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How do you professionally and politely get a client to pay?

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SweetSuccess

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I’ve been working with a potentially huge client for my new web design business I started in March.

We have been working together mainly consultation work. He wants me to work on 4 different big projects for multiple businesses he has.
So far I have helped him do brainstorming and research for ideas. I also drew up two web design proposals and a logo design for him.
Last week he told me he would give me a retainer for my services this far. He also told me he would look at the proposals I gave him and draft logo ideas but he hasn’t done that yet and we have a meeting tomorrow...

My issue is he hasn’t been looking at my proposals for the projects he wants me to do for him. He just keeps giving me more mini tasks to do to get ready for the full design.
For me, when I do a website, the research and designing is usually part of the whole process. He’s acting like he doesn’t want to start the project until that’s done.

I am allowing this to happen because of the potential learning I can get from him. He’s a millionaire with lots of business knowledge. plus I’m just hungry for clients. I haven’t gotten any real web design clients yet. Just mini freelancing jobs here and there.

What do you suggest I do to get him look at the proposals and to pay the deposits that I require To start the project?

He’s a strong personality and takes over our conversations and I don’t know how to overpower the conversation without being rude.
Any suggestions?
 

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Sebastya

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If you have 4 projects lined up, I would do 1 for free and use that as a case study to gain new clients, while also charging for the other 3 (perhaps even a little higher than usual to make up for the 1 if you are on thin margins).
 

Andy Black

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I’ve been working with a potentially huge client for my new web design business I started in March.

We have been working together mainly consultation work. He wants me to work on 4 different big projects for multiple businesses he has.
So far I have helped him do brainstorming and research for ideas. I also drew up two web design proposals and a logo design for him.
Last week he told me he would give me a retainer for my services this far. He also told me he would look at the proposals I gave him and draft logo ideas but he hasn’t done that yet and we have a meeting tomorrow...

My issue is he hasn’t been looking at my proposals for the projects he wants me to do for him. He just keeps giving me more mini tasks to do to get ready for the full design.
For me, when I do a website, the research and designing is usually part of the whole process. He’s acting like he doesn’t want to start the project until that’s done.

I am allowing this to happen because of the potential learning I can get from him. He’s a millionaire with lots of business knowledge. plus I’m just hungry for clients. I haven’t gotten any real web design clients yet. Just mini freelancing jobs here and there.

What do you suggest I do to get him look at the proposals and to pay the deposits that I require To start the project?

He’s a strong personality and takes over our conversations and I don’t know how to overpower the conversation without being rude.
Any suggestions?
Either he doesn’t understand your process or is ignoring it. If your process is to do XYZ then communicate that to him.

Also, don’t let the prospect of more business be used to get free work out of you. There’s a time and a place for doing free work, but if he’s overstepped your line then you do indeed need to communicate that.

“Every problem can be solved except the one under the table.” (Blaise Brosnan)

Maybe he doesn’t know how you feel? Try it again in your next meeting (or call a meeting). Be polite and be unapologetic. If he’s a successful businessman then he appreciates short and concise, and it will help you to not ramble and undo yourself.

It sounds a little like he knows what he’s doing. (I could be wrong, but that’s what my gut says.). In which case he’s likely to use your nervousness against you - by controlling the silence or by talking over you.

If you say your piece (e.g. “Thanks for jumping on this call Bob. I’ve enjoyed working on X so far. To proceed I need feedback from you about Y, and I also need to get paid Z for the work already done.”) then try to not say anything afterwards.

If he is silent and let’s it draw out uncomfortably then hold your nerve and let him know you know what he’s doing.

If he doesn’t let you finish what you’re trying to say or ignores it completely then maybe follow up with an email if you’re not comfortable interrupting.

The most important thing is your mindset. Don’t be desperate for the work. Try to be detached from the outcome. See it as a learning opportunity in the art of getting paid. Be prepared to walk away if you feel you’re being manipulated.

My gut says he knows exactly what he’s doing and is just waiting for you to push back. (Again, I could be completely wrong so remember to take any advice with a pinch of salt.)
 

