Getting paid should not be difficult. However, we've all had clients who regard our payment terms and conditions as little more than courteous advice. Customers may just forget about your invoice at times. In fact, over half of all freelancers have been paid late on a regular basis. It may feel like you have no control over the situation, but there are actions you can take to prevent and deal with bothersome late-paying clients.
Furnish a service agreement to your customer
This is a preventive strategy that you may use BEFORE you start the task. Send a service agreement before starting the task if you and the customer have reached an agreement. Don't worry; you don't have to be a lawyer to draft one. There are several templates available for you to utilize.
This agreement should include a final price, payment due dates, and any late fees if the customer fails to pay by the due date. When the customer signs this agreement, you have documentation that they agreed to all of the transaction's terms and conditions. This is an excellent resource to have on hand when dealing with late payments or other payment concerns.
Create specific payment terms and conditions
This nearly goes without saying, but it's significant enough to state. Each invoice should always have a tiny "terms and conditions" section at the bottom. This section contains the terms and conditions of your contract (obvious, right?).
Write something brief and to the point regarding the payment information. "Payment due within 15 days" is fine, but you may go even further. "Payment is required within 15 business days after issue," or "To be paid in full by (a specific date)," are two examples that provide no opportunity for misinterpretation. Be specific.
You'll never know if you don't ask. Your email may have easily been lost in your client's inbox, or it could have been opened with the intention of being read later, only to be deleted. This happens frequently due to simple carelessness.
When you send out your invoice (along with complete payment terms and conditions, of course), ask clients to respond, verifying that they got your email. Send a message that says something like, "Please reply with confirmation you've got this message." If they don't answer within 48 hours, follow up with them and request confirmation. This is a minor but important sign that your message was not overlooked or ignored.
Make Sure to Follow-up
Follow up with the customer once or twice after you've issued your final invoice (whether or not they've paid it). Send them a simple email asking whether they would recommend your services to a colleague or friend or if they would mind leaving a review on your website or Facebook page. You don't even have to beg for your money. Seeing your name in their inbox will keep you in their minds and help them remember to pay you for your service.
Maintain your stance
Most late payments are the result of simple carelessness. However, there are certain customers who would purposefully ignore payment or refuse to pay in full. Don't be scared to fight back in these rare cases. When a payment is late, contact the customer frequently to remind them to finish the payment.
If they try to negotiate discounts or price modifications after the service is finished, don't give in. Stick to your guns and display your documentation to prove that your pricing was agreed upon in advance. It's your money, and you deserve it!
Asking for money may be difficult and even embarrassing. But if you follow these five suggestions, you'll see a reduction in late payments quickly.