You’ve gotten a call from a potential customer for your newsletter production services. You’ve won their business with your great examples of past jobs, your price can’t be beat, and they are ready to get rolling on their first issue. Before you spend any time on this new job, it is essential that you protect yourself. Since you will only be able to bill a client after the job is completed and delivered, you will be risking not only your time, but money that you spend to print and complete the job. If this new customer does not pay, you will be unable to recoup those costs.
You may consider running a credit check on new clients. In general, you will need to gather the following information:
- Complete name of the business or person.
- Current address and phone number(s).
- Social security numbers.
- Names of contact in the business.
- Bank name and account numbers.
- Names and phone numbers of other creditors.
- Names and phone numbers of references, including suppliers, former employers, and customers.
- Name and contact information of nearest relative not living with the client.
This information will be needed in order for you to run a proper credit check, available through a credit reporting agency. Be sure to notify your customer that you will be running a credit check before you send the information in for processing. If you do not decide to run a credit check, this information is still important in case you need to later collect on an outstanding debt.
If you decide to deny a person credit, be sure to familiarize yourself with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and other state laws. You must comply with some requirements, such as informing the person you are rejecting of the name and contact information of the credit reporting agency you used.
It is more common today for new customers to be asked for this information when opening an account or establishing a new business relationship with a company. If you are uncomfortable running a credit check on a new client, you may consider asking for some or all of the payment up front. This can be labeled a retainer or set-up charge.
In order to get your business relationship off to a good start, be sure to discuss your payment policies with your client and give them a written description of your procedures. You can include the amount you are charging (an hourly rate or a set rate), when you bill, when payment is due, your late payment policy, and the amount of interest you charge on overdue accounts.