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Ask for 50% up-front. Provide a training plan for that 50%; that way, if they decide to back out, you'll still get some money for that work you did.
Get their signed approval for the plan so they won't be able to say you haven't delivered what they thought they'd get for "training". Of course it's still up to you to deliver what your plan says. Then collect the remaining 50% at the end.
Disclaimer: I'm just a dev and not the guy collecting the money - but this is how the company I work for does it.
I am now retired having been in the industry for 47 years. During that time I learnt several valuable lessons:
1. Is the client an individual, a small company or a large company. The bigger they are, the more reliable they are. The smaller they are the harder it is to get paid.
2. Try to get a full specification of what is required. The smaller they are the more vague the specification. In which case guide them by writing a proper specification and get their agreement.
3. Assess the development manpower cost and any external costs then add 25%. Quote on that subject to certain constraints:
a. Work will be billed and paid for monthly.
b. Monthly reviews will be held to discuss progress and problems.
c. Any client changes will involve a revised cost estimate which must be approved.
d. The client is liable to a cancellation fee if they drop out.
4. For 'unknown' clients try and get a credit rating check done.
This worked for me, at one time I was turning over 750K UK Sterling a year.
Not really relevant where the client is. Use your normal invoicing methods dependent on what you do know about the client.
If you're really uncomfortable with it, route the job through a 3rd party like PeoplePerHour. You'll be paying a premium for that (commission) but get the certainty of funds in escrow up front.
You could ask for a letter of credit which will spell out the conditions under which payment has to be made. Make sure that the termns are clear. Your bank should be able to tell you how letters of credit work.
I try to limit all my freelancing to domestic clients only.
Anything beyond this, I would charge a premium rate. I would have to be prepared for the customer never paying, in which case I would depracate whatever work they received.
Second, I only accept payments via PayPal.
I do everything on a case-by-case basis.
My thoughts on International Letter of Credit: I spent several years as HW & SW engineer with certain purchasing responsibilities for a small company which sold high-priced systems to foreign customers mostly. Payment was always through International Letter of Credit, and payment was always difficult. A chain of banks was involved, and every bank in the chain sat on the payment for a full 3 days so they could collect interest on it. I was freqently within earshot of one of the owners complaining about the delays for payment to some unknown party.
Assuming you can take PayPal or some form of compatible payment.
Often times this is the biggest concern.
They found you, right, so this means they are willing to work with you.
To me this is about risk management and your level of trust. Assume that you will not get paid your final piece, and modify your percentages so any loss is tolerable and a survivable learning experience.
Bad Debt was an interesting concept. As an engineer, I thought Bad debt should be ZERO (I sell my time, which does not have a great margin in reality). But if you sell a product with a 40% margin. And you have ZERO bad debt (as opposed to 1% bad debt), then you are refusing 99 Customers at 40% profit (~400%) to save the risk of a 100% loss (and usually lower, because you credit less when first starting). It's bad business to have ZERO bad debt, because you have far too few customers who could be making you a lot of money.
I consider the few people who did not want to pay the rest of my bill a Marketing expense. Since I don't really do any marketing, the occasional $500 or $1,000 write off is what it is.
I usually know pretty quickly who is going to be a problem. I have walked away from a few potential clients because the vibe was wrong...
If something has a solution... Why do we have to worry about?. If it has no solution... For what reason do we have to worry about?
Help me to understand what I'm saying, and I'll explain it better to you
Rating helpful answers is nice, but saying thanks can be even nicer.