By Elliott Smith & Ian Quick
You show up for your show a little early so you can set up and start promptly at the scheduled time like all professionals should. You're ready to begin your performance and the client informs you that they're running a little late. You're told that your show will be delayed slightly. Ten minutes go by and you still haven't started yet. Your clients keep holding you back until they're ready. Although you wish to accommodate your client, your time is precious and your schedule may not be able to accommodate delays.
What do you do?
We bring this up because, no matter how long you've been in the business, delayed shows happen all the time. In fact, this happened to Elliott again just a few weeks ago. The problem is that most clients don't seem to realise that postponing a performance at the last minute can prove to
be a major inconvenience for you. You may have other shows afterwards and any delays could make you late for your next performance. Such a situation is completely unacceptable.
Every now and then, colleagues have asked us what we do in these situations. One friend in particular told us he feels very uncomfortable when this happens because, on the one hand, he wants to do his show and get paid for it, but on the other hand, he doesn't want to cause delays at his following gig. His difficulty lies in confronting the client and explaining his situation. He is so concerned with maintaining goodwill with his client that he lets himself get cornered into delicate situations.
The question remains, how do you deal with this situation? Firstly, you should have a contract with a provision for this situation. Our standard contracts contain a clause saying that the performance is not to begin later than ten minutes past the scheduled time.
If the performance begins later than ten minutes past, we reserve the right to cut the program short and finish at the originally scheduled time but still get paid for the full amount. It's an easy and effective way to ensure that you get paid for your work and still stay on time.
If you wish to be a little more extreme, your delay clause could state that any delay beyond ten minutes immediately deems the show to be cancelled by the client and must be paid in full. This might seem harsh to some, but it is in fact quite beneficial to everyone involved. It keeps the client on his toes and on time. Once a client reads such a clause, he immediately understands that your time is precious and cannot be wasted for fear of losing you. This clause serves as a
deterrent to ensure that your client respects the established schedule.
Is such a harsh clause always necessary? That depends on how busy you get. Our general attitude is to adopt the first ten minute clause (the one where the show can be cut short) most of the time, and the severe ten minute clause (the one where the show is cancelled) during the Christmas season. Why do we use it during Christmas? It's simple.
We average anywhere from five to eight shows a day on holiday weekends. There is absolutely no way we can be late for anything, so we must be strict.
In case you worry that your client hasn't read the contract properly or has forgotten about this particular clause in your contract, it's always useful to remind them of this condition during your confirmation call. (You do make a confirmation call don't you?) Your confirmation call should be placed within the week prior to your show. This call gives you the opportunity to review all of the details of your performance including the location, type of show, fee, payment terms, special requirements, cancellation policy, as well as the scheduled starting time. This is where you remind them of the delay clause.
It also gives the client one last opportunity to adjust his schedule now if he foresees any delays. If such is the case, you may now adjust your terms accordingly rather than be faced with the situation at the last minute.
It's been our experience that, on occasion, clients are so impressed with the consequences of their delays that they ask us what happens if WE are ever late. That's answered easily. We are never late. We are professionals and therefore always on time. Of course, one never knows when unforeseen circumstances such as a flat tire or severe weather conditions can cause a delay beyond your control. We therefore inform our clients that should such unforeseen circumstances occur we will contact them immediately via cell phone and inform them of the delay. We will also adjust our performance time or fee to their satisfaction. Of course, don't let this one delay offset your entire day.
If you don't have a contract (shame on you) things become a little more delicate.
The best approach is always the most direct and honest approach. Be professional. Inform your client that although you can delay your performance slightly, you are on a tight schedule and cannot stay past a certain hour as you cannot be late for other clients. They will usually understand and try to hurry things along or accept a shorter set. DO NOT accept less money for a shorter set. Even though your performance time has reduced, your fee has not. You were present on time as per your verbal agreement and should be paid for that.
If your schedule is more flexible, that is to say that you do not have pressing engagements after this particular show, you may want to better accommodate your client.
A little goodwill often goes a long way. Feel free to start your set at your client's leisure.
However, there should still be a limit on what is an acceptable delay. If your clients are running more than a half hour late and you agree to stick around for the full set and start late, it is acceptable to renegotiate your fee in accordance with your extra time lost. In these situations, we usually add a small surcharge for that extra half hour or even full hour of waiting around. Charge whatever you feel comfortable with.
No matter which way you go, always treat your client professionally and with respect. You'll find some clients are more difficult than others. Learn to read your clients and figure out when it's worth pursuing the matter of your fee, and when it's better to keep it to yourself and accept the delay. The
tips given above are general guidelines that you must use when practical. Let's face it, if you have a steady client that always pays well, you don't want to create a stir over one little delay. Explain your timing situation with them (if there is a problem) but do not ask for more money. This may hurt your long-term relationship with your good repeat clients.
When all is said and done, you want to remember two things: 1) Assert yourself as a professional. Your clients have to know your time is valuable; 2) Respect the relationship you have with your client. Do not forsake long term business for one immediate performance. The trick is to find a balance between the two aspects.
Elliott Smith and Ian Quick are the authors of Highway to Success: The Entertainer's Roadmap to Business www.happymediumbooks.com HAPPY MEDIUM BOOKS © 2004
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