Timing Delivery of Source with Payment

Subject: Timing Delivery of Source with Payment
From: Jonathan Leer <jleer -at- LTC -dot- MV -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 1 Oct 1997 09:37:22 -0400

As an independent technical writing contractor, I am constantly looking for
ways to improve my business.

During this past year I have encountered a few situations which leads me to
request your comments. One customer was a new customer, and the other a
long-standing customer.

Customer A contracted with me to provide technical documentation for a new
"hot" product. This was my first time working with this customer and I was
interested an establising a good relationship.

This project was expected to be relatively short. I received a PO from the
company and proceeded with the job. During the two months that I was
writing, I billed the customer for my work. My terms are 30 days, but many
of my customers request 45 days. During the second month of the project, it
became clear that the project would require more effort since the customer
had been giving me changes during the course of the past few weeks. No
problem. The customer said go ahead and complete the project and send a
revised bill based on our discussion about revising the PO. The project was
completed within a week, source delivered (the company had a hot deadline),
and a revised bill sent. No payment had been received yet (1 1/2 months
since the start of the project). I stupidly attributed this to having to
revise the PO. And of course this was during the summer with several
company personnel on vacation.

When 30 days came and went after my final "figure" was sent to the project
manager, I called the company to find out what the problem was. The person
handling Accounts Payable was away for a week (on vacation). The following
week I called and was informed that a check for 1/2 of my bill was
scheduled to be cut in two weeks: nearly 2 months from the time my bill was
sent. And only for half!

I received the check for half. Fortunately I had established a good rapport
with the person in Accounts Payable and received the remainder 2 weeks
later. I delivered my work in a timely fashion to meet the customer's
deadline, and was obviously taken advantage of. In the future, should I
deliver source to a new customer only after payment has been made?

I have had a long-term relationship with Customer B. It has had its ups and
downs, but for the most part has been good. In the past I have always been
in demand by the company. While I was winding down one project, I was
getting buried with work on another. Delivery of source and receipt of
payment were handled independently of each other without worry because of
the continuous stream of work. However, recently the company modified its
philosophy regarding outsourcing technical writing. New full-time writers
were hired and I was informed that my work "would be winding down". I was
asked to finish my current work and deliver the source so the employees
could pick up responsibility for the projects.

I can accept these changes. However, during the past month, I scrambled to
get this work completed and have submitted quite a bit a billing during the
past 2 weeks. Since this company typically pays 45 days after receipt of
bills, I don't expect to receive payment immediately (however, I did modify
my bills to indicate that my terms changed to "On receipt of bill" instead
of 30 days).

With so much in receivables outstanding with this customer, I am reluctant
to turn over the source. Of course, I doubt the customer will be pleased
with my new show of force. What do you think?

Your help is appreciated.

Jon Leer

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