Wondering about your payment policies? Here are my thoughts on the subject.
Most payment policies are actually more about pricing and branding. If you are targeting an audience that needs your services, and (collectively) can afford your services (i.e., your target market is not homeless veterans, and you charge $250 for a resume), your pricing and payment issues should not be as much of an issue as it apparently is for some resume writers.
For clients, it comes down to "trust, but verify." If I'm paying you $500 for a resume, how do I know that I'll get my money's worth? If I pay you 100% up front, I'm taking a leap of faith that I'll get what I'm promised. If I put down a deposit ($50 or 50% or more), we both have something invested in the process, but there's still a finalization process. If you don't collect anything up front, the resume writer takes on the risk of not getting paid. So there's a balance.
How do you alleviate your prospect's concerns? Relationship building is a key part of the process of turning a prospect into a client. (But remember, not every prospect will become a client -- nor should you want all of them!) Create a comfort level with prospects through testimonials, articles, samples on your site, success stories, e-mail newsletters, and certifications.
Allow clients to pre-qualify themselves -- if you don't do $45 resumes, put a range of prices on your site or in your materials so they won't waste their time -- or yours! Your clients should not be surprised when you finally quote a price -- they should have a general idea based on your marketing and positioning of your services. Don't spend 1/2 an hour on the phone talking with someone who doesn't have the ability to pay anywhere near what you charge. At least make sure they're in the ballpark before you make your "pitch," so to speak.
Pricing and payment policies are very much tied into your overall branding and positioning statements. I did marketing for a travel agency for four years. We sold cruises by Carnival ($199/day per person) and those by Crystal Cruises ($599/day per person). We didn't market all our cruises the same way to buyers. Domain names are cheap, and so are websites -- use different websites to target different kinds of clients so you build your credibility with the specific type of audience you're pursuing. We did websites (or specific web pages) just for brides, just for couples without kids, and promoting cruises for those who wanted to put together a group to go with friends, You can also provide specific links to different resources that tie into the target audience.
No matter *how* you handle your payment policies, it should be something that YOU are comfortable with, because if you don't believe in it, your prospective clients aren't going to buy into it. How you phrase things can have an impact, so develop a script that you can refer to during the prospect call.
Communication is the key to happy clients. Communicate what the terms and expectations are up front, so that there are no surprises. This should all be in your Client Service Agreement.