You’re psyched! You just landed a new client who is going to keep you busy with projects. Life is good.
love the people, you’re really enjoying the work, things are going
great. Everything proceeds along smoothly for several months until that
fateful month where you submit a large invoice and payment isn’t
“No problem” you think. “Things are somewhat tight. It will just be paid a little late.”
What are your options when a client doesn’t – or can’t – pay you?
are several things you can do when a client doesn’t pay you. Before you
start down the path however, you need to think about what type of
future, if any, you want with this client.
1. Gentle reminder.
invoice could have been forgotten, misplaced or buried in a pile on
your client’s desk. If they have gone past your due date, email – or
call depending on what is most comfortable for you – a gentle reminder
asking them the status of payment.
If you use QuickBooks or QuickBooks Online, you can also email a statement directly from the system.
2. Be personal.
you’ve reminded the client and no payment has come, it is time for
either another email or a phone call. Your client may tell you that he
is very busy and apologizes that he “forgot” again.
cash flow is very important to your small business and that you can not
afford to carry the unpaid invoice any longer.
Always remember to
make it easy for your client to pay you. Tell him that you are happy to
be paid via wire, PayPal, credit card – offer him all the options and
be sure that you have more than just “send a check” available. Make it
as easy as possible!
3. Be the “squeaky wheel”.
your client is having his own cash flow issues, he may need to make
hard choices about who gets paid when. Send an email reminder or
statement every other day or every week – take your comfort level and
go one step further.
By being the “squeaky wheel”, you insure that you are at the forefront of his mind when he is paying bills.
4. Cut him off.
hard as it is, sometimes you need to tell the client – even though
you’ve become friends – that you can not do any additional work until
your invoices are paid in full.
As a small business owner, you
are responsible for the running of your business and, as a result,
there are times when you need to make tough decisions that are best for
your business. You can’t afford to work without compensation and your
client should understand that.
5. Get tough.
tried being gentle. You’ve tried being personal. And you’ve squeaked so
many times that you’re tired of hearing your own voice. Now it’s time
to put that prepaid legal plan to use!
Have your attorney send a
formal letter stating that if you are not paid, in full, within X
number of days, that you will either take the client to small claims
court (the normal limit is between $2,000 and $7,500 – it varies by
state in the U.S.) or to arbitration. Whether you sue or go to
arbitration depends on the contract you have with your client as some
state that disputes will be arbitrated.
6. Bigger than small claims.
the client owes you substantially more than the small claims process
will allow you to sue for, you may wish to sue in a formal state trial
court. Debt collection cases are usually simple and few collection
cases actually make it to trial as most defendants either settle before
trial or fail to show up for court (in which case you would receive a
Chances are if you threaten legal action, your
client will pay up. If he doesn’t, you may have to follow through on
your threat. Just remember to make this decision taking into account
how much you are owed, your time for the legal action and whether or
not you ever wish to work with this client in the future.
that if the client never pays you, you *may* be able to deduct the
amount as a “bad debt”. See your tax advisor for more information
regarding the bad debt rule.
You want to take collection actions
that you are comfortable with while thinking about how they will affect
your future relationship with the client. Keep in mind however that you
are a small business owner and should be promptly paid for services
rendered and accepted. After all, you didn’t go into business for
yourself to work for free!
Leading small business expert Sandra Martini is the "Automatic Business Coach." Sandra delivers simple proven, yet innovative, ways entrepreneurs can implement processes and systems to create a waiting list of clients while giving them more money, time, and freedom in their businesses. For free articles, free resources and to sign up for her free audio mini-seminar "5 Quick & Easy Ways to Put Your Marketing on Autopilot" visit www.SandraMartini.com.