What’s the hardest part about starting your own business, or venturing out on your own? Sometimes it’s just believing in yourself enough to take the leap. Sometimes it’s figuring out exactly how to market your services or set yourself apart from the competition. But most of the time, what you hear from business owners large and small is “I love what I do, except when it comes to getting paid!” It’s true, most of us are not taught in school how to ask for payment for services or goods we provide, but there are some tips that we give to all clients and potential clients to make it a bit more likely you won’t be faced with the prospect of sending your once favorite client to a collection agency.
- Discuss it First – Yes, you want to get the deal or customer, especially in those all-important early weeks and months of your business, but do NOT let getting the customer signed up lead you to avoid the topic of fees. Clients want to know how much they will be paying for something, and if they can’t afford you, better to know sooner rather than later. If you find it incredibly hard to talk about, prepare a price sheet or other document that you can present to potential customers or place on your website. Click here for an example!
- Get It In Writing – So you’ve found a way to state your price and the client has agreed? A verbal agreement is fine, but a written agreement is vital if you want to be able to actually collect at some point. As I always tell clients, it’s not to say you don’t trust the customer or client, contracts protect both of you by detailing what you are to do, on what time frame, what they are to pay, and what happens if someone doesn’t hold up their end of the deal.
- Update Update Update – Things taking longer than you thought? Client keeps asking for changes and extra work? Be sure you’re communicating to them that old saying “changes/delays/etc. on your part will not constitute an emergency on my part,” but they will constitute an additional cost for extra work. No one wants a surprise additional charge at the end of a job, so keeping clients updated often results in full payment upon completion.
- Bill Timely – Don’t allow a long time to go past between completion of work and sending your invoice. If possible send them together. The longer you wait to bill a client for work, the longer they have to decide what you did wasn’t really worth all that much anyway.
- Follow Up – Finally, don’t just assume that clients saw your first invoice. Or second. Or third. Set a system to follow up on invoices at timely intervals, and if one method (email) doesn’t work, try another (phone).
Need help with any of this advice? Want to know if your current services agreement or invoicing system would hold up legally if a client decided not to pay? Contact us for a free consultation to help get you paid for the work you do.