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Let your customer know up front that you will be expecting a 50% deposit the day you start working on their job. Make sure your contract includes a deposit amount and give them a proposed start date when they sign. Call them a day or two in advance of your actual start date, tell them when you will start working and make arrangements to collect the deposit.

Repeat this process when you are finishing a job. Call the customer a day or two before you plan on finishing. Tell them you would like to meet on your final day for a walk through to make sure they are completely satisfied while your crew is still onsite. Tell them you will have the final invoice at that time.

When I followed those steps I always had good cash flow and my jobs were profitable. I only had problems when I was "too busy" to pay attention to the details.

Exceptions:
1. Obviously, you can only collect the amount of deposit allowed by your state.
2. If you need to preorder any special materials, like hardscapes or lighting, collect the deposit when you place the order instead of the day you start working.
3. If you are only going to be on a job for 1 or 2 days, you may not need to collect a deposit. This also helps answer your question about a price that does not require a deposit. That number may be between $2500 and $5000 depending on your company or the type of job.
4. If you have not been charging a deposit, be flexible with your best customers that have paid quickly in the past. You do not want to mess up a good relationship, but those customers also trust you and are usually happy to pay a deposit.
 
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