Wine Consulting/Sommelier Services

I know this subject has been broached many times in these forums before, but I am looking for some fresh advice. 

As someone who regularly contracts with private clients for wine consulting/sommelier services, I have become keenly aware of how important it is to outline specifics of rates/times/expectations before entering into a business relationship with a new client. 

Once terms are agreed upon (# of hours, rate per hour, any other anticipated expenses like travel, admin time, etc...), the event is executed, and the invoice is submitted, what do you do if the client then disputes the final total?

I am not interested in arguing about my rate, or the value of my time, especially post-event, when the client was very happy with the services provided. This is someone I would value working with in the future, so I do not want to seem overzealous here, but I also do not want to de-value myself. Precisely because I want to work for this client again, I felt it was important to clearly spell out the breakdown of costs so that any future bookings would not result in a negotiation or low-balling, but I also don't want to jeopardize the relationship.

Any advice is appreciated! 

  • Depends how much you got low balled for. If the volume of business makes it worth the reduced profit, sure. But be prepared to get your invoices disputed in the future too.
  • Tough call on this one. If you are looking to work with this client going forward, maybe just 'eat it' on this one but be more rigid going forward by having the client sign a contract. I personally would not want to 'eat it' and would be fired up but willing to negotiate with them this one time.

    My team and I work in a similar situation and it is important highlight what your fee includes. Meaning, outline that time allotted, the total cost, add on fees for additional services proved...etc and outline any fees that will occur if you go beyond the stipulations of the base contract. Though a contract may seem impersonal, it is pretty binding (at least it should be). Work with an attorney (we work through legal zoom) to get a base contract set-up that protects you. (Yes I went there, lawyers...sad we need that, but as they say in the Godfather "it's not personal, it's just business").

    I think you know this already, just because you need them more than they need you at this point, don't let them take advantage of you. Don't let your eagerness to work with them in the future disadvantage you. That being said, maybe negotiate some on the current work performed or take their offer, then utilize a contract going forward. If they balk at it, well, no matter how much you want to work with them, your time and experience is important and you should not de-value that. There will be other opportunities with clients who respect and appreciate all you have to bring.

    Best of luck!
  • Contracts are mutually agreed upon; you executed to their satisfaction (according to you) so now it's time for them to pay up. A letter from your attorney will likely resolve it. Ask yourself why you're so anxious to work with a client who wants to stiff you on the bill.
  • In reply to Jason Sipe:

    I think that overall if you you want to keep the relationship intact - you shouldn't involve a lawyer.

    It really comes down to a couple od things for me:

    a) do you want to keep working with these people
    b) how big is your market/do they have a lot of contacts/pull?
    c) how important is the cash/ sum? If it is a life changing sum, you might bite down like a pit bull

    If A = a lot. Maybe bite the bullet, say that this is what you agreed, but that you will meet them halfway. In the future, be EXTREMELY specific about EVERYTHING that is included. Anything other then what you agreed, will carry an additional charge - i.e. mention price every time they ask you something outside of what they asked.

    B - if they may damage your future work opportunities,bite the bullet, have them pay w/e they want and don't work with them in the future. If they don't and it is a one time thing, don't back down.

    C - if the difference is not that big, bite the bullet and go back to A or B. If it is a big difference (i.e. more than 2-3 days of work) - well, I would bite down.


    Ps - just because you didn't sign a contract and have it in email form of w/e you still have a good base.