Business Shenanigans

June 18, 2010 § 6 Comments

Blimey. I have had a funny old week.

As you may know, I am a fantastic copywriter and also lecture on tax, but this week both enterprises gave me a big kick in the teeth and I nearly didn’t survive. What I mean by that is that I became so discouraged that I was within a whisker of throwing in the towel and getting myself a ‘proper’ job.

The two things that threw me off balance were:

1) a substantial job was cancelled with three weeks notice. Quite definitely substantial, the payment for which I was relying on to see us through the summer (my husband teaches part-time but has a temporary contract so does not get paid for his 6 week holiday). Worse, I had deliberately confirmed this with them about 6 weeks ago to doubly underline the sure thing this job was intended to be. Hah. Of course, from their point of view its all very regrettable and they will reschedule for later in the year. I wonder if I can still fulfil the job when living in a cardboard box…

2) I was also (actually quite unrelatedly) trying to catch up on my invoices, due to family illness I had managed to get a bit behind. Unfortunately one invoice I sent out (for a huge sum. Not.) was returned to me stating it was not going to be paid as it was unsuitable. I questioned this statement given that the writing work provided to this customer was actually currently showing on a website, and I was again told the invoice would not be paid. I discussed the issue on Twitter (anonymously of course) and received some sound advice from the helpful community, and was then threatened with slander.

Now, the point of this post isn’t to make you all feel desperately sorry for me (although I am taking all offerings of sympathy going) but to highlight the mistakes I made, so you can avoid them and thereby avoid my rubbish week.

So here we are, my top tips for protecting yourself from nasty surprises.

1. Contract

We all like to think that everyone is as lovely as we are, but in business this can be a dangerous fantasy. Earlier in the year I was bitten by having signed a contract (with a large professional body) which agreed that they could cancel a lecture at any point and would not pay me a cancellation fee. Guess how I found this out? That’s right, they cancelled.

Since that point I have been more careful, but this latest cancellation (or postponement) was arranged a year ago, when I was greener and less worldly wise. I also used to work with the people involved and considered them more than just colleagues, though perhaps not actual *friends*. Made no difference when cancelling the course.

2. Invoice promptly

Although I can excuse my tardiness in invoicing, I really shouldn’t. Keeping on top of invoicing is the best way to keep on top of cashflow, and also makes situations like the one I now find myself in less likely to happen. If it’s easier, make a diary note (or phone beeping alarm) to invoice once a week or month, and MAKE SURE YOU DO IT

3. Know your rights

I was so shocked by someone using my work and refusing to pay for it, but I knew this could not be right. Fortunately my Twitter friends confirmed my own opinion, and I had some great advice from Sally Whittle and Milly Bee, the latter advising me to take a screenshot of where my work was being used as evidence.

As I felt I was in the right, I have now taken this customer to Small Claims Court, and I am glad I took that screen shot, because the work has now mysteriously disappeared. Funnily enough, just after I lodged the claim, the customer did offer me a paltry third of the invoice in recognition that they had actually used it. This makes me feel it was all an exercise in trying it on to get work for cheaper, but as I had already filed the claim I was unable to accept it. Regrettably.

Anyway, I am feeling a bit better now, and I know that by Monday I will have bounced back. I am good at what I do, and I am not going to let two rubbish customers deprive the world of my talent! A few kind words from Karen Pine helped too.

Oh, and if there are any lovely customers who like paying and not cancelling out there who need to get some fabulous words or tax analysis, I have a window over the summer…

This post was included in the June Business Mum’s Carnival . July’s carnival will be hosted HERE so get all your lovely posts to me (sam at samthewlis.co.uk) by Friday 16th July for revealing on Monday 19th…

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