Jon L

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I had a similar situation recently, and I've been doing this kind of work for a while. I spent probably 10 hours with this guy between phone calls, thinking and researching his project. When we got down to the end, it was clear that the project was decent size ($20-$30k), and that a good part of that was figuring out what the project should be and how it should work. He wasn't happy with the price. I said, "In looking at this project, I've had to quote on the high side because there are a lot of unknowns. It might be that we are able to do this work a lot more quickly than what I think. If you'd like to pay me an hourly rate, I'd be glad to dig into the details and come up with a plan."

He wasn't having it.

Then, he said, 'well, maybe this other project is where we should start. If we were able to find the source code for something this other guy did, I could have you add on to it."

Let me translate what he meant, "I already paid this other guy $3000 to put this other project together. I'd be willing to pay you hundreds of dollars to add some features onto it."

Oh HELL no.

I actually enjoy eating. And living in a house. So do my kids and wife. That takes money. Considerably more than what he was willing to pay.

This guy, while very nice, was going to turn into a stingy nightmare. The only way I figured that out was to suggest that he pay for research that was above and beyond what he could reasonably expect from a free sales consultation.

...........

In my view, designing a logo falls outside what should be done in a sales consultation. As do a lot of the other little tasks this prospect has you doing. Here's the thing. HE KNOWS THAT AND IS TAKING ADVANTAGE OF YOU.

He probably didn't set out to do that. You offered it, and he accepted it. And then you offered more, and he took more.

So ... nicely, put a stop to it.

"You know, if I keep doing all these little tasks, we're going to end up with four completed projects and I won't have charged you for any of it. (Pause for his chuckle) Here's what I propose. I'll put together an initial project plan based on what we've talked about so far. In it, I'll provide a price for a complete project plan, and an estimate for what I think the four projects will cost. How does that sound?"

In your project plan, pick the biggest bang for your buck project, and suggest he do that first. I don't know what kind of numbers you're talking, but let's say that all four projects are $20k total, to pick a number. Pick the one that you could do for $3500, and make it something that will move his needle forward enough to make him happy. Tell him that at the end of that project, you expect to have Xyz results and you and he will sit down and figure out where to go from there.

Edit: I probably should have read Andy's very excellent answer before I duplicated what he said. But now you have it from two different people, saying pretty much the same thing.

Edit 2: Sorry, I just saw that you already drew up proposals for him to look at. You could still use the same approach. Do it nicely, using your personality (you sound nice), and with a flair that says, 'there ain't no wiggle room here.' Someone like him will appreciate you drawing your boundaries.
 
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maverick

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He's not respecting your time. And as you're doing stuff for free for them, you're not respecting your own time. I understand that some work will need to be done upfront (sometimes for free) but start getting into the swing of charging for the activities you're doing for clients. Tell them your hourly rate is X. And that it will cost you Y hours to do said activities. Only proceed when you're both aligned on this.

If they still don't pay:
  • Buy their fullname.com
  • Add text on website that he still owes you money. And that this website will live for as long as he owes you money.
  • Send them the link.
;-)
 

Andy Black

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He's not respecting your time. And as you're doing stuff for free for them, you're not respecting your own time. I understand that some work will need to be done upfront (sometimes for free) but start getting into the swing of charging for the activities you're doing for clients. Tell them your hourly rate is X. And that it will cost you Y hours to do said activities. Only proceed when you're both aligned on this.
Yes!

If they still don't pay:
  • Buy their fullname.com
  • Add text on website that he still owes you money. And that this website will live for as long as he owes you money.
  • Send them the link.
;-)
Lol. No. (I know you're joking.)



@SweetSuccess ... all freelancers have been there. It's almost a right of passage to deal with clients like this (again, I'm going on my gut that he knows what he's doing).

IMO, business is simple: Add value. Get paid.

You're obviously able to add value. Now to learn how to get paid.

"Sale is a screening process." (Blaise Brosnan)

"Find out as soon as you can if the person in front of you sees the value in what you do, or just the cost." (Blaise Brosnan again!)

