June 24, 2008

Ask a Facilitator: "My Client Should Have Paid Me!"

Q: I just had a massage client stiff me; after the massage, he said he had to go get his wallet from his car down the road, then he just took off. Can I absolutely know he "should" have paid me? Obviously, yes! How can I do The Work on this situation?

A: It's true that he stiffed you. Can you absolutely know that he should have paid you, when in fact he didn't? Yes or no are acceptable answers.

If you say "yes," you would still answer question 3, "How do you react when you believe this thought?" and continue with the inquiry. This isn't about changing reality, but about meeting it with understanding... self-understanding. How do you treat yourself when you believe this thought? Are you beating yourself for not getting his contact information before working on him, or for not asking for payment upfront? Does the self-beating lead to any self-destructive habits, like overeating, or over-spending? How do you treat other clients when you think that he should have paid you, and he didn't? Are you mistrustful of them? And how do you treat the client who stiffed you in your mind? Are the thoughts violent? Do you want revenge?

Just notice how believing the thought "he should have paid me" disturbs your peace. That's because it completely opposes the truth.

Who would you be without this thought? How would you run your business from this moment forward? How would you treat yourself differently if you didn't hold this belief?

Turn the thought around: "He shouldn't have paid me." He shouldn't have because that's the reality of it. How might this incident actually be for your highest good?

You might find that you actually answer "no" to question 2, "Can you absolutely know it's true he should have paid you?" Here's why: "He didn't pay me" is what's true, it's what is. That doesn't mean you will be a doormat, but it could mean that you are saner, less reactive, about what happened, and this might be helpful when it comes to dealing with clients in the future.

A story: years ago when I was a copywriter, I did a direct marketing mailing for a company that neglected to pay me for my work. I was new to freelancing, I didn't have The Work then, and this situation just about tore me apart. My fee, which I had already discounted a lot, was $700 for the project. After a lot of phone calls and letters, the company paid me less than half of that amount. Soon afterwards, they shut down their office and left no forwarding address or phone. The amount they owed me was too small to make it worthwhile to hire an attorney, of course; so I had no choice but to cut my losses and move on.

I'd spent months trying to get that money, and I was furious! My anger, worry, and the injustice of it all consumed most of my waking moments, as I recall. This made it really hard to be present for finding new business!

With inquiry, in the same situation, I might have chalked this up to a learning experience. Without clinging to the belief that the client should pay when clearly they weren't going to, perhaps I would have changed my policies and decided to ask new clients to pay in full, upfront, for jobs billing over a certain amount. At the time, this never occurred to me; I was too busy being right...and a victim. Guess what? I got stiffed again by an art director who subcontracted a job to me during my last year in business, also at an amount that was well below my traditional fees. In the end, she claimed she didn't get her full fee from her client, so she couldn't pay me. I fumed about that one for quite awhile too.

The belief statement, "He should have paid me" turned around to "I" becomes "I should have paid myself." This is also a story of the past, since I didn't—but I can do so from this moment forward...by having payment policies that work for me, by not getting derailed when a business agreement falls apart, and by charging rates that are more comfortable for me to begin with.

Solutions arise out of a clear mind; a confused mind spends a lot of time and energy resenting what was, rather than living in and loving what is. Clients should pay what they owe me? Sure, in a world where everything is fair and everyone obeys the rules. Sometimes we don't live in that world. If that hurts, and it serves you to do so, I invite you to do inquire into this believe. In doing so, you are not letting the client off the hook for that money; he's not hooked at all. Rather, do it so that you can let yourself off the hook. Remaining hooked to "he should" is hopeless; it won't change things, and it's not serving you unless your main interest is in being right.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.


Jon said...

Cool stuff Carol - I like it - believing our stressful thoughts, disempowered and in the past, not believing, empowered and in the present.

"He shouldn't have paid me" - yes, reality, and maybe time to pursue him/her for payment in peace.

"I should have paid me" - maybe by changing payment policies for new clients - payment in advance, checking they have money before starting the session.

"I should have paid my client" - who haven't I paid for services provided, or even paid enough for services.

With love,


Paul Daemon said...

this is the first time . I am reading your blog carol and i am really enjoying it

Jon said...

Been thinking about this blog entry some more - the whole 'getting stiffed', in the context of someone that does massage is interesting.

"He didn't stiff me" - did he say he was going to pay, or just that he was going to get his wallet?

"I stiffed him" - where do I stiff / short-change others, not just money-wise. Might want to find a way to make amends.

"I stiffed me" - where do I get stiff / uncomfortable - talking about money, when I meet new people, etc.