Asking your clients or customers for payment is never easy. No matter what kind of service you provide or product you sell, it’s awkward to remind the person benefitting from it that you deserved to get paid. Not just paid in full, but in a timely and professional manner. The situation gets even more complicated when you are in business with an ex–colleague, friend, or family member. It’s easy to feel guilty and “greedy” when really it is the behavior of the other party that is unprofessional.
But logic that works for you doesn’t always work for others, so to avoid the awkward feeling that you get when you remind someone to pay you, here are some tips that can help you maintain your professional reputation without being seen as bossy, greedy, or selfish.
Avoid Awkward Business Relationships
Think about your personal life. If your sister has borrowed money in the past, not paid it back, and acted all “huffy-puffy” when you asked about it, will you do it again? Most likely not. The same goes with your business contacts. If you have heard that a certain client has caused a colleague issues in the past, avoid business relationships with this person if possible. If you had a past client that has had issues paying and put you through a lot of grief before submitting the amount owing, don’t repeat the episode by working with this person again. You have to protect yourself and your business from such situations, as this can be a large financial risk that can lead to massive losses.
Open with Some Rules
If you want your clients to take you and your work seriously, you need to take your own company seriously. Draft a contract with help from a paralegal or lawyer that will clearly define your working relationship with your client, along with expectations around payment and the repercussions that come along with tardiness or completely avoiding settling the bill. This will encourage your client to see this as a professional relationship, no matter what personal connections you might have had beforehand. It will also make them think twice about being sluggish with payments, as there are real legal consequences to their actions.
Use Professional Tools
During the length of your working relationship with your client, encourage them to reflect your professionalism by using communication tools that will keep them from saying “but you said!” much later in the game. Liberally use professional quotes, invoices, receipts, and more, showing that you are serious about the work and about the price that it goes for. They all clearly outline work done, the price point, and the payment date and method. If you struggle with these business tools, consider using an easy online invoice creator interface which is specifically designed for your small to medium sized business. This way, you aren’t just writing a casual email with numbers and dates included. Rather, you are being organized and professional, hoping that the other party reflects this behavior.
Communication is key
Throughout the length of the contract, be clear and courteous in your communications, regardless of the mode chosen: email, phone, text, or mail. Even when you are facing a difficult situation, never threaten any physical harm, and save all communication in case of a litigation in the future. Also, if there is a constant flow of communication, your client is less likely to see you as “out to get them” than if you only ever talked to them when they didn’t pay on time. It will make your client more comfortable in opening up about potential delays in payment, the reason, and an approximate time frame needed in case there was an emergency of sorts. Just because you are professional doesn’t mean that you need to be hard-hearted, however don’t let yourself be taken advantage of.
Asking for payment can be awkward, however it can be avoided in many situations if these four tips are used throughout the working relationship. If all else fails, remember to respect yourself and your business just as you would someone else’s, so don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of, even if the other party includes a relative or friend.