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I've run my own marketing firm for the last few years and have dealt with similar issues as the OP.

How you structure up front payment is always up to you. We've always had a setup fee, typically a few thousand dollars, which is due before any work starts. However, there has been one single thing which has kept our revenue flowing month after month for years: Freshbooks.com

I seriously love that site. We use it for:

1. Making estimates 2. Tracking hours worked against estimates 3. Invoicing based on hours and services rendered 4. Making sure the client indeed noticed the invoice - it says "viewed" when you send by email and they actually log in and view, so you can call bullshit when they say "I didn't get it yet!" :D 5. Automatically adding late fees to invoices. We charge a relatively nasty fee each month for a late invoice and it automatically adds it to each one. 6. Tracking payment; clients get notified via email when payment has been received, something many have commented on as a great feature.

Quickbooks and other tools are all well and good, but imho I think Freshbooks pretty much handles 90% of what you need to be successful independently :)




Nice. I've started using freshbooks recently but haven't looked at the estimate side yet.

Side question, what (in percentage terms) do you call a 'nasty fee'?


We charge anywhere from 5-10% each month, stipulated in our contract. This takes care of 90% of late payments as no one ever wants to pay that much in a late fee...and they are unwilling to say it is too high because the immediate reply is "why would you worry it is too high? You aren't planning on being late when paying, right?" :D


Very nice. Thanks.




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