However you work with your clients, getting paid is crucial. I fully appreciate that many of us do what we do because we like to help, support, advise, guide – but, at the end of the day, there are bills to pay, we all have them, and we all need to earn honest money for the work we do.
I also know that whilst some people are very happy to talk about money, others are not – and sometimes it can feel like quite a taboo subject.
As business owners, I feel that we need to embrace the money! We need to be confident in how we feel about it. If we’re not, we run the risk of keeping our prices low – and worst of all, letting clients get away without paying.
Being confident about your prices is another blog – one I haven’t written yet.
Today, I want to talk about ensuring you’re paid for the work you’ve done or have agreed.
So, depending on your business, you’ll either ask your clients to pay before the work is done or after. For my business, I ask my clients to pay in advance. This is the most clear-cut way in my opinion. I agree the service I’ll provide plus the cost and I will invoice my client in advance of that service taking place.
The problems tend to arise when you invoice once a job has been done.
Some clients are amazing payers, they wait for your invoice and pay straight away.
Some don’t like to pay too early, they’ll sit on your invoice until the last day of your payment terms and then pay. This is often because they like to keep their money in their own bank account, but they may schedule your payment to ensure payment happens on time.
Some clients quite simply forget.
Some clients don’t like parting with their money and will make you chase and chase.
Some clients have no intention of paying.
So how do we tackle this?
Get to know your clients
If your clients use your services often, you will get to know what sort of ‘payer’ they are. You’ll soon work out which clients pay promptly, which like to push the boundaries, and which only pay when threatened with brutal force!!!
You can choose your client’s you know!
If you find that you have a client who is a consistent bad payer, you may need to ask yourself if their work is worth the stress and anxiety of chasing their payment. Remember why you set up in business and what your values are. Remember that it is your business – so you can choose who you work with.
Choose your own payment terms
Payment terms do not need to be 30 days – I think this is a common misconception.
Let’s face it, the work is done, you now need to be paid. It is probably courteous to give a few days for the invoice to be received and processed – but I do know business owners who ask for payment on receipt. Some give 7 days, some give 14. I would say that the shorter the payment term, the less likely the client will ‘forget’ to pay.
If you don’t already use an accounting system, now might be the time to invest. Not only will this generate your invoices for you, but it will also automate the action between sending out the invoice and receiving payment. I.e. you can set up automated reminders to be sent to you client telling them how long they have left to pay until the invoice goes overdue.
Help! The invoice is now overdue!
But sometimes, even with all the reminders going out, some payments do become overdue.
You have the right at this point to charge statutory interest and debt recovery costs. You will, however, need to have agreed your payment terms prior to invoicing. This can be done quite simply in your contract or terms & conditions.
Details about statutory interest and other late payment charges can be found here on the Government Website.
All you’ll need to do is re-issue your invoice with the additional charges.
Before re-issuing the invoice with further statutory interest charges, I think it’s worthwhile either sending a personal email or phoning the client to state that their payment is now overdue - there may be a very valid reason. It’s also worthwhile letting them know at this stage that no further work will be carried out by yourself until payment is settled.
Quite often, a simple late payment email or call is all that’s required.
Ongoing payment battles
If the client seems to be ignoring your emails and calls, it’s worth setting up an alias on your email address as accounts@... This implies further authority in your business - someone else is on the case. For some clients, it feels ok to keep you hanging but it can be embarrassing if they feel other people know about their late payment habits too.
But for those clients who have little intention of paying, and sadly there are a few out there, reinforcements are needed, and it might be time to make a court claim. You can find out how to do that here.
So, going back to my earlier point about embracing money and being able to discuss it – you’ll see that you absolutely need to be able to discuss money if you’re ever in the position where you’re chasing clients for your payments. I fully understand that chasing payment is not a nice thing to have to do, but in business we have to sometimes forget the niceties when actions are unjust. When we are owed money, we rightfully deserve to be paid – and promptly.
I hope this is useful and perhaps makes you think about your payment model. If you suffer with late paying clients, what can you do to help them change their habits? Do let me know in the comments section on the blog.