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You’ve worked hard on your project.

You showed up on time. You did your best work. And you completed the project ahead of schedule.

But your customer hasn’t paid you. Again.

You don’t know how much longer your company can survive. You can’t make payroll. Your suppliers are threatening to cut you off. The walls are closing in around you and there’s no way out. Things seem hopeless.

I know how you feel. I’ve been there before.

Getting customers to pay your invoices on time may seem impossible. But it’s not. You need to seduce your customers into paying you.

Let me show you how…

How A Las Vegas Hooker Seduces Her Client

The scene: A girl in her early twenties leans into the passenger window of a car. She is wearing well-tailored clothes. Her hair and make-up are impeccable.

It’s nighttime. But the lights from the casinos illuminate the scene. She talks to the driver. She touches his arm lightly. She winks.

Suddenly, she stops talking, opens the door, and gets inside. She made a deal. She smiles at her “client” and the car accelerates into the Las Vegas traffic.

What just happened here?

You may have guessed. The girl is a hooker.

So what does this story have to do with getting your invoices paid?

Read on and you’ll see.

3 Perfectly Legal Ways to Get Paid Before You Do The Work

In the 1990 movie Pretty Woman, Vivian (Julia Roberts) plays a down-on-her-luck hooker. When she meets Edward (Richard Gere), she is clear about the costs of her services for the evening. And Edward has to pay her before she gets in the car.

What does this have to do with those of us in the construction industry?

First, licensed contractor’s can ask for a down payment of no more than 10% of your contract or $1,000 whichever is less. When working for a new client, you can reduce your risk by getting this down payment up front.

Next, many design professionals get paid a retainer before starting work. I’ve used this technique with slow paying clients. And the amount of the retainer is negotiable.

Finally, many project owners will pay you for materials you store off-site. You’ll need to furnish several documents including a UCC Financing Statement, bill of sale, and copies of the property insurance. But this technique can improve your cash flow so you are not out of pocket for large purchases.

Tip: Look for early payment opportunities including deposits and retainers.

4 Ways Your Contract Can Get You Paid

When Vivian and Edward arrive in his hotel room, she makes it clear what she will and won’t do (no kissing).

Similarly, you need to be clear about the scope of your work and the payment terms before you start the project. This means signing a contract. Here’s how your contract helps you get paid:

Your contract outlines the payment terms – Will you invoice monthly based on the percentage of work complete? Will your customer pay you a lump sum every month as you complete each phase of the work? Or will he pay you on a time and materials basis? What date of the month must you submit your invoices for payment? How long does your customer have to pay your invoices?

Once your client has signed the contract, he’s more likely to pay because he’s agreed to the terms.

Your contract contains information for filling out mechanics’ lien forms – Get the project address, the name and address of the project owner, general contractor, and lender.

Without these details, you can’t file a claim.

Your contract determines the amount of your mechanics’ lien – If you don’t get paid, you can record a claim up to the amount of your contract plus written changes.

Your contract gives you the ability to sue the other party – If you don’t get paid, you can file a lawsuit and record a mechanics’ lien.

Tip: – Many project owners want to start work before they write contracts. Don’t get sucked into this. Because once you’ve started work, the owner has no incentive to sign a contract. And you’ve just lost all your negotiating power.

Remember Vivian? She negotiates before starting her “project,” too.

3 Ways to Make Your Invoices More Seductive

The girl in the scene above knows how to present herself in a way that makes her irresistible. She wears attractive clothes and knows the power of seduction.

Similarly, are your customers seduced by your invoices?

If not, here are three things you can do to make your invoices more enticing to your customers:

1. Make sure your invoice is easy to review – Project owners review dozens of invoices every month. If your invoice isn’t legible or is missing important information, it will delay payment.

Include information such as the project name and the billing period to prevent confusion.

Use industry standard forms if required by the project owner. The American Institute of Architects G702 and G703 are examples of these forms.

2. Include the correct backup as required by your contract – Your client wants to know what he pays for, so include time sheets, material invoices, and equipment rental invoices. Make sure the backup totals the amount on the front page of the invoice.

3. Include the proper lien releases – With some exceptions, state law gives you the right to file a claim against a project owner’s property, construction loan, and payment bond if you don’t get paid. When a project owner pays your invoice, they want protection against these types of claims. Lien releases offer this protection.

Include a Conditional Waiver and Release on Progress Payment with your current invoice. By signing the release, you’re giving up your right to file a claim once you receive payment. There are spaces for you to list the amount of your current invoice as well as any unpaid invoices.

If you received payment on your previous invoice, include an Unconditional Waiver and Release on Progress Payment. This release tells the project owner that you received the payment, and you give up your right to file a claim. Make sure the amount on the release agrees with the amount your customer paid you.

Tip: Look at your invoice from your customer’s point of view. If you were him, would you pay your invoice?

The Secret to Getting Paid For Your Changed Work

In Pretty Woman, Vivian agrees to spend the night with Edward. But things change and he asks her to stay for one week. Does she wait until the week is over before negotiating for more money?

Absolutely not. She tells him the price – $3,000. And he counts out the money on the table before they shake hands on the change.

So here’s the secret to getting paid for your changes: Get changes in writing before doing the work.

Seems obvious, huh?

But let’s be honest. You don’t always take the time to get changes in writing. You want to be a team player and keep the job moving. And paperwork takes time.

You trust that the owner will remember the change, treat you fairly, and pay you.

Guess what? That’s a sure-fire strategy for getting screwed.

A good contract outlines the procedures for project changes, like getting changes approved in writing before proceeding with the work. A formal change order is best, but even an email acknowledging the change is better than nothing.

Tip: Get scope changes approved in writing before doing the work.

How To Grab The Property Owner’s Attention And Get Paid Fast

In Pretty Woman, Edward’s attorney Phillip Stuckey (Jason Alexander), finds out Vivian is a hooker. He threatens to expose her unless she gives him sexual favors.

Similarly, your mechanics’ lien, stop payment notice, or payment bond claim threatens to expose your customer as someone who doesn’t pay his bills.

Tip: A Mechanics’ Lien, Stop Payment Notice, and a claim against a Payment Bond are powerful tools in your collection arsenal. The time you invest learning how to use them will have a huge payoff for your company.

A hooker can’t give away free sex. And you can’t work for free either.

You have to get paid.

Be clear on your payment terms in an iron-clad contract. Don’t get scammed by doing changes without your customer’s approval. Write crystal-clear invoices. And file a claim against the owner’s property or construction loan if you’re not getting paid.

Remember – you’re not as powerless as you might think. Your customers need your skills and expertise. They need someone they can count on. They need YOU.

So use the seduction techniques of a Las Vegas hooker. Make sure you get paid. And keep your customers coming back for more.

Disclaimer: I learned everything I know about hookers from watching dozens of Pretty Woman re-runs with my wife and kids.