Ask Molly, Managing

Ask Molly: When to Stop Work


By Apr 15,2016  0


When to Stop Work

Dear Molly,

I just started working as a subcontractor for a new client. They are currently overdue on invoices worth more than $10K but are telling me that they can’t pay me until the client pays them. The client is not going to pay them until the work is considered “complete” and at this point it’s unclear how much more work they are expecting from me to complete the project.

I feel I can’t continue working for them until they’ve caught up on at least some of my outstanding invoices. Does that sound reasonable? What is your opinion of the best way to handle this?


Gotta get paid

Dear Gotta,

The main reason it is worth it to work as a subcontractor is that someone else has landed the work for you. Sales is a tricky business and if it is not your favorite or not your forte, well then it’s worth subcontracting for example at $75/hour while your client charges you out at $150/hour.

The additional benefit of being a subcontractor is that your client assumes the risk of payment and project completion. My typical term with subcontractors is 30 days or when I get paid from the client—whichever comes first. This is important because it means if my client is holding off payment, my subcontractor still gets paid. That’s the agreement.

Your client knows that they owe you money. They are either unorganized, suffering from cash flow issues, or upset with the work you are doing. So you need to get on the phone with your client and help figure out how to solve both of your problems.

Ask for a meeting by saying something like: “I’m stuck over here because I know our client has additional requests, but I can’t afford to keep working on it until we set up a payment schedule for my outstanding invoices. When can we talk?”

That will most certainly catch your client’s attention and now you can talk about options for payment. Maybe they need to set up a payment plan with you. You can also talk about what it is going to take to bring the project to completion and what they are expecting from you. This is key for both of you, so work with your client to get the answers to those questions. Finally, be prepared to discuss possible issues your client has with your performance. Did you stick to the budget? Did you meet your deadlines? Is the quality of your work high? You deserve to get paid for your work. You just need to be prepared to defend the work you’ve done in the event that your client is withholding payment for performance issues.

Good luck!

Ask Molly is my weekly column where I answer your questions about the things that are keeping you from truly enjoying your work. I can’t help you with your personal life or your love life, but if you have questions about your work life, I’ve got you covered. Drop me a line below and ask me a question! – Molly

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