Anyone who has ever ventured into the world of freelancing knows one of the most difficult aspects of building a service-based business is ensuring your invoices get paid on time.
If you have consistent trouble getting your invoices paid and find past-due invoices piling up on your desk or in your AND.CO account, then this article is for you.
By the time we’re through, you’ll be able to clearly identify a few top reasons your clients aren’t paying you on time and you’ll have a few critical options for solving that problem.
Why clients aren’t paying you on time
There are many reasons your clients aren’t paying their invoices on time.
Some reasons are your client’s fault, while some are your own. In either scenario, you can take action to ensure you get paid what you’ve earned on-time more often.
Here are the top reasons a client hasn’t paid their invoice (and how to fix it):
They aren’t the ones to process the invoices
Sometimes, the actual client you work with isn’t the same person at their company that actually processes invoices and gets them paid. The larger the company, the more likely this is true.
To fix this issue, speak with your client and ask for the contact information of the accounts payables office. It’s always better to go directly through your clients instead of around them or over their head.
They don’t have the money to pay the invoice at the moment
If you happen to know that your client is personally responsible for paying your invoice, it could be they don’t have the money to pay you that they originally thought they would.
To solve this issue, first, understand that sometimes people poorly plan their financial situation. Sure, you could take them to court, but that will require time and money on your end. Instead, consider giving them a payment plan or asking them to pay you on credit.
They forgot to pay the invoice (and keep forgetting)
Many people are simply absent-minded and they forget to pay you. After all, getting paid as a freelancer is often a much bigger deal for you than it is for your client.
The simple (and somewhat sad) fact is: it’s not at the top of their priority list.
To help a forgetful client, try using AND.CO’s automatic reminder feature to remind your clients about their past-due invoices on autopilot. That way, they receive regular emails and notifications of their overdue invoice without you having to remember and take the time to handle it.
They never saw the invoice
Depending on the kind of companies or people you work with, your clients could be extremely overwhelmed with work—especially email.
The busier their inbox is, the more likely it is they’ll miss your invoice entirely.
To ensure your clients see their invoices, make sure you use extremely clear subject lines when sending an invoice so your client recognizes the urgency and importance of your message right away.
You can also include a brief message at the bottom of the email asking that they confirm receipt. Freelance invoicing apps like AND.CO can also alert you when your client views their invoice so you’re never wondering if the message got through.
They didn’t understand the terms of the invoice (or you didn’t)
Choosing the right payment terms for your invoice is crucial for getting paid on time. Some invoicing tools may set your invoice by default to NET 30.
Chances are, this doesn’t mean what you think it does. There is a difference between “NET 30” and “Due in 30 days.”
Solve this miscommunication by becoming familiar with the various payment terms you can use on your invoice and what they mean. And then select something that’s a bit more in your favor, like “Due on receipt” or “Due in 30 days”.
They’re intentionally ignoring you
Of course, the issue could be far worse than any scenario above. That is, your client may not be paying your invoice because they are blatantly ignoring you.
A client might be ignoring you for any number of reasons. They may be overloaded at work. They might not have liked the work you sent, and are therefore unsure how to proceed. They may have been transferred to a new position at work, or even let go.
Fixing this problem may require much more work than the issues listed previously in this article. Even the best invoice software does no good if your client is intentionally not paying up.
You may have to go over your client’s head to their boss. If they don’t have a boss (entrepreneur or small business) you may even have to take legal action.
I recommend sending an “intent to sue” letter to your client (no lawyer needed, yet) in order to get them to stop ignoring you. That’ll usually wake them up out of any haze they’re in.
They’re not motivated to pay on-time
It could be that you’ve not given your client any motivation to pay their invoice on time.
Remember, getting paid is a much higher priority for you than it is for your client.
To remedy this imbalance, you should consider exactly what does motivate your client.
Consider holding back important deliverables until your invoice is paid. Agree to a late fee for every day an invoice goes unpaid. Or offer a discount on their next project if they pay their invoice early.
Reaction vs Proaction
Of course, the absolute best remedy for these scenarios is to anticipate any issues you may face in getting paid by clients and address them early on in your client relationship.
You may want to:
- Take payment upfront before you begin any work (at least partially, if not fully).
- In your negotiations, speak frankly and clearly about payment terms and consequences for late payments.
- Properly vet new clients to ensure they have the capital they need to work with you and pay you when a project is completed.
The sad truth is, lots of freelancers don’t get paid for their work. It’s awful. But taking some of these steps before and after working with a client will increase your chances of getting paid on time and in full.