This isn’t a post about fish. It’s a post about mindset in business. It’s about getting paid.

But first, I’d like to start by telling you a true story.

A couple of years ago I was standing in the shared kitchen of the office recharging my caffeine levels. My mind full of thoughts about a work problem, when I heard her say it. I hadn’t been paying any heed to the two ladies sitting behind me chatting over coffees, but something in her tone made me tune in.

“Well at least I got a bit of fish out of it…”, one of them said.
“That’s not right”, the other responded
“Well it was a lovely bit of fresh hake…”

I only hung around long enough to hear a little bit more of the conversation, but the gist of it was that this lady (who is a consultant) had been paid in fish for her services. Or more accurately, part paid in fish and not paid in anything else. For her time. She wasn’t happy about it but she was definitely looking at the fish as a silver lining of sorts.

This sat uncomfortably with me for a number of reasons, but at that moment I wrote it down to discomfort because I was going through something similar myself.

We had undertaken to do a content update for a client. When we started the job I estimated that it would take two days but told the client we would work on a daily rate and we’d just bill him for whatever days we needed. I told him how much our daily rate was and he gave us the green light.

The project we were working on was simple until the client changed his mind on a range of small decisions that ultimately led to a 2 day job becoming closer to a two week job. Roll forward to the end of the project and with the work complete I invoiced the client.

He had a minor heart attack when he saw the amount.

“But Neil, you said it would take 2 days approx! I never had the budget for this type of spend…you should have told me”
“I estimated that it would take two days but because of all the variables and decisions you hadn’t made yet, we had no choice but to work on a time-tracked, daily rate basis, billing you for all the days that we actually used.”
“Yeah but why didn’t you give me a heads up when it started to get out of control”

You can’t get blood out of a stone, so I suggested perhaps we could work out some sort of contra deal where he give me some one on one coaching in one of the soft skills he delivered courses in to the approx value of what he couldn’t afford to pay us.

We came to an agreement and in retrospect I actually did very well out of the deal. I got some really amazing training that has helped me and Lime Canvas grow, so my situation worked out a lot better than the lady with the fish.

Upon reflection it wasn’t the similarities in the coffee drinking consultant’s situation and my own that had made me feel uncomfortable, back in the kitchen that day, it was the horrible feeling that I’d wasted 2 weeks of my life working on something I put everything in to, only to not be paid properly for that time.

If you work in services, whether your fixing people’s joints, or their minds, or their websites, you are effectively selling your time for money, and as we all know time is an extremely finite resource. Once its gone, it’s gone baby gone.

So how do you end up with money instead of fish?

For today I’d like to leave you with a suggestion:

Don’t work with client’s who are massively price sensitive, or have cash flow issues.

They will regularly attempt to get you to negotiate down on price so they can get everything they need for less than you’d normally be willing to do it for, or you’ll get to the end of the works and they won’t pay you.

You should never, ever negotiate on what you charge for your time, so if you are finding yourself in that position, especially as a freelancer working for an hourly rate, you need to re-think your approach to pricing your services. 100% of the time in my opinion, you are better to charge a higher hourly rate and do extra work “off the clock” without looking for credit for it from the client, than you are charging a lower rate and not having that wiggle room.

In another post I may explore methods you can use to mitigate the risks of not getting paid using my three prong approach, so if you haven’t signed up for updates in your inbox, now is your chance!

Until then, I’d love to hear from you if you’ve ever had an experience like this. Leave your story in the comments below…

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Online business, digital marketing, and stories of being a digital nomad all from the creative trenches

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