The “Getting Paid” Series: Smart Tips for Getting Paid

One reason I was hesitant to become my own business?  The uncertainties of getting paid.

When you’re on your own, there’s no pay day, per se.  And if your business is your sole means of putting kibble in the bowls, you’ve got to feel a certain level of assurance that enough money will be coming in to account for the money going out. Not to mention, I’ve never wanted to be my own accounts receivable department or collections agent…ugh.

But hey, a gal’s gotta eat!  What I do has value, and it ain’t charity work.  There’s nothing wrong–and everything  right–with anticipating prompt payment for services rendered.  Once I made that mental shift, I was able to better handle the “getting-paid” part of my business.

I’ve already slightly evolved my invoicing processes since going totally solo back in March.  I’ve shortened my terms and have oiled the machine regarding communications/follow-up on outstanding invoices. I’m adding language to invoices stating my policy for delayed payments. Most of these changes have been sparked by live-and-learn occurrences, as I’m getting into the rhythm of being my own business.

Here are some more practical, tactical tips for getting paid:

State payment policies before you go to work. Get clients to sign off on a proposal that states anticipated costs and clearly conveys when payment(s) will be due.

Invoice promptly. Don’t get too busy to send invoices.  No matter the client, no matter the season,  no matter how small the invoice total may be, respect yourself and your business enough to seek payment.

State payment policies on every invoice. Just as you plainly spoke your terms on your proposal, restate them on each invoice.

Follow up consistently. In a perfect world, we’d never have to follow up on invoices.  Fact is, even good clients can overlook invoices or be unable to pay within terms on occasion.  By following up consistently, you will draw attention to invoices missed, evoke response regarding invoices not paid on time…and you’ll be the appropriately squeaky wheel that will be first to get greased.

Convey payment issues clearly on invoices for aging accounts. If an invoice is not paid on time, indicate the issue visually and clearly on subsequent invoices.  Bold the policy statement, place an asterisk by the original due date, circle and denote any late charges.  Communication is visual, so make invoices for late payments stand out from first-issue invoices.

Don’t make exceptions. Expect payment on time from everyone, even clients with whom you have longstanding relationships.  Be consistent and clear with all clients, at all times.

Long ago, I organized a major event for a client.  The event venue prebilled much of the total cost, and my client paid directly and promptly.  Several months after the glow of our fabulous event faded, I received word from the venue that there was $20K outstanding on the client’s bill.  They’d waited to follow up, since the client had been so reliable before the event. It would’ve been much better for the nudge for payment to have come immediately following the event.  By the time collections began, the client company’d long since moved on and payment seemed a costly annoyance.

Don’t make it personal or emotional. Remember that it’s all about business. With every follow-up on an outstanding invoice, you may feel growing frustration, even anger.  Swallow those waves of emotion to keep your communications even-paced and professional.

Bring in the reinforcements as needed. If it’s clear your follow up is bearing no effect, rely on the support of an attorney or a retained collections agency.  For many of us, this may feel extreme, but if you don’t handle your business with seriousness, who else will?

This stuff is never easy, especially if you must be your own bill collector.  What makes it easier for me?  I aim to do great work for my clients, get that work done in a timely fashion and deliver it all with class and integrity.  When I do my part, it is absolutely only fair to presume prompt and full payment should be offered in response.

What are your tips on getting paid?  Please—share over on the Facebook group!!

Thanks for reading!

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