money paid backpay cashOn May 5th, I received an unexpected check from someone who had owed me money for almost two years. I had given up on ever being paid for my work, in spite of cajoling, moving from diplomatic to compassionate to stern to firm to angry. I have no idea why he decided to pay me now, since there was no note and since other colleagues of mine who were also owed money have not received it.

This has led me to ponder about the problems we sometimes have collecting money. What do we do about it? And how do we handle the emotional turmoil that goes with it? When I started my business as a consultant, I did the work and had the client pay me. But sometimes the client forgot the checkbook. Or said the check was in the mail. Thankfully, I had a career consultant (Judith Claire in Santa Monica, CA) who was wise and knowledgeable. She advised me to have the client pay half up front and half when I finished the work. I got the first half, but sometimes that last half never came. I called my career consultant again. She gave me the new policy: money up front. That has resolved the problem for my consulting work but not for seminars and speeches where the hosts have their own policy – which they may, or may not follow. What can we do about it?

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years:

  1. If the person does it twice, it means it’s a pattern. I used to give people 5 or 10 or 20 chances – always thinking that they would come through as they had promised for the last ten or twenty times. Now I use the Rule of Threes. The first time, it might be a mistake. Give them a second chance. The second time it’s a pattern. Put up the Red Flag of warning and realize this is how the person does business. Usually don’t give them a third time. But definitely no more than three times. I no longer do the Rule of 15 or 18 or 42 times. Recognize the pattern faster.
  2. Be firm about the policy. And ask about their policy in case they have a corporate policy that is different than mine. If possible, try to get them to follow my policy. If not, keep records of what dates they have said payment will come and write immediately if it hasn’t come when promised.
  3. Know when to give up. I can put myself into such emotional turmoil, believing that if I only were a bit more diplomatic, or sent a warm and kind email, or changed my behavior, the person would change his or her behavior. Often this isn’t true, but sometimes it is.

paid pay empty handed

Sometimes we have to be crafty, and clever. In the late 1980’s, I did my first seminar in Australia, and Australia took a tax cut which they were supposed to refund. (Actually, I later discovered they weren’t even supposed to take this tax cut.) Six months went by, and I still had not received my refund.

After trying several different avenues, I finally found the name of someone who had authority in their tax office and sent a Fed Ex letter. In the letter, I mentioned that I was due this refund, and that the Australian tax office could not be more disorganized than our own. Clearly, they did not want their reputation to be sullied and I received the, money within 10 days.

In another case, I had given my first seminar in Italy. The money did not come. I wrote asking for it but nothing was happening. I finally wrote a rather demanding letter, but before sending it, I called a relative who was the President of a University and who knew about international relations. I read the letter to him and he said, “That’s the kind of letter you send to a Northern European. You need to write a Southern European letter that lets him have an excuse.” So, I rephrased the letter, and told him that I knew he wanted to pay me and there must be something that is going wrong with the bank. I asked how I could help from my end. And I got paid. But at times, one recognizes that the nice email isn’t doing it. Of course, if you’re in the same town, there is Small Claims Court. But the emotional turmoil?

Here are a few things that have helped me:

  • meditation paid payPrayer or meditation.
  • Getting quiet to get some perspective.
  • Asking advice of others in terms of how to resolve it.
  • Giving yourself two weeks and then giving up and telling yourself it’s only money and not worth the stomach ache.
  • Analyzing yourself – i.e. I believe that all problems are solvable. I have to remind myself that my little quote isn’t always true. Looking at my own belief systems sometimes helps me let it go.
  • Analyzing the other person. I can’t work with passive-aggressive people. Recognize that and look for the red flags.
  • Turning it over to someone if possible – whether a lawyer, a partner who has less emotional turmoil over it, to the assistant, etc.
  • Recognize that some people are dishonest and don’t keep going with them. It’s not worth the aggravation. Disconnect. Disengage. Do your own spiritual work and forget about the other person.

Why did this person suddenly pay me? Maybe, from a spiritual viewpoint, because I let go of it and disconnected. Or maybe because of guilt. Or maybe because I had stayed relatively nice about it. Who knows? I don’t. Do you have similar experiences with collecting the money for your hard work? What has helped you deal with this frustration? Comment & share your ideas below…