A few weeks ago I received a telemarketing call from a billing company that wanted to sell me a collection service. Instead of billing my clients directly this company would bill my clients, take 10% but would guarantee all my clients would pay and pay on time. The salesman wanted to know how many of my clients had past due bills. I told him “none”, which is true. He didn’t believe me. After a longer than necessary phone call I finally told him, “Look I don’t have bad clients who don’t pay and the one who didn’t pay are no longer my clients.” He wasn’t really happy with that answer but whatever.

I haven’t always had good clients. I’ve had bad clients who didn’t pay or didn’t pay the full amount. I’ve learned my lessons from them.

  • Be up front that your service costs money and you expected to be paid. You don’t need to be a jerk, just your time is money.
  • Always sign a contract. Specify what work you will do, what work or info you expect from your client, how long it will take, the cost, and when you expect payment.
  • Get a down payment. Preferably enough to cover costs.
  • Do a payment plan.
  • If you don’t feel good about a potential client don’t do business with them.
  • If your client has trouble paying, don’t do further work until they do pay. Don’t want them racking up a big bill they can’t pay. Or make them pay up front.
  • Once work is completed have your client sign an acceptance of work completed notice that is attached to their final invoice. This is to let them know work has been completed and final payment is due.
  • Find good clients. Kind of a given but it still amazes me how many businesses keep around bad clients.  Clients that waste time, end up costing you money, and in general makes you work really hard for very little.

Like I’ve said I’ve had clients that haven’t paid. Then what?

When I first started out I had a client that owed me $800. She refused to pay so I removed all the changes I made to her site. Another time I had my lawyer write a letter. I had to threaten small claims court on another non payer. But I finally found out simple phone call is all it took. It goes either way. Most of the time they were unhappy about some aspect of my service because of a misunderstand or whatever. After talking with them usually we are able to come to a resolution. If not I just let it go because it wasn’t worth the fight. The time and effort you spend trying to get a few hundred dollars from a non payer could be use finding a better client that will pay.

This week take a page from my book and learn from my lessons so you will be paid at the end of the week.