cash cushion!) to accommodate.

No matter what you do to prevent it, sometimes—even when everything seems right on target—the author’s ms just never shows up. When this happens, make sure you don’t book that client again. Do keep the deposit.

Overall, don’t get too focused on the downside. In all my years as a freelancer I’ve had very few problems with clients. So, keep positive and optimistic, and just cover yourself in case you do need to figure out how to solve these potential client problems.

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