Published January 27, 2021
Getting your customers to pay you should be the easy part of the job. You’ve done all the hard work to find a customer, agree on a price, complete the job, and deliver the end product. You should be able to sit back and let the money roll in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that. According to the Credit Protection Agency, almost 50 percent of freelancers have received consistent late payments on invoices.
In this post, we will go over how to get a customer to pay your invoice, including some steps you can take before you even start the work to ensure you get paid fairly and on time.
Before You Work
1. Send Your Customer a Services Agreement
We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again. A services agreement (or a simple contract) is the number one tool you have at your disposal to make sure a client pays you the correct amount on the correct date. Before you’ve even agreed to take on the job, send your client a services agreement. This should outline the details of your labor, including:
- Exactly what work you’ll be performing
- How long the work normally takes
- How much you will charge (including late fees)
- When payment is due
- Any other details
Getting clients to agree to these details in writing ahead of time leaves a paper trail you can fallback on, should collecting payment get more difficult.
2. Write Clear Terms & Conditions
On your services agreement and at the bottom of your invoice, make your payment terms crystal clear. Leave no doubt about how much the client will owe you, when payment is due, and what the consequences of late payment are.
For example, a standard invoice may say “Payment due within 10 days.” That’s fine, but you can go even further. On your invoice and on your services agreement, something like “Payment due within 10 days of the issued invoice” or even “To be paid in full by (exact date)” leave no gray area on what a customer owes you, and when.
3. Ask for a Deposit
A good way to ensure your customer pays your invoice: ask for a deposit before the work starts. Especially when you’re dealing with a new customer, taking a partial payment up front alleviates some of the pressure of “chasing” invoices later. If a customer hesitates or refuses to cooperate on a deposit, you’ll get an idea on how they’ll handle a full payment down the road.
A 50% deposit is standard, but depending on the line of work and your level of experience going higher or lower is fine too.
After the Invoice is Issued
4. Get Confirmation
Your email could have easily gotten lost in your client’s inbox, or opened with the intention of reading later, never to be seen again. This happens, usually through sheer forgetfulness.
When issuing an invoice to your client (with full payment terms and conditions, of course), it’s helpful to ask them to respond with confirmation that they have received your invoice. Include something in your email along the lines of “Please reply with confirmation you’ve received this invoice.” If you don’t receive a response within a few days, send a followup email and ask for confirmation again. Getting confirmation is a helpful indication that your invoice hasn’t gotten lost or ignored.
5. Follow Up with Your Customer
Whether your customer has paid their invoice or not, it’s still good to follow up with them after you complete the job.
If your customer has paid your invoice (and even if they haven’t), reach out to them to ask if they’d leave you a review on your website or Facebook page. This will create reviews for your service, which will help drive more traffic to your business. And if the customer hasn’t paid your invoice yet, seeing your name in their inbox will serve as a gentle reminder that you’re still out there, waiting on your likely past due invoice.
6. Don’t Back Down
Chasing invoices is exhausting. It can be frustrating, and giving up is tempting. There are some rare cases where a customer will purposely put off paying your invoice, or simply refuse to pay you the full amount you’re due. Don’t be afraid to prod your customer often to make your payment. Contact a late paying (or partial paying) customer on a regular basis, reminding them to complete your payment.
If you’re asked to renegotiate your price after the work is done, you’ve got a paper trail of evidence that the client already agreed to. It’s your hard-earned money, so go get it!
All of these tools together will make your life easier as a freelancer or small business owner. Follow these steps, and you’ll be able to spend less time chasing invoices and more time doing what you do best!
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