The first steps to insuring that you receive payment from clients is to make it hard for them to not pay you as soon as possible.
Establish Payment Guidelines
Let clients know from the start what your guidelines are. Explain on your brochure, website, order form, etc. the available payment options for the services you provide. Once you’ve established these guidelines, it is imperative that you stick with them. If a client senses that you are lax in collecting the payment as set out, they may take advantage of it.
Consider Upfront Payment
When providing a service, business owners have a tendency to do the work first and bill later, which can result in collection problems. Your safest bet is to require full or partial payment upfront. If your business provides a short-term service, such as carpet cleaning, payment in full upfront is not too much to ask of your customer. If your business provides a long-term service, such as computer programming, then it is more than reasonable to obtain partial payment upfront.
Put it in Writing
Make this your policy with every new client. Legitimate clients understand that you need the terms of your business relationship in writing in order to protect your business. Be sure your agreement covers what product/service you will provide, when you will provide it and how much and when the client is to pay, including any interest/finance charges applied to late payments. If a potential client refuses to sign the contract, then they likely won’t pay you and are not worth your time.
It is also important to state in the contract that, should the client not make payments as agreed, you reserve the right to pursue action through the court. Also state that, should court action be necessary, the client would be responsible for paying court costs and your attorney fees. Let the client know that this is simply a precaution and you have no reason to believe that court action will be necessary. However, if the unfortunate occurs and you have to pursue a lawsuit to collect what is owed to you, you cannot collect attorney fees to offset your expenses if it is not stated in your original agreement.
In fact, you might consider requiring one-third of the payment upfront, another third at the halfway point of the project, and the remaining third within two weeks of completion. If you adopt this rule, or something similar, be determined to not continue or finish the project until the payment due is received. Inform the client of this payment plan in the beginning and, chances are, they will be sure to pay on time because they want the finished product.
This article originally published by GreatFX Business Cards, offering free online business card design and eco-friendly color printing.
Always consult with an attorney before pursuing any debt collection strategy. The opinions in this article are not to be taken as official guidance but rather as an informational supplement to your overall debt collection strategy.