Deposits, rates, collaboration terms

I've really been struggling with setting deposit amounts. I'm an editor, and my work depends on very regular feedback and collaboration with my clients, sometimes even daily tasks on their part to get the job done by their deadline. I'll have a client say they want a two-week turnaround, but then they drag their feet on their tasks, causing significant delays. I end up having no idea when we'll finish the project and when I'll have the feedback I need to start invoicing my hours again (I invoice weekly). And I worry that if I take on another project, suddenly the lackadaisical client will inundate me with their feedback, and I won't be able to fulfill my various obligations. Right now I'm in a flood stage of inquiries, and I don't know what to tell prospective clients about my availability because of a single client dragging her heels!

I started out requiring a 20% deposit on all projects more than 1000 words, regardless of my relationship with the client. (Though I do have one who has paid by PayPal as soon as she received her half a dozen invoices so far and provides feedback within two days at most, so I am considering no longer asking her for deposits. Why can't they all be so amazing?!) I've found the 20% deposit to be insufficient because of the delays on the clients' end. Friends and family members who have run other kinds of small businesses have suggested a 50% deposit, though that feels like a lot.

Does anyone have suggestions, stories, etc. that might help? In addition to considering the 50% deposit, I've been thinking about requiring a minimum number of hours billed per week regardless of actual hours worked; establishing terms and conditions in my contracts about clients' turnaround on their tasks (possibly with the condition that given x amount of delay, I'll have to take on other work, delaying their completion date); and other terms and conditions about an additional deposit or increased rates if the client goes over x number of days on their tasks.

Any suggestions about how to deal with this are mych appreciated!
Katie

P.S. Sorry for the long post. Some editor. ;-)

  • the post's not that long. (You reminded me of a long letter from a famous writer whose name I forget who started his missive with "I'm sorry this letter is so long; I didn't have time to write a short one")

    I think your contract additions are called for.

    State explicitly that the total project time is dependent upon prompt responses to drafts, and delays on the client end can result in delays overall.

    You have every right to inform clients that you have other people on your schedule and having a boilerplate "reminder" email (or series of them) ready to go when your clients are dragging their heels getting stuff back to you.

  • What do you think of a larger deposit? Do you ever do that?

    Thank you for the advice!

  • the post's not that long. (You reminded me of a long letter from a famous writer whose name I forget who started his missive with "I'm sorry this letter is so long; I didn't have time to write a short one")

    I think your contract additions are called for.

    State explicitly that the total project time is dependent upon prompt responses to drafts, and delays on the client end can result in delays overall.

    You have every right to inform clients that you have other people on your schedule and having a boilerplate "reminder" email (or series of them) ready to go when your clients are dragging their heels getting stuff back to you.

  • What do you think of a larger deposit? Do you ever do that?

    Thank you for the advice!