I offer a service, as you do, and understand your concern about getting stiffed after delivering on your end of the deal. Talking about getting paid is absolutely NOT off-limits; it`s the reason you`re running a business and not providing your service for free, right? For new clients that I know nothing about, I require a retainer to start and my terms are balance due upon project completion. If a prospect balks at that, I figure I`m better off without them as a client. Some of the projects I work on are pretty long, and for those projects, I require either periodic (bi-monthly) or milestone-based payments, terms net 10. When I`m closing a big project, especially one where I`m going to have to pay someone else, I do a credit check with Dun and Bradstreet. It`s not cheap to do, but I`ve actually bowed out of a couple of deals after running a credit check, so it`s been worth it to me.
BTW - I recently attended a small business seminar where the speaker asserted that the revenue-optimizing level of bad debt is 3% -- anything higher means your credit terms are too easy, lower means terms are too tight, according to the speaker. I haven`t validated the assertion, but I do trust the source: a business school prof at Wayne State University who also runs a small business incubator.
Hope this helps!
Bottom line.....you are in business for the money. Don`t be afraid to ask for it or discuss it.
I provide a service to retailers who are used to getting their goods on terms. When they ask me for terms I am quite upfront with them and explain that I get paid on completion of my service. Period. Since I am paid for my time and that time has been delivered, I can not come back later to retrieve merchandise to settle a past due account.
The one time I left a client without a check in hand it took me over 4 years to get paid. Never again!