This is just part of your screening process of finding out who'll be a good client.



Further reading/listening:
 

FastNAwesome

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Maybe: "I need to get some cashflow going to be able to proceed, can you please look at my proposals?"

For me, doing work upfront without compensation has been a great way to build portfolio, and also get some great clients. But I always made it clear upfront that IF they decide to work with me, the price will be such and such, as well as any terms, e.g.how much to be paid upfront.
 

alexkuzmov

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I’ve been working with a potentially huge client for my new web design business I started in March.

We have been working together mainly consultation work. He wants me to work on 4 different big projects for multiple businesses he has.
So far I have helped him do brainstorming and research for ideas. I also drew up two web design proposals and a logo design for him.
Last week he told me he would give me a retainer for my services this far. He also told me he would look at the proposals I gave him and draft logo ideas but he hasn’t done that yet and we have a meeting tomorrow...

My issue is he hasn’t been looking at my proposals for the projects he wants me to do for him. He just keeps giving me more mini tasks to do to get ready for the full design.
For me, when I do a website, the research and designing is usually part of the whole process. He’s acting like he doesn’t want to start the project until that’s done.

I am allowing this to happen because of the potential learning I can get from him. He’s a millionaire with lots of business knowledge. plus I’m just hungry for clients. I haven’t gotten any real web design clients yet. Just mini freelancing jobs here and there.

What do you suggest I do to get him look at the proposals and to pay the deposits that I require To start the project?

He’s a strong personality and takes over our conversations and I don’t know how to overpower the conversation without being rude.
Any suggestions?

A little free work is not a bad thing, but there should be a limit.
Creating a web and logo design proposal goes over that limit I think.
Constulation and mockups, something quick, is fine IMO.

He’s a strong personality and takes over our conversations and I don’t know how to overpower the conversation without being rude.

This is your key to getting paid.
Such personalities tend to feel unheard and missunderstood.
They want to overexplain and strongarm others in a conversation.
Dont fight this, dont try to overpower and dont steer the conversation against the force.
Instead, move with the force.
The one who listens in a conversation has the upper hand, not the one who speaks.

Mirroring is a technique which is very effective with strong personalities:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIBc2T2RKSA


Make sure to write down what the client wants and also make sure to mirror his energy level.
If he talks fast, talk fast, if he talks slow, talk slow.

With his words in writting, it`ll be much easier to mirror him.
There will come a point in the conversation where he`ll run out of things to say and thats when you make the move.

List out concisely all the things he wants and then say with confidence: Sounds great, to get this going I`ll need X amount of money to start OR I`ll need such and such contract signed OR I`ll need this hourly rate to work on it.

Throw out a good high number out there, not your real number, dont screw yourself if it comes to haggling.
Expect a protest from his side: Its too expensive, I`m not ready, I`m not sure bla bla bla.
Then you again mirror 1-2 sentences and list out all the things he wants again, but quicker.
Make sure he confirms that what you`ve listed is what he wants, adjust if needed.
The point of this adjusment is to get all of the "NO"s out of the way.
Your goal is to hear the words: "Thats right/correct." at this point.

Then you move in for the catch: You want this and this done for less than my X price, but how am I suppose to do that?
This question gets him to think from your behalf and leaves him with only 2 choices realistically.
You`ve shown him that he cant negotiate the price much if at all and you`ve asked him for help on solving the "problem" of how else to compensate you if he cant pay you the full price.

Anything which is not a: YES is a NO.
If he says I`ll think about it, thats a NO.
If he says I need to ask A and B about it, thats a NO.
You combat the NO at this stage with scarcity.
"I`ll need your answer now, since I have another project waiting"
Remember, if you`ve already heard the "Thats right", then you know that what you offer is what he wants.

There is a chance that he`ll say NO at this point and that will be that.
If he says YES, then some haggling may follow.
You can drop the price a little bit, since you`ve already offered something higher before that.
If he doesnt haggle, all the better.

Good Luck!

P.S.

