Don't take my word for it...get it in writing!

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This month I would like to share a hard learned lesson with everyone. But before I can, I need to give a little background. My business is the provision of training materials: many are available off-the-shelf, but we are increasingly offering a commission service. The people who use this service tend to be medium to large businesses, well-known, and trustworthy.

A month ago I took a brief to create a bespoke piece of training. I thought about what was required, went through many drafts, and finally submitted an outline to the client. I have worked with this client before and there are no problems with the relationship. I waited and waited for feedback on the outline. All indications were this training was to go ahead. It was so tempting to make a start as verbally we had agreed what would be covered and the fee associated with that. I had a clear few days in my diary and this work would have fitted in perfectly.

I am one of these people who hates not being busy, so it took all of my self-control not to just get started with the job. After all, the delay in getting back to me was probably due to school holidays and all of the bank holidays in April. However, I have been stung before where a contract has been agreed verbally, and then it has been cancelled. So instead of starting, I chased and chased and eventually I got the feedback I needed.

The outline was good, the training was still needed, but some things had changed internally (beyond my contact's control) and so the scale of the project was to be reduced and the focus changed slightly.

How relieved was I to have waited? It is frustrating waiting for a client to get back to you and giving you the final go-ahead. However it is more frustrating to put in time and effort creating something that ultimately is not required.

I wonder how many other small businesses working on the strength of relationships and the goodwill of their clients waste their time and effort doing things that ultimately they will not be paid for? In my case my client was genuine, but she was subject to forces beyond her control which of course had an impact on me.

So, to get power from your hour this week, look through your to-do list. How much of it is confirmed? How much can you guarantee you will be paid for? Think about how you will balance the need to offer a quick solution with the need to offer the right solution, and the need to remain commercially viable.

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