When bidding on shipping jobs, most drivers accept payment on delivery - you deliver the shipment, you get paid by the customer, as simple as that. Unfortunately, things don't always go according to plan.
Sometimes shipment cancellations just happen - the customers have changed their mind, or found an alternative. If you've already begun the trip and invested time or money, cancellations can be both frustrating and costly. These cases aren't really common, but when they do occur, they can be extremely discouraging.
To keep this from happening, you can always ask for an upfront payment to help offset any losses you may have incurred. If the customer cancels, you keep the money to cover your expenses. Not only that but once a customer has paid you a deposit, they will be far less likely to cancel on you.
But how do you raise this issue? How do you ask someone you've just met for money up-front? Here's what we advise:
As an independent transporter, you're in charge of your own public relations. CitizenShipper will back you all the way, but we can't write those texts and emails for you.
When communicating with a customer, make every effort to sound like the reliable, reputable professional that you are. Refer them to your reviews as proof of your competence. If they sense that you're serious about the job, they will realize that you're not trying to scam them. That's the first step in getting them to agree to an upfront payment. Be sure to always mention up front that you require a deposit before they book you. This will help prevent cancellations due to your customer being surprised by you asking for money up front after they have already contracted with you.
When asking for an upfront payment, politeness can be the deciding factor. Let the customer know how much you appreciate the opportunity to do business with them. Be firm but respectful in stating your payment requirements. Try to see their side of the issue and don't lose your cool, even if they sound unreasonable.
Be sure to politely bring up your travel expenses. Describe just how much of an investment each shipment is to you - you're taking a risk on the customer's behalf. Assuming you've developed a rapport, they should be willing to meet you halfway and make the partial payment upfront.
Flexibility is a valuable trait in any negotiation. While a customer might not be comfortable with a full payment up-front, some may be comfortable paying as much as half in advance, or $50 to $100 as a gesture of good faith.
Try to also be flexible about the methods of payment. When negotiating a deposit, you'll need to accept retrievable payment processors (credit cards, PayPal) instead of asking for direct, irreversible money transfers (Western Union, MoneyGram).
It's usually a good idea to set a time limit on the deposit. You might expect it within the next two weeks, or as late as 72 hours before the pickup date. Whatever time period you settle on, if the funds are not paid by then, you'll be able to cancel the trip with no adverse effects on your CitizenShipper account, or rating, provided there's written record of the agreement.
Be aware of your own worth
Finally, never sell yourself short. You know what you're bringing to the table, and quality of service comes at a certain cost. Let your customers know that, while there might be lower bids out there, the advantages you offer are well worth the expense. It's an old truism, but confidence really does sell.
What to read next
For more general-purpose advice, see the Transporters section of our Help Center.