It’s nice to be self-employed, to be your own boss, to manage your own schedule, your own contracts! I would not change jobs for all the money in the world. Being self-employed has all sorts of advantages (as listed above), but it also has its disadvantages. In this area, one of my biggest irritants is definitely the hassle of getting paid.
Yes, my payment is a check, a money transfer, the bread and bacon that my clients give me after the work is done. They are the dollars I’ve earned by the sweat of my brow, doing the work I chose to do and that I love. But like everyone else, I have bills to pay, groceries to buy, a child to dress, a car to pay, not to mention all sorts of other unforeseen costs added to that. The problem is that we, the self-employed, do not have a bi-weekly pay magically deposited in our account. So, we have to find a way to manage the inflow and outflow of money to balance out our month. Tricky dilemma, I tell you.
Not only do I have to sometimes justify the price of my work, but I must also, at times, run after my payment. That gets my goat! When you buy a pint of milk at the convenience store, do you try negotiating the price because it’s cheaper at the grocery store? Do you tell them you will send them a check at some point? Does the convenience store have to send you four follow-up emails for payment? No, to get your pint of milk, you have to pay for it before you leave with it. That ends my milk letdown! Ha, ha, ha! But why is it so complicated to get paid when you are a service business?
After 11 years in business, I’ve seen just about everything, and I’ve learned a lot about the subject of payments. I’ll share with you some tips to getting paid more easily.
- Always have the client approve the final amount of the invoice, in writing and in detail! This way, the client knows what is included in the mandate and knows its value. Adding a new element to the mandate? Let the client know, and have them approve the change before proceeding. It’s hard to ask a client to pay an amount they did not approve. It is important to do this kind of follow-up as you go. No nasty surprises for anyone.
- Before starting the work, decide the payment procedure with the client. Depending on the type of mandate, its size, its duration, its cost and other variable, the way of doing things may vary. In my case, I always prefer to ask for a first payment to start. Some require two or three payments during the mandate, others require full payment before or after the work, and others upon receipt. It’s up to you to figure out according to your type of business and clients the best way to get paid.
- The mandate is finished and the client is pushing off the payment. Oh boy, so begins the ordeal and the justifying. Well, stay calm. In this kind of situation, it is important to be professional, polite and transparent. You must explain what you did as work, the time you put into it, the exchanges you made to validate everything by referring to the content of the invoice or mandate approved by the client. If you need to make corrections or changes later on, explain to the client that there will be additional charges or make other arrangements with them. This is the time when we are happy to have already received one or more payments. If that’s not the case, it’s even more annoying to fight for payment.
BTW… The subject of my post came to me after a meeting with a client who pushes off payments. In fact, I’m still waiting for my check. Sigh!
- Now the contract or mandate is complete, you’ve submitted your work, but the client doesn’t finalize the payment. To keep control over your payment, it’s important to have your house in order. There is nothing more annoying than chasing after a payment (I already told you so, didn’t I?). Words already heard from clients:
– Oops, I completely forgot about you!
– I’m sending you a check in the mail today, without fail!
– I’ll make a transfer when I get to the office.
– Can you deposit my check on such-and-such date, please?
Whatever the situation, be sure to stay in touch with the client. Do regular follow ups, frequent email reminders, and do not forget to charge interest. We often talk about it, but we do not add it all the time. Depending on the situation, you can offer the client to pay in more than one payment. Always have traces of your follow-ups just in case you go to step 5.
- Nothing works! No news from your client; they don’t return your emails and several months have passed since the end of the mandate. Unfortunately, it is time to send the demand notice. This measure sometimes wakes up the client who will finally take you seriously. We don’t often want to get to this step, but when you need your payment, you have to do what you have to do.
Remember that in business, good accounts make good friends!
This ends the first instalment of “My payment”. But you know, when you’re self-employed, you have another form of remuneration. This is often worth more to us than money. It is not deposited to an account, it can’t be counted, it is not tangible, it can’t be seen, but oh, how nice it is! I’m talking about recognition here. Yes, when you are self-employed, the appreciation a client has for our work is worth three times more than the monetary payment we receive. It is good to know that what we do is loved, recognized, appreciated! What could be more pleasant than to receive a message from a client who emphasizes our good work, our beautiful business relationship, the help we have given them! Thank you to those people who take the time to highlight recognition; it feels good. We often talk more about what’s wrong, what we did not like, but if we only did the opposite, once in a while!
Well, it is clear that I cannot live off the gratitude of my clients (they don’t pay my bills), but without them, I would find my business relations flat, and my motivation to work? Let’s not go there.
Well, I’ve got to get back to work if I want to be paid!