You’ve done the marketing, you’ve filled your funnel and the
phone starts ringing – you’ve got a new client! Now what?
Whether you are a consultant, coach, virtual assistant or
other type of service provider, it’s important to insure you start off your
client relationship properly.
You don’t want to let the exhilaration of signing a new (or
your first) client get in the way of sound business practice. There are three ways I recommend you protect
yourself when dealing with clients.
1. Have a contract or client agreement.
You should have some form of contract or client agreement
which states, at a minimum, your work hours, your hourly fee (if you charge by
the hour), payment terms, a statement regarding confidentiality, your status as
an independent contractor, an “out” clause (e.g., either party may terminate
the agreement with 14 days notice) and any other data that you feel pertinent
(such as an arbitration clause).
If you choose to have a contract or client agreement, it is
in your best interest to insure that your client signs and returns it before
any work is performed – remember to send your client a signed copy back.
2. Create Client Service Plans.
If you’re not sure how many hours a client will require each
month, you may want to consider creating “Client Service Plans” which allows
clients to know they have purchased a certain amount of your time for any given
For example, if you are a coach, you could charge $X/month
for three 30-minute calls and email support. Or $Y/month for three 45-minute calls and email support.
If you are a virtual assistant, you could charge $X per hour
for clients who commit to using 40 hours/month and $Y per hour for clients who
commit to using 20 hours/month. Each set
of hours/pricing would be a separate plan – Platinum, Gold and Silver, for
example, where Platinum clients commit to the most hours and Silver clients the
Don’t be afraid to tailor your plans to your specific
business and your clients. It’s
important that they know you can be flexible while still maintaining your
3. Require a deposit or get paid in advance.
It makes good business sense to require a deposit before you
start work for new clients. The deposit
doesn’t need to be prohibitive, but just enough to guarantee that you are paid
at least something for your work if the client decides to try and stiff you.
Most coaches I know are paid in advance of the month. For example, clients pay at the end of
November for December’s coaching. Many
virtual assistants require a percentage deposit at the beginning of each month
and credit it on the invoice.
The above strategies are not mutually exclusive. I use all three to a certain degree in my
business along with a “Client Intake Form” that I’ve created. This allows me to learn something about the
client before we’ve had our first session.
I include all of this information in my Client Welcome Kit
along with a one-page informational sheet indicating how I best work. This allows us each to determine if our work
styles mesh – thus creating a win/win situation for both.
In the end, it’s about creating expectations and insuring
that both parties are happy with the arrangement.
Sandra P. Martini, the Automatic Business Coach ™, is creator of the “9 Simple Steps to Creating an Automatic Business” system. To learn more about this step-by-step program for small business success, and to receive her FREE “5 Simple Steps to Putting Your Marketing on Autopilot” e-course/audio mini-series and how-to articles and teleseminars, please visit www.SandraMartini.com.