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Do you charge "up front" for one offs?

When approached by someone for a one-off service...

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We've been asked to undertake a review of the Accounts and other financial documents of a small company, by the person who is interested in buying it. Until their contact with us, we didn't know this person and have only spoken to them by phone,

In the past we would peform such work, issue the report to the person, and then send the invoice to them for payment: the risk being that they would have the report but wouldn't pay us. These jobs are typically less than £500 ones.

Just wondered what others do? Would you charge in advance of undertaking the work (so protecting the hours it takes to do it), or do the work but not release the report until they've paid, or take a deposit for example?

many thanks,



Replies (14)

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By seandrowe
16th Jul 2020 21:12

In these circumstances I would ask for a payment on account before starting work, and could not imagine one ever being as low as £500 for what may be a one off instruction.

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By tom123
16th Jul 2020 21:24

Presumably you are comfortable with the scope of the work and the limits on your liability etc?

Think of it like buying a house - you spend hundreds of K on the house, and barely notice the few K on fees.

I would have thought £2k minimum

Thanks (1)
By Paul Crowley
16th Jul 2020 21:26

Did not used to but recent experience displays that once off stuff even at agreed price takes a disproportionate time to get paid, if ever paid.
Now even considering pay before file for Ltd companies.

Sounds jaundiced, given that more than half clients settle in less than 2 weeks, but the only need I have for wasting time with sales ledger activity is for those who will not pay until chased.

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By SouthCoastAcc
16th Jul 2020 21:33

Up front and I agree you could be charging too little, services request by acquirers when acquiring can easily be north of £5k

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By SXGuy
17th Jul 2020 09:16

Learnt along time ago, never work on credit. People take advantage of it.

Either payment upfront, some sort of deposit, and balance paid before hand over.

I personally wouldn't offer full payment after completion. As you could find yourself spending time on it and client deciding to pull out.

Thanks (3)
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
17th Jul 2020 09:23

I tend to send a bill upfront for anything where i don't have a hold over the client in terms of a document to be filed. Sometimes I agree 50/50 if the client baulks and its a larger sum, we do some tax planning work in the £750-£2k range which I think is fair enough, but its big enough to to small claims on.

I don't always do it, and often regret it when I don't, as its a PITA to chase around for a £200-250 bill for several weeks when the previously responsive person just blanks you.

I make it clear if they become a regular client its billed on completion, for payment before filing.

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Red Leader
By Red Leader
17th Jul 2020 12:05

For one offs, generally 50% payment to start work, 50% when finished.

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By Open all hours
17th Jul 2020 13:01

50% up front has to be the way. Did some advisory/explanatory work for a lady divorcing a farmer. She was honest enough to say that she could not pay for some months but in the rural community I (thought I) knew her so agreed to some delay.
After 10 months she came back with more questions and when the matter of remuneration for previous was mentioned it felt as though I had accused her of eating her children.
Win some, lose some, so I let it go. No problem.
Until...... I become pro bono treasurer of an organisation which I never for a moment believed she would be within a mile of and I now have to face her at committee meetings. What does she thinks enables me to work for free for this organisation? Sadly, it will shorten my term in office as we sit and look at each other and we both know what a lier and a cheat she is.

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Replying to Open all hours:
By Paul Crowley
17th Jul 2020 13:08

My recent experiences suggest an inverse relationship between ability to pay and receipt of money.

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Replying to Open all hours:
By Rgab1947
21st Jul 2020 10:16

If its a charity and I know a committee member lies and cheats I resign on the spot.

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By Rgab1947
21st Jul 2020 10:17

Been burnt a few times by trusting people I thought I knew.

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By indomitable
21st Jul 2020 11:59

Yes. However be very careful with Due Diligence work, it is high risk from a PI point of view. High likelihood of getting sued if you get it wrong and damages can be high

less than £500? Wouldn't do any due diligence for less than £2K even for a tiny one

Thanks (3)
By Mr_awol
21st Jul 2020 14:32

I wouldn't normally bother getting cash up front for such a small amount - unless my gut feel about the prospect was negative.

Having said that, as others have stated, I wouldn't be able to offer much meaningful review for that amount either, so probably wouldn't take it on unless there was some sort of connection, or likelihood of recurring fees etc.

Generally if someone is buying a business they will probably need an accountant and i'd expect that to be me having been approached. If they wanted to use me for initial work then take it elsewhere, I'd just tell them to go straight to the final destination.

Thanks (1)
Hallerud at Easter
21st Jul 2020 14:43

If I had had doubts about getting paid post event I doubt I would have even taken on the job, I prefer get instructed, do the work, issue work with invoice then get paid, and in the main it always worked.

Like the others on here I would have had reservations re how much I could actually do for £500 and was that enough work for my being comfortable drawing a conclusion for the prospective purchaser- I think on risk/reward ratio, at that fee level, I would have declined.

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