If you have historically allowed your clients to pay you after thirty or sixty days, you may find it hard to change their habit. Ensure you agree credit terms with your client when you initially set up an account for them to help avoid this issue. Ensure you consider any terms related to late payment fees, interest or even prompt payment discounts.
Communicating your terms and conditions to your clients
When you have agreed terms, re-iterate them to your client in writing so they are aware of when you expect them to pay you. It also makes sense to advise them how non or late payments will be addressed. For example, a three-step process may include: sending them a statement immediately their account falls due; then calling them after seven days overdue, and then referring them to a debt collection specialist after twenty-eight days.
Be firm – it’s your money!
Many small business owners are afraid to ask for payment when its due. They allow their clients to delay paying rather than risking losing clients by appearing “pushy” or too demanding. Be more assertive as your client has already received your service or goods. You’re effectively working for nothing until your paid – a sale is only a sale when you’re paid. The “squeaky wheel gets oiled first” – make sure you’re the important squeaky wheel.
Speeding up slow payers
Have you allowed your clients to pay after thirty days and now you want them to start paying after seven days? Changing their habit make require “baby steps” to improve cash flow.
Contact them much sooner and more frequently than you did previously. Call or email them after fourteen days if they’re used to paying after thirty days. Let them know your invoice is due and politely ask when they will settle your account. Or start putting pressure on a little earlier. A few days before your invoice is due send them a statement and highlight the due date. You could even call them to ensure they have received your invoice. If your client can’t (or won’t) pay your invoice in full consider taking a part-payment and giving them the option to pay in one or two instalments.
So give it a go – retrain your slow paying clients to improve your cash flow. By making a few small changes to your invoicing processes, you will be able to improve cash flow.
Mark Gwilliam is a Chartered Accountant. He’s managing director and owner of Chakra Partners, a leading accounting business process outsourcing firm developed to help creative and innovative thinkers.