Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: corvallis, Oregon
Bill time and materials. Get 35% of the projected total up front for materials and operating expenses. If it's a job that lasts awhile, get progress payments for labor every 2 weeks, and any extra amount left from the material deposit gets balanced out at the end.
What I've learned over my 27 years in business: If you want to be paid properly, you must be a consummate professional. Communicate clearly and accurately. You do NOT owe anybody discounted rates. What you do owe them is doing the best work you are capable of. No matter what you are charging. If you are setting the rate, then you are the one responsible if you are being underpaid for the work. If they don't want to pay your rate, then either give them a discounted rate and don't complain about it, or walk away. When you submit an invoice, don't be afraid to be somewhat detailed about how you spent your time. Most people have no clue of how many steps it takes to do one "simple" thing. Spell it out. Keep detailed time sheets. If they have a problem with the time/cost, offer to go over your time sheets with them.
If your customer wants something unconventional, instead of telling them that it cannot be done that way, explain to them any reasons why it usually is not done that way, and if it's done that way, what potential issues may arise. Educate them and let them make educated decisions. It helps with the bottom line.
Also, and this is very important, when you meet with a potential customer, LISTEN to them. Much of the time, they only have a vague sense of what they want, and if you proceed on guess work, you will have problems. It is your job to help them clarify what they want, and then to make that manifest. The more closely you listen, the more likely you will be to understand what they want, and to deliver it. If that happens, MOST of the customers will be so pleased that you will not have any issues about money with them. I have been told time and time again by so many customers that they are so happy and appreciative, because someone finally, actually LISTENED to them.
All that said, there are still a few people who will jerk you around, no matter what. In 27 years, I've encountered that twice. Get done what you have to get done, collect what pay you can get from them, and get them out of your life. And it is okay to explain to them, in a calm and reasonable manner (remember, you are a PROFESSIONAL) exactly why you are doing so. You may want to scream and yell and name call, but don't do it. You may think it might feel good at the time, but you will feel poorly about yourself later. They are not worth it. Move on, learn from it, and do better next time.
IMO, based on 27 years in business and 58 years in life.