Past dueHave you ever had a client that didn’t pay you on time… or didn’t pay you at all?

I probably shouldn’t be telling you this… but I recently had this problem (and the way I handled it might surprise you). One of my clients was taking advantage of a flexible-payment option for one of my 12-month coaching programs, with monthly installments being automatically charged to his credit card. One month, his card was declined.

After many excuses and delays from the client (that didn’t seem completely honest or straightforward), someone on my team finally got a new credit card number from the client (and the charge went through). I was gracious about it, since we all make mistakes (and it had only happened once). But then it happened, again.

So I had a heart-to-heart with my client…

I told him that his behavior was unacceptable. He’d signed a 12-month agreement and my company is very clear about the terms of our programs up front. I told him that I loved working with him, but he wouldn’t be able to continue in my coaching program anymore, unless he paid for the rest of the program in full, in advance (and, even then, I wasn’t sure if I would let him back in).

Sound tough?

It is. But it’s not personal. It’s business. When one of your clients is late with a payment (and he or she has already been warned once), you have to take bold action (if you respect yourself, your business, and your clients). It isn’t productive (or healthy) to work with someone who doesn’t honor their commitments. And it only gets worse if you let it continue (trust me, after 20 years as a coach… trying it every different way… I know)!

After I talked with my client, he paid me what he owed me… but he also paid me a compliment:“You’re the best coach, because you’re showing me how to run my own business… by your powerful example”. That’s when I realized I should probably write this article.

Being a coach isn’t easy, and it isn’t always fair. You have to play a lot of different roles: teacher, motivator, role model, source of inspiration, accountability partner, and occasionally bill collector. Sometimes you have to wear silk gloves… and other times you have to be made of steel. But you can never forget that you are, first and foremost, running a business (even though you might be very close to your clients and get emotional).

The first few times a client paid me late or didn’t pay me at all (many, many years ago), I took it personally. It was very difficult. I felt like I had failed… but today I see it differently. It’s business. And I know that I give my clients every possible chance to succeed. I still love my clients as much as I always have, but love means letting someone go who isn’t willing to honor their commitment.

I’ve found that when I’m fearless and don’t try too hard to please people the wrong way, or accommodate people who aren’t committed… new clients keep flowing in… and I am so much happier. I absolutely LOVE what I do… and I want you to love what YOU do. A happy coach is a really good thing… for you… your clients… and your business…

If you don’t have a formal agreement or contract for your clients, create one. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated, but you should have one. It helps your clients honor their commitment to you and to themselves (something that they might need help doing). It gets rid of any confusion about what you agreed on, if some misunderstanding comes up later. And it makes it easier for you to work with a collections agency… which is something else that I recommend you do.

Once you have these systems in place, you won’t lose any more sleep or waste your precious time… trying to figure out what to do when these situations come up. Figure out what you want your rules to be and write them down. Then communicate them clearly with your clients. If your rules are clear and strict, you’ll start attracting higher-quality clients. And you’ll start enjoying your work more.

Action Step Questions:

  • Do you have a written policy late payment or non-payment? Do you have a written policy for clients trying to terminate your program(s) early?
  • Are you enforcing your policies consistently?
  • Do you need to change or update any of your policies?
  • Do you need to remind your clients of your policies?

Article written by:

INGRID ELFVER is a “Celebrity Coach” helping coaches become celebrities (reach more people, make more money, and have more time off). Ingrid is creator of the Celebrity System™ and founder of the Celebrity Secret Society™ …helping coaches build 6- and 7-figure businesses (and beyond) using their unique passions and strengths. Over the last 20 years Ingrid has worked with thousands of people around the world (from celebrities to startups). Get $1,582 worth of FREE “Celebrity Coach” training at www.IngridElfver.com.

© 2011 Ingrid Elfver. All Rights Reserved.

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