Working as a freelancer and/or taking the road of entrepreneurship both have tons of positive attributes. You can work from home, or wherever you want for that matter, you can also set your own hours, the clients you decide to take are strictly up to you, and you can be equally as discretionary when it comes to the people you hire and/or work with as colleagues. The freedom that comes with taking this route for a living is by far the most remarkable aspect of striking out on your own. But despite the numerous positives that most entrepreneurs embrace, there is one negative that every person working on their own has encountered on more occasions than desired, and that is chasing your money.
I can’t tell you how many times I have had to send emails, make phone calls, and sometimes make unannounced visits to clients who have not paid for the services I have provided. The negative experiences I have had over the years has led me to making policy changes with how I work with new clients, and it has also caused me to lose clients because, for some odd reason, people tend to think entrepreneurs work for free.
With experiences comes wisdom, so despite being bummed about being stiffed by a client or two, or not receiving the amount agreed upon or paid when payment is due, not being paid pursuant to an issued invoice eventually led to a more structured and vetted means of taking on clients and invoicing them.
Here are a few tips to incorporate to your invoicing policies and procedures to effectively and efficiently ensure you are getting paid what you and your services and goods are worth.
- Make Clients Aware of Billing and Payment Policies Up Front. When seeking a new client or answering questions of a potential client pertaining to if you may be of assistance to them, it is imperative that you let them know up front how you invoice and when payment is required. I was once against receiving retainer payments in advance of providing services, but experiences with non-paying, constant phone calling, vultures of free services soon led me to get over that. Now, when I am speaking with someone who may be interested in hiring me for a matter, I let them know my hourly rate in advance and when payment must be made.
- Incorporate Numerous Means of Payment Acceptance. These days there are tons of means of accepting payments from invoiced clients. There are good old-fashioned cash or check payments, and there are also apps and banking options that allow for the transfer and payment of fees and charges via computer or smart phone. By offering numerous options for payment, you accommodate many clients and their preferences for remitting funds.
- Vet Potential Clients. A good guy friend of mine once warned me about a new client I was working with. He told me that this particular person had a reputation of using people for their services and contacts, and not paying for them. I assured my friend that everything would be fine, as I had already received payment, albeit a small one, for a particular matter I handled for him. Much to my surprise, a few months later, this new client was giving me excuses as to why he could not finish making payment for services I already provided. Had I listened to my friend, and the stories he had about this new client’s past, I would have required payment in advance of rendering services.
- Don’t Be Afraid of Small Claims Court and Reporting to Credit Agencies. Make it plain and clear as day on your invoices that client’s failure to make payment may cause you to turn the matter over to a collection agency and/or the filing of a claim in small claims court. Be certain to obtain a proper address and full name (personal and corporate) of anybody you are providing goods and/or services to. If for any reason you are not paid as previously agreed upon by you and the new client, do NOT be afraid to take them to court. It may prove challenging to collect on a judgment, however, the threat of seeking a garnishment of wages and/or a lien against them may be enough pressure to cause them to finally remit payment.
Do you have additional tips? Tell us in the comment section!
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com . She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.
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