Make sure to pause after your questions and let the mirrors do their work.
Dont start talking after you`ve asked a question.
 
Last edited:

SweetSuccess

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A little free work is not a bad thing, but there should be a limit.
Creating a web and logo design proposal goes over that limit I think.
Constulation and mockups, something quick, is fine IMO.



This is your key to getting paid.
Such personalities tend to feel unheard and missunderstood.
They want to overexplain and strongarm others in a conversation.
Dont fight this, dont try to overpower and dont steer the conversation against the force.
Instead, move with the force.
The one who listens in a conversation has the upper hand, not the one who speaks.

Mirroring is a technique which is very effective with strong personalities:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIBc2T2RKSA


Make sure to write down what the client wants and also make sure to mirror his energy level.
If he talks fast, talk fast, if he talks slow, talk slow.

With his words in writting, it`ll be much easier to mirror him.
There will come a point in the conversation where he`ll run out of things to say and thats when you make the move.

List out concisely all the things he wants and then say with confidence: Sounds great, to get this going I`ll need X amount of money to start OR I`ll need such and such contract signed OR I`ll need this hourly rate to work on it.

Throw out a good high number out there, not your real number, dont screw yourself if it comes to haggling.
Expect a protest from his side: Its too expensive, I`m not ready, I`m not sure bla bla bla.
Then you again mirror 1-2 sentences and list out all the things he wants again, but quicker.
Make sure he confirms that what you`ve listed is what he wants, adjust if needed.
The point of this adjusment is to get all of the "NO"s out of the way.
Your goal is to hear the words: "Thats right/correct." at this point.

Then you move in for the catch: You want this and this done for less than my X price, but how am I suppose to do that?
This question gets him to think from your behalf and leaves him with only 2 choices realistically.
You`ve shown him that he cant negotiate the price much if at all and you`ve asked him for help on solving the "problem" of how else to compensate you if he cant pay you the full price.

Anything which is not a: YES is a NO.
If he says I`ll think about it, thats a NO.
If he says I need to ask A and B about it, thats a NO.
You combat the NO at this stage with scarcity.
"I`ll need your answer now, since I have another project waiting"
Remember, if you`ve already heard the "Thats right", then you know that what you offer is what he wants.

There is a chance that he`ll say NO at this point and that will be that.
If he says YES, then some haggling may follow.
You can drop the price a little bit, since you`ve already offered something higher before that.
If he doesnt haggle, all the better.

Good Luck!

P.S.

Make sure to pause after your questions and let the mirrors do their work.
Dont start talking after you`ve asked a question.
This is gold! Thank you!
 

SweetSuccess

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If you have 4 projects lined up, I would do 1 for free and use that as a case study to gain new clients, while also charging for the other 3 (perhaps even a little higher than usual to make up for the 1 if you are on thin margins).

I thought about this but the projects are pretty extensive. It would require me too much time to do this. I also think he will take it too far wanting a lot of edits and such.
 

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SweetSuccess

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Either he doesn’t understand your process or is ignoring it. If your process is to do XYZ then communicate that to him.

Also, don’t let the prospect of more business be used to get free work out of you. There’s a time and a place for doing free work, but if he’s overstepped your line then you do indeed need to communicate that.

“Every problem can be solved except the one under the table.” (Blaise Brosnan)

Maybe he doesn’t know how you feel? Try it again in your next meeting (or call a meeting). Be polite and be unapologetic. If he’s a successful businessman then he appreciates short and concise, and it will help you to not ramble and undo yourself.

It sounds a little like he knows what he’s doing. (I could be wrong, but that’s what my gut says.). In which case he’s likely to use your nervousness against you - by controlling the silence or by talking over you.

If you say your piece (e.g. “Thanks for jumping on this call Bob. I’ve enjoyed working on X so far. To proceed I need feedback from you about Y, and I also need to get paid Z for the work already done.”) then try to not say anything afterwards.

If he is silent and let’s it draw out uncomfortably then hold your nerve and let him know you know what he’s doing.

