When a client hasn't paid their invoice on time, business owners feel the pinch in their cash flow. Even if sales are being won and the work is being done, without timely payments from their customers, vendors, accounts payable and employees go unpaid. It takes time and resources to chase down payments, affecting efficiency and productivity as well. Instead of wondering if your clients are going to pay their invoices, take control of the situation proactively and in a non-threatening manner.
Here are the best business practices to get prompt payment from your clients.
Send out invoices as soon as a project is completed or an order is fulfilled. If the client owes monthly payments, for software use or other retainers, set a schedule to create and mail invoices at the same time each month.
Set Payment Terms Early
Your clients should already know your expectations for payment. These payment terms will be written in your contract or on your invoices. Payment terms will list how often payment is expected, late fees for past due payments and other consequences (including work stoppage). Having a discussion about payment terms are invaluable for protecting your business.
Before the payment is due, ensure that you're sending it to the correct person at your client's business. Communicate often so you'll have a point of contact if the invoice isn't paid on time. If the payment is running late, follow up via email or phone call to make sure that they received the invoice and request payment status.
Don't be afraid of sending payment reminders! A friendly approach is one way to show your clients that you trust they will pay soon. Instead of sending threats, remind them when the payment was due and resend the invoice. Use phrases such as:
- "We sent you an invoice on xx/xx/xxxx date and we noticed you haven't paid. Did you have any questions?"
- "In order to avoid late fees..."
- "I want to ensure you received our invoice..."
- "Can you confirm that you've received this message?"
Get Professional Help
If none of these options prompt payment from your client or if the client is simply refusing to pay, it's imperative to bring in professional help as quickly as possible. The earlier you work with a professional collections agency, the more likely you'll get paid at least some of what's owed to you. Also, remember that commercial collections is vastly different that consumer collections. Your business doesn't owe anything until the collections agency collects on your behalf.