Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Q&A: What Good is a Client Agreement Form if PayPal Won't Honor It?

Every week, I get questions from resume writers -- when I answer them, I usually excerpt/reprint them on my blog so you can learn from them too!

Today's question was about my Dealing With Difficult Clients bundle -- three tools designed to help resume writers identify possible PITA clients and what to do with them if they do make it through your screening process!

A question about the client management forms. In my experience I've created a contract that I have all clients read, and sign, before making payment. I've developed this contract by consulting with an attorney and also basing the contract on one I reviewed and obtained from another resume writing service that is owned and operated by an attorney. She knows what she's doing.  However, when I've had two clients who wanted refunds and got angry because they were PITA clients, the contract didn't hold up much merit. I've never yet gone to small claims court, but the contract itself isn't recognized as a legal and binding contract by companies like Square or PayPal. 

How do we as professional writers ensure our contracts are recognized as legal, binding documents with both parties? Of the thousands of resume I've written, I've had to only refund about 3 people. But, as time advances, I'm finding more and more unrealistic clients with hot heads and no idea how to professionally handle a contract, let alone pay a writer up front for work hired and to show they are committed to the project. Of late I've had a couple people disappear, so I collect up front to ensure my services are covered.

My answer:
I can't speak to your experience with Square, but PayPal has backed me up on two occasions when I had clients request refunds and I had signed client agreements. They initially pulled the money, but then requested documentation that they sent to the client's credit card company and I "won" both chargebacks. My only cost was the $10 "investigation" fee that PayPal charges.

I'm not sure if you accept both Square and PayPal, but it might be worth your while to have the client sign in the client agreement form that they will use PayPal's dispute resolution service to resolve any disputes. That phrase is probably not binding, but it would be a first step after you talk to the client -- if they're still unhappy, refer back to the contract and ask them to open a dispute ticket with PayPal.

You can read about PayPal's chargeback info here:

Ultimately, it's not up to PayPal or Square to honor the chargeback or not -- they are just a payment processing service. Your complaint is really with the customer's credit card processing service ... and generally they will side with their customer (cardholder) unless your documentation is strong. So that means having a signed client agreement, records of correspondence (I always have clients sign off on their approval via email so I have that record), and responding quickly if clients are unhappy (the strategies in the teleseminar are a good place to start -- sometimes the client just wants to be HEARD!)

In the bigger scheme of things, I tend to believe that clients are generally NOT out to screw me, and if I do come across maybe 1 year who is a true PITA who is "stabbing me to death with a thousand tiny knives" as one resume writer put it, I tend to refund them (having them sign the Client Release Form, of course!) and send them on their way. I prefer to spend my energy on clients who are a pleasure to work with, and "release" the unhappy ones to the world. :-)

On a related note, and I hope you won't take offense to this, but if you are finding "more and more" clients who are becoming problems, you might look at the types of clients you are attracting ... perhaps even unintentionally. I know we've talked in the past about the unemployment in your geographic area ... perhaps putting together an "ideal client profile" and working to attract more of these clients instead of just working with anyone who contacts you might help. Or using the Referral Request form in the Client Management forms PAM to reach out to HAPPY clients that you LOVED working with and asking them to send their friends/colleagues your way.

These blog posts might help:


P.S. –- Did you know that even if a client wins a chargeback, you can still take them to small claims court and win a judgment? I have never personally found it to be worth the time/effort involved, but the burden of proof is actually EASIER to win with a judge than with a credit card company. (As I mentioned, when in doubt, they will side with their cardholder -- your client -- so that's why it's important to try to resolve the issue with the client directly ... and have clear documentation that you tried.)

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