We’ve all had clients that say, “Oh, can you go ahead and pay for that and I’ll reimburse you?” And if it’s a $10 piece of decor or a $30 printing bill, it’s not such a huge deal.
But when they start to ask us to float their $1,500 DJ bill, or their $6,000 venue invoice, or their $9,000 in catering expenses … well, now we’re talking about something entirely different.
I’ve never, ever been fond of floating (i.e., financing) my client’s expenses until they can pay me. In fact, I did it once on a printing bill that was large for us at the time (around $12,000), and when they kept us hanging for 60 days until they paid it (with the print vendor calling me about every other day during the second month to see when I was going to pay him … and I don’t blame him one bit), I swore I would never do it again. And neither should you.
Let’s break this down. First of all, as an event and wedding planner, you are not in business to be a bank, nor do you want to be. If your clients can’t pay for something or directly accept responsibility for a payment to a vendor, then they probably shouldn’t be spending so much (and maybe they shouldn’t be a client). Each client’s signature should go on the contract with each vendor, and every client should sign off on all estimates with vendors and be on the hook for all payments. Period.
Second, it is highly discouraged to serve as a pass-through for payments from a vendor to a client. This means that the vendor bills you and you bill the client. Many event planners do this to mark up the vendor’s service. However, this still leaves you on the hook, because your name is on the vendor’s bill, and if the client doesn’t pay the vendor will come looking for you. A better idea here is to charge for your hours in working with the vendors and negotiating with them and not marking up their services and having the client pay the vendor directly.
Third, absolutely, in no way, shape or form, should you put your clients’ big ticket items on your own credit card. This scenario is a double float, and a very dangerous one at that. You’re floating the payment once by putting it on your credit card, and your client is floating the payment by having you put it on your card. Yes, if you have a cash-back or benefits card, you could get some minor spiffs from it. But what if the client pays late? Then you’re on the hook for all those finance charges. And what if the client stiffs you? Then you’re completely screwed. The risk far outweighs the reward, so avoid putting big client expenses on any card.
Finally, if a client will only hire you if you float or finance their wedding expenses, then politely thank them for their time and run for the door. Look at it this way. If an acquaintance – someone you know but don’t know all that well – asks you to co-sign on a home improvement loan, would you do it? Of course not. So why would you do the same thing for a prospective client who you probably don’t know at all? In all honesty, you don’t need clients who could potentially ruin your relationships with vendors and bankrupt your business.
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