If he doesn’t let you finish what you’re trying to say or ignores it completely then maybe follow up with an email if you’re not comfortable interrupting.

The most important thing is your mindset. Don’t be desperate for the work. Try to be detached from the outcome. See it as a learning opportunity in the art of getting paid. Be prepared to walk away if you feel you’re being manipulated.

My gut says he knows exactly what he’s doing and is just waiting for you to push back. (Again, I could be completely wrong so remember to take any advice with a pinch of salt.)
Thank you! I believe he probably knows what’s he’s doing. He really doesn’t know anything about web design or much about the technical side of what we do so he may not realize the time involved with what I’ve been doing for him.
Today I’m going to just lay it out and I’ll write out a mini script with points I need to bring up today.
Thank you again for your help with this!
You’re all giving me some confidence for my meeting today.
 

SweetSuccess

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A little free work is not a bad thing, but there should be a limit.
Creating a web and logo design proposal goes over that limit I think.
Constulation and mockups, something quick, is fine IMO.



This is your key to getting paid.
Such personalities tend to feel unheard and missunderstood.
They want to overexplain and strongarm others in a conversation.
Dont fight this, dont try to overpower and dont steer the conversation against the force.
Instead, move with the force.
The one who listens in a conversation has the upper hand, not the one who speaks.

Mirroring is a technique which is very effective with strong personalities:
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIBc2T2RKSA


Make sure to write down what the client wants and also make sure to mirror his energy level.
If he talks fast, talk fast, if he talks slow, talk slow.

With his words in writting, it`ll be much easier to mirror him.
There will come a point in the conversation where he`ll run out of things to say and thats when you make the move.

List out concisely all the things he wants and then say with confidence: Sounds great, to get this going I`ll need X amount of money to start OR I`ll need such and such contract signed OR I`ll need this hourly rate to work on it.

Throw out a good high number out there, not your real number, dont screw yourself if it comes to haggling.
Expect a protest from his side: Its too expensive, I`m not ready, I`m not sure bla bla bla.
Then you again mirror 1-2 sentences and list out all the things he wants again, but quicker.
Make sure he confirms that what you`ve listed is what he wants, adjust if needed.
The point of this adjusment is to get all of the "NO"s out of the way.
Your goal is to hear the words: "Thats right/correct." at this point.

Then you move in for the catch: You want this and this done for less than my X price, but how am I suppose to do that?
This question gets him to think from your behalf and leaves him with only 2 choices realistically.
You`ve shown him that he cant negotiate the price much if at all and you`ve asked him for help on solving the "problem" of how else to compensate you if he cant pay you the full price.

Anything which is not a: YES is a NO.
If he says I`ll think about it, thats a NO.
If he says I need to ask A and B about it, thats a NO.
You combat the NO at this stage with scarcity.
"I`ll need your answer now, since I have another project waiting"
Remember, if you`ve already heard the "Thats right", then you know that what you offer is what he wants.

There is a chance that he`ll say NO at this point and that will be that.
If he says YES, then some haggling may follow.
You can drop the price a little bit, since you`ve already offered something higher before that.
If he doesnt haggle, all the better.

Good Luck!

P.S.

Make sure to pause after your questions and let the mirrors do their work.
Dont start talking after you`ve asked a question.
Yes this isGold! I’ve been taking loads of notes and he’s always impressed when I repeat exactly what he wants so I know this will work wonders.

thank you!
 

Conscripted

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I like the approach mentioned in "NEVER SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE" by Chris Voss.

He uses an approach that goes something like this....

"I'd really like to help you with......" whatever it is that they are asking for.
"How am I supposed to to do that when....." explain the issue.
 

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We're currently revamping our process to require money up front on a lot of our services.

I've literally had people where I send them a completed tax return (after being in discussion with them during the process, it isn't a surprise), and then they tell me they've found another accountant.

By requiring money up front, it makes them think about how serious they are about the project, and if they're truly ready to pay for the end product.

Think about when you buy something from the store. Do you take it home, test it, and then go back and pay for it? Of course not, that would be ridiculous.
So why do so many of us that are service-based businesses only charge at the end after everything is complete?
 

