As a bookkeeper and an office manager, people have asked me some questions about managing getting paid by clients. I have put together my recommendation of both billing and receiving payments from clients. This may not work for everyone, but I have seen it work, and it means you aren’t working for free.
How often should I bill a client?
- I recommend that if you are a consultant and working with clients, it is a good idea to bill them monthly. Billing at the end or the first of the month means it is easier to track when bills have been issued. If you have a standard flat rate for the clients, it is recommended to bill that at the beginning of the month. I also have a recommendation of either doing net 15 or net 30 days. I normally go with net 30 days for existing clients.
Client hasn’t paid the invoice, what do I do?
- When the invoice is close to the 30 days since issuing it, I recommend sending a reminder email letting the client know that the invoice is still outstanding. The working I normally use is “can you let me know the status of the invoice?” This gives the client the chance to look into it without you saying it’s due. If you don’t receive a reply, you start slowing down the response time for emails.
- At 45 days, another email is sent, but this time you do mention that the invoice is overdue and would like to know when you can expect payment. This lets the client know that payment hasn’t been received and maybe there is an issue on their end or some communication with you is required. At this point, if you are not getting a reply to emails, a phone call is required to talk to the client about payment. If you don’t get any answers, this is when work really starts to slow down.
- At 60 days from the billing date, this is when another email will be sent and requested payment. Also, letting the client know that work will need to be slowed down or discontinued until payment is received. If a client says, "I promise to pay the bill, trust me", be careful because this could be a sign of other issues. Try and set up a meeting with the client to discuss the situation.
Handling new clients
- When you are approached by a new client, there are a couple of different ways to handle payment.
- You can request a deposit via credit card for the work, as this ensures that you will receive some money for work being done.
- You can let the client know that a bill will be sent immediately after the work has been completed, with net 15 days. This is the one time that billing monthly is not applied.
Can I do a credit check on a potential or existing client?
- The simple answer to this question is yes. If you are going to be doing major work with a client that you have got out of the blue, it might be a good idea to do a credit check on them. Also, the biggest piece of advice I give is if you don’t get the first payment, and you just get a “trust me”, it’s time to do that credit check.
- You can also do a credit check on an existing client if you are going to be doing major work with them. Remember, you are the one that will be providing your services, and you need to make sure that you will be receiving payment for it as we have seen this happen in the past.
It is difficult when you don’t receive payments from clients, but if you make sure that you are fair with them, there should be open communication. When clients start not answering your emails or phone calls, it’s time to start looking at how you can let them know that work is going to have to be reduced until some payments are received. Remember, do not spend the money that is owed to you until it’s in your bank account. Using the money before it’s in your bank account can result in a big financial challenge for your own business.
Billing and working with clients can be a challenge, but if you establish a standard way of billing and communicating with a client, it does help a lot. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from other small businesses because it helps to hear what other people do as well. Asking a client for payment can be a challenge, but it’s better than just sitting back and hoping, that one day you will receive payment for what they owe you.