Let’s face it: Slow-paying clients can be a drag! They may leave you feeling frustrated after a project, especially if you’re a full-time freelancer who relies on your payments to settle the bills. While there are those who will honor payments at a later date, a few clients may play coy after the completion of the project. They may even make it impossible to contact them, leaving you feeling stranded.
Slow payments can also cause a litany of other issues, which could make your other projects to fall behind. Understanding how to identify and manage these kinds of relationships is the best way to get out of these sticky situations.
Here are 5 ways that will help you handle a slow-paying client in a direct and diplomatic way:
1. Understand their payment process
Every client comes with different payment options. There is one who will want to pay through Paypal while the other will offer a wire transfer. All of these options come with different protocols that affect the timeframe in which you’ll receive your payment.
To ensure that you have a clear understanding of the process, ask your client about it before embarking on the project. Once you do this, you’ll know where potential delays may occur, and will know the appropriate time ask your client after not receiving a payment.
2. Invoice ASAP
Don’t wait until the end of the month! Invoice your client as soon as the work is complete. If it’s a large project, arrange monthly billing, or even milestone billing, so that you can invoice at certain stages of completion. This protects you in case the client chooses to call off the project. It will also be difficult to delay payment in this case because you’ll be paid at every phase of the project.
3. Insist on electronic billing and payment
If you’re working on multiple long-term projects, it’s best to move beyond paper invoicing, and push for electronic bill payments. For instance, payment providers like Bill.com turn around payments five days after an invoice. Also, accounting software like Xero and FreshBooks significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to get paid. By sending invoices electronically, you’ll track whether your clients have reviewed them, and you can rely on the late payment reminders.
4. Be friendly but firm
If your client constantly sends late payments, have a friendly, firm, and respectful conversation with them to discuss your concerns. Explain that his payments are repeatedly past due and that you’re getting concerned. If the client has any merit, they’ll give you the answers you’re looking for. With a bit of luck, they’ll connect you to the accounting department to help you follow up with the payments.
5. Take legal action if it goes bad
This should act as a last resort. If you haven’t been able to receive your payment after all the aforementioned tips, you should consider legal action. However, this move cuts both ways. First, determine whether the payment is worth the cost of litigation. Consulting with a lawyer will help you weigh this decision. Should you decide to pursue legal action, your lawyer will start by sending out a demand letter and other legal proceedings will follow.
An Ounce of Prevention
Unfortunately, late payments are fairly common in the world of any freelance writer. One of the best things you can do is draw up your contract to your advantage. Remember, your contract is the best way to keep your business on track. Have a contract that clearly defines your exact role and requirements, project deliverables, project timeline, and agreed-upon payment terms. Do this for all projects and you’ll communicate your payment expectations right out of the gate.
Louisa Eunice is a freelance writer who has experience writing B2B and B2C content for a variety of audiences and publications. She also writes short-form marketing content for an array of unique brands. Some past organizations Louisa has worked with include TapDesk, Captive Network, Reviewed, and many more.
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