Andy Black

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We're currently revamping our process to require money up front on a lot of our services.

I've literally had people where I send them a completed tax return (after being in discussion with them during the process, it isn't a surprise), and then they tell me they've found another accountant.

By requiring money up front, it makes them think about how serious they are about the project, and if they're truly ready to pay for the end product.

Think about when you buy something from the store. Do you take it home, test it, and then go back and pay for it? Of course not, that would be ridiculous.
So why do so many of us that are service-based businesses only charge at the end after everything is complete?
Yep. I'm money up front, by setting up a recurring monthly payment too. I'm not chasing monthly fees.
 

Jon L

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We're currently revamping our process to require money up front on a lot of our services.

I've literally had people where I send them a completed tax return (after being in discussion with them during the process, it isn't a surprise), and then they tell me they've found another accountant.

By requiring money up front, it makes them think about how serious they are about the project, and if they're truly ready to pay for the end product.

Think about when you buy something from the store. Do you take it home, test it, and then go back and pay for it? Of course not, that would be ridiculous.
So why do so many of us that are service-based businesses only charge at the end after everything is complete?
yeah, and to run with your analogy a bit more, if you did test a product from a store, you could bring it back and the store owner could still get some value out of it. With a service that you've 'borrowed,' there's no way to return it. You can't return time.
 

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Yep. I'm money up front, by setting up a recurring monthly payment too. I'm not chasing monthly fees.
We just got up and running with our new proposal software. It collects payment information at the time of the proposal, and automatically charges based on the schedule in the proposal.

We were manually collecting CC info previously, which means I would need to remember to check and follow up if a card didn't go through for some reason. Now it's all handled for me (plus I'm trying to transition people to bank transfers to avoid the expiring credit card issue).
 

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Hey @SweetSuccess!

Congrats on getting going.

We have been working together mainly consultation work. He wants me to work on 4 different big projects for multiple businesses he has.

It's nice to hear that there is more in the pipeline. In my experience it is a bit delicate though. If you bring up the point of many more projects down the line, in my experience, it is an excuse to get some free work. In my experience, people like this use this as a bargaining power - "You are a starter and I have the projects. So prove yourself."


So far I have helped him do brainstorming and research for ideas. I also drew up two web design proposals and a logo design for him.

I used to work with many clients who didn't value my work properly. These people then find it outrageous when I ask them for 1k for a logo design, which is cheap. It has become a filter for me. I don't take on these clients anymore. Proposals are already work that needs to be paid. If you don't pay for quality, what do you expect to get? Do you call the cheapest plumber if your pipe broke? No, you want quality work that you can rely on, even 5 years down the line.


Last week he told me he would give me a retainer for my services this far. He also told me he would look at the proposals I gave him and draft logo ideas but he hasn’t done that yet and we have a meeting tomorrow...

It's his homework. If he doesn't do his homework, but asks for more, that is a bad sign in my experience. I usually say something like: "Hi client, thanks for the new request. I cannot work on this before finishing step ABC first, because one depends on the other. Please give me your feedback so we can proceed."

Put the ball in his court.


plus I’m just hungry for clients.

From a position of abundance it is better to communicate with prospects. :)


He’s a strong personality and takes over our conversations and I don’t know how to overpower the conversation without being rude.

It's not about overpowering. It is about communicating what you want out of this. That's just fair. Also, overpowering indicates that one of the two misses out in this deal. Can you create a win-win?


All in all, fair and honest communication is king in my experience. Most people have no bad intentions. They just mis-communicated. You'll spot the rotten apples soon enough. :)
 

SweetSuccess

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We just got up and running with our new proposal software. It collects payment information at the time of the proposal, and automatically charges based on the schedule in the proposal.

We were manually collecting CC info previously, which means I would need to remember to check and follow up if a card didn't go through for some reason. Now it's all handled for me (plus I'm trying to transition people to bank transfers to avoid the expiring credit card issue).
What software is it?
 

CareCPA

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