Henry Hinds wrote:
I deal with a lot of direct clients, most of them local or related to local entities. I have the luxury of doing that because I am located in an area (US-Mexico border) where there is a lot of demand for my services.
I do not use contracts, agreements or any formalities when doing a job. However, first check to make sure the prospective client is well-established. If it is a well-established company or professional, then I merely submit the job and bill them. Sometimes clients are also referred to me by others who are known to me and I rely upon their recommendations.
In dealing with individuals I will ask for payment up-front, or if I have their original documents that will often serve as security for payment.
I usually like to say that I like my clients "to be close enough to go over and strangle them if they won't pay". I haven't actually had to do that, but at times I have had to pressure a few, and it makes them uncomfortable to know I am that close so they come through. That does not happen often.
You may not have so many prospective clients that are local. Usually your best bet is to do a bit of research on the client first, and if you have your doubts, don't do it. In any case, if someone does not want to pay, whatever there might be in writing is not much of a deterrent to a cheating mind.
I agree with Henry. I too get a few clients since I am situated close to the national capital and people wanting to submit translated versions of documents / letters to embassies do come over or send documents to me by fax / courier once in a while. I do not usually make contracts or have forms filled up by clients who are individuals (as opposed to companies)
a) I invariably tell them what it would cost, get their agreement and also take an advance, usually 50 %, especially from those I am dealing with for the first time
b) In the case of larger (corporate) clients, it usually takes them quite a while to get an advance payment approved internally. In urgent cases, I ask them to fax or email an order confirmation with the terms and conditions clearly specified and take a commitment as to when they would pay me, before commencing the work
Fortunately I have had very few cases of non payment so far!
I agree with Astrid too, that is is best to deal with local direct clients. But if one does not have the luxury because of ones' location or other factors, one should certainly consider asking them for part payment in advance so that ones' exposure is minimised.