What to Do When a Client Doesn’t Pay in a Timely Manner
Some clients are happy to pay you for your work as soon as they get the finished product. Others make a tortoise look speedy when it comes time to cut you a check. The slow-pokes tend to fall into two different categories: clients who are going to do everything they can to avoid paying you and those that just haven’t managed to pay you yet. There are plenty of remedies for that first group, from lawsuits to collection agencies. But what about the folks that are just behind because of cashflow or paperwork?
There are a few ways that you can speed up the payment process, making certain clients easier to work with.
1. Payment Plans
A lot of companies have tight finances right now. They’d love to pay off your invoice, but they just wound up over-extended. If you can offer a payment plan, you can make sure that you still get paid. You may not get paid in full immediately, but a payment plan is better than having to keep calling and asking about when your client will be able to pay you.
2. Early Payment Discounts
Some clients just delay to the last moment the invoice is due because it gives them the benefit of having money stay in their accounts just a little longer. If you can offer a benefit for paying an invoice immediately, those clients will remit payment much faster. You may have to raise your prices a little to be able to comfortably offer a discount to any client who pays within a certain number of days of receiving an invoice, but it’s worth it.
3. Late Payment Penalties
There are some clients who just won’t send you a check because there’s no reason for them to get moving. For them, there’s no difference between sending out your money today and next month. A penalty creates a difference: if your client doesn’t pay by the due date, it’s reasonable to request an additional fee for the extra work that goes along with late invoices.
Occasionally, a project will end and a client will unintentionally forget all about you. But if you’ve been in constant communication and suddenly you’re not, an invoice can get lost in the shuffle. Something as simple as following up on a project can guarantee that you stick in a client’s memory.
Don’t be afraid to send out reminders of invoices to clients. You probably won’t get the best response if you send out a reminder the day after you send your invoice, but as you’re nearing the due date, a reminder can be a good idea. Reminders sent before the due date should probably be worded differently than those sent afterward, however.
In general, it’s best to keep the billing process polite. But if you have a client who consistently makes payments after they’re due, it’s worth taking the matter to the next step. What that next step is depends: Maybe it’s having a serious discussion with your client. Maybe it’s a matter of not starting the next project until you receive payment for the last. Maybe it’s time to fire the client in question. You have the right to be paid on time, but sometimes you need to drive that fact home with a client.