How to Deal With a Client Who Goes Back on Their Word
When you’re in business, the only thing worse than losing a customer is when you lose a customer who still owes you money. When this happens, your best course of action may be to have a serious sit-down with the client and attempt to work out an arrangement that makes everyone happy…but if that doesn’t happen, you should know how to deal with it legally as well. Here are some tips on how to make sure a client pays you for the work you have completed; dedicating time to this can increase your business by ensuring you are paid on time.
Sign a contract
When starting a new business deal with a potential client, always make sure to sign a contract. This protects your interests in case your client later decides to back out of an agreement or simply doesn’t pay you for work done. As such, it’s critical that both parties agree to contractual terms before any work is started. If you don’t, you run into potential trouble down the road when it’s time to get paid and your client is less than enthusiastic about honoring their agreement. Plus, this is a time where you set your rates and discuss expectations, so make sure you are valuing yourself in this transaction!
When they want to change the contract details
This could be because they want more work than you’ve agreed, or they want fewer resources. If you don’t allow them to change details in your contract and you feel that it makes things worse for you, then renegotiate. Tell them why it makes things worse and ask them if they are willing to cover additional costs that might occur with their changes. Whatever you do, don’t just say you will “add it in later” or only get a verbal commitment; make sure to get everything in writing.
Once you are finished with your end of the project
Send them an invoice as soon as possible and make sure you get paid. In fact, you should send invoices within 24 hours of finishing a project, but it can always be later if absolutely necessary. If they have not responded after 48 hours, you may want to follow up with another email or call reminding them of your request. Start off just by ensuring they received your invoice — things can get lost in the shuffle! Then, send a reminder halfway through the term of the invoice. For example, if your window is thirty days, reach out at fifteen just to send a nice reminder.
When the term limit is up, send them a notice. After that, it is up to you to decide how often to send reminder invoices. At this point, you should also call them to check in, and you can institute a late payment policy where they are charged extra if the invoice reaches a certain date without being paid.
Finally, you may need to take legal action. At that point reach out to an attorney for help with collections. You should determine if this is a course of action you want to take. Sometimes invoices are small, so trying to do extra work to get payments can cost more than what you are owed.
When to refuse future offers
If you’re offering a service, it can be hard to turn down repeat business, but you should. If you are aware that your client is not paying their bills and cannot pay future ones in full and on time, it’s only going to cause problems for you in the long run. Setting clear expectations with clients about payment is vital, so always let them know if they are unable to maintain payments that you will stop work until payment has been received.
It is also okay to turn down work if you notice someone exhibiting a certain behavior that, for your business, indicates they may not pay based on your experiences. For example, perhaps you’ve noticed that if someone takes two weeks to return an email, it is hard to collect payments from them. It’s always okay to say no. Even if you meet someone and the work seems just right, if you have a gut feeling about it, follow it!
What advice do you have for those just starting in business that are struggling to collect payments? Reach out and let us know!