Solving Your Payment
Youíve produced a quality newsletter, delivered it to
your customer, and sent your bill. If you are like most small business
owners, sooner or later you will have to deal with an unpaid invoice.
There are some steps you can take, however, to increase your chances of
getting all of your invoices paid in a timely manner.
First, donít forget to send that bill. If you can, include
it with your delivery or shipment of newsletters. Print it on paper that
will get noticed, put it in a separate envelope, or deliver it by hand if
you drop off the newsletter order yourself. Call attention to the bill in as
many ways possible. If you send your invoices by mail, make sure that your
invoice clearly spells out the job you did. It may be received by someone
who is responsible for paying the bills, but who is unaware of the specific
newsletter production services youíve provided. This could delay payment of
the invoice if that person must verify the job with your actual contact.
Include information on how your client can pay by credit card. Youíll find
that the easier you make it to pay with a credit card, the more likely it
will be that your customer will pay in a timely manner.
Remember that the sooner you send out your bill, the
better. Not only will you get paid sooner, but you will avoid possible
confusion resulting from a client receiving a bill late. If you send out
bills at a steady rate instead of all at once each month, you will also have
a more regular flow of income.
If you havenít established a policy for dealing with late
payments, now is the time to do this. State clearly on your invoice the
terms of payment, including how long an invoice can be outstanding before it
is considered late. Typically, this is 30 to 45 days. Also state your charge
for late payments, usually around 1.5% of the total invoice (amounting to an
18% annual rate).
You should also have a system for tracking payments and
outstanding invoices. Once an invoice is late, send out a past due notice,
along with a new invoice showing the additional late fees that have accrued.
If you still donít receive payment after sending out a past due notice, call
your customer to find out why the payment has not been sent. You may find
that the reason is simpleóthey have had staff changes, simply forgot about
the bill, or had questions about the bill and hadnít yet contacted you.
However, they may indicate that they are having difficulties paying bills at
this time. You may consider setting up a payment plan in order to ensure
that you are paid eventually.
What happens if you still do not receive payment? You can
continue to send past due notices and can keep calling, but at some point
you will need to get the assistance of a collection agency. There are many
agencies that specialize in collecting debts for small business owners. Good
recordkeeping is a key to collecting on outstanding debts. You will need to
document all of the notices youíve sent, as well as contact names, phone
numbers, and addresses. Collection agencies will generally work to collect
the debt and will keep a portion of the bill as payment. If you are
concerned about giving up some of your hard earned money in this way, just
remember that getting even a small amount back is better than nothing.
As a final resort, you can consider suing your client. You
must evaluate the risks and costs of this versus the chances that you will
win and eventually collect the money. If you decide not to pursue this, be
sure to keep track of all your unpaid debts throughout the year and discuss
with your accountant how to write-off this debt properly.
A specific concern for newsletter producers involves the
schedule of production youíve established with your client. If you are
producing a monthly newsletter, you will be working on the following monthís
newsletter before you have been paid for the most recent one youíve
completed. If your customer does not pay, you may have two, three, or more
outstanding invoices before you are forced to stop production for them.
on verifying a new clientís ability to pay before you begin work on their
first newsletter. Be aggressive in your billing schedule and donít forget to
send out past due notices as soon as a bill is late. Good follow-up is
crucial in this situation. You want to be able to minimize the loss you
might incur from a deadbeat client as soon as possible.