Whether you’re a new professional or thirty years into your business, there’s always the chance of landing a deadbeat client who doesn’t pay their bill. But there are several reasons you might not be paid by a client (and most have little to do with a dissatisfied client, aggressive behavior, or conspiracy).
Here are a few practical strategies I employ at my business:
Use s systems of deposits. We will bill incrementally for work. An initial deposit, another if substantial pre-production is required. A bill upon initiation of shooting. Another after post-production. By spreading out your payments, you aren’t serving as a bank to your client. You can also catch a flaky client before you’ve handed over assets and lost power.
Take credit. While you’ll take a small hit in fees, the cash in hand is better than you paying interest towards your own debts. Credit card fees for payments are typically less than credit card finance charges. Take a look at easy solutions like Square to process cards with no account setup
Ensure the final bill is accurate. Did you go through and reconcile all the changes the client made? Look though the initial quote or proposal. Have you delivered everything you promised in writing? Don’t get hung up because your bill has mistakes.
Don’t skimp on information. Make sure the invoice has the project name, project or PO number, as well as your full details such as address and Tax ID. Make sure the Due Date is clearly visible on the invoice.
Ensure delivery. Make sure that your client receives the actual bill. Send a draft as an email asking for confirmation of accuracy. Include hard copies in the mail and with deliverables (people are overloaded with email).
Close the loop. Call the client a few days after sending bill to confirm receipt. If you’re doing work for an agency or company, wait a few days later and call the Accounts Payable department and confirm that they actually got the bill.
Run a report. Know who owes you money by generating a report in your accounting software. Make sure you reach out within 3 days of a late payment. Be sure all subsequent invoices are marked with the due date and point out any finance charges.
Pick up the phone. If you are actually owed money, pick up the phone. Call the client or the accounts payable department. Be polite and ensure that the invoice was actually processed. If you’ve done the previous steps, be sure to cite your previous calls where you confirmed receipt.
If all else fails. If you’ve gotten to this point you either have a deadbeat client, one who is experiencing sudden economic hardships, or a dissatisfied customer. The deadbeat client you should have spotted through the use of progress payments. The economic hardships are a realty, but work out a payment solution and suspend licensing rights or future work until they get caught up. An upset client, you better get to work and resolve it.
Be polite, but firm.
You are not a bank.
Accept credit cards and let someone else be the bank.
Disclaimer: While I’m not an economist or an accountant, I have managed to get consistently paid by clients (usually on time). I hope these ideas are helpful to improve your financial stability.
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