Since I’ve been on the topic of retainers and business, I thought I’d quickly address another important topic. Don’t start any work until the check clears the bank. As I mentioned yesterday, you may have already invested a lot of time and energy into this client prior to them signing. Now that you’ve got the gig, in general you should not start work on it until they send a payment and it clears. You also should not change any other plans (personal or otherwise) until payment is received. This isn’t being mean or unreasonable.
I’ll never forget the time my first year in business. A client “booked” me but hadn’t paid yet. I canceled a show my wife and I were planning to attend the same night as this person’s event. Well, lo and behold, they changed their mind and it was too late for me to get any more tickets for that show. I was not a happy camper. Since then, I can’t tell you all the times I’ve spent cultivating a potential gig, where the clients says, “Yes, we’re going to hire you,” and they never do. Imagine if I turned away other business, or canceled other family trips, etc., just because someone tells me they’re going to hire me. If someone is serious about hiring you, they need to show that. It’s perfectly okay for you to run your business that way.
It’s important to communicate too. Make sure they understand up front that payment is required for a date or gig to be officially booked, and until that time, someone else could potentially come in and grab that date.
Now of course there may be exceptions. These are not hard and fast rules. And don’t be a jerk about it. There may very well be times when your confidence level of the client actually paying and hiring you is high enough that you feel okay making plans to fit their gig. Or, the caliber of the client may be such that it’s worth taking the chance. If Bono’s people called me up to direct U2’s next surprise roof top music video but they weren’t 100% sure about whether or not it was going to happen, I’d find a way to move events on my schedule to be available, retainer be damned.. 🙂