Getting paid on time is vital to the steady cashflow of your business and the financial freedom that comes with having your own business. Self-employed people could be more likely to have worries about money as immediate payment isn’t always guaranteed and payment isn’t always the same figure at the end of each month. Running your own business is fulfilling, enjoyable and rewarding, but when it comes down to it, being paid is what keeps your business running.
Agreeing the work that your client wants you to complete will enable you to estimate the time needed and how much you will charge. This is the time to ensure your client agrees to this, and to your payment terms. Being clear from the start will help to avoid issues later on. As a small business you may find that despite having your own payment terms, some larger companies will insist that if you take on work for them that you will need to comply with their payment terms. This is something for you to consider, and to understand how this will impact on your cashflow. Some larger companies abide by the Prompt Payment Scheme, so this is something you will want to clarify before entering into a contract of work.
Have a professional invoicing system – there are many websites out there that allow you to handle your own finances easily. These sites are easy to navigate, efficient and you’ll pick up how to use them quickly. These sites use professional-looking invoices and it will add credibility to your business if your invoices are handled properly. You can send an invoice via email or post (email is faster, more efficient and is less likely to get lost) and these invoicing websites often have an option to send a payment reminder to the client after a certain time period has passed.
To raise your chances of getting paid quickly, send the invoice as soon as possible after the job is completed as your work will be fresh in the mind of a client. Making invoicing part of the routine when you finish a job will have a positive impact on how soon you get paid.
Breaking down the payment
Make it easy for the client to see what they are paying for. Some people like to break down the price into individual parts so the client feels comfortable knowing what it is exactly that they are paying for. Breaking down the payment on an invoice could include putting in categories such as materials, time and different parts of job if there is more than one project you are invoicing for within the one job and setting out a price for each. Include payment terms on each invoice, always reminding them of the time period in which they will need to make a payment to you.
If a client has not paid within the stated time, try not to assume that they are trying to get away without paying you or that they are unhappy with your services just because they haven’t immediately paid you, so it is best to be polite when you initially send a payment reminder before the deadline. If you don't get a reponse within a reasonable timescale you will need to keep contact the client again and make it clear that you need to be paid.
And don’t just dismiss it because you think that the matter of payment is delicate, or you are worried about damaging your relationship with the client. You have provided a service in which you have offered your specialist skills and spent time and possibly money on doing a job, and you need to be paid for these things.