When invoicing a client, it is often ideal to be paid within 30 days following when the invoice was sent. Unfortunately there may be unforeseen delays such as, waiting for a high level signature, waiting for the next batch of checks to be mailed etc… Sometimes, a client may prioritize you lower on their list. The first recommendation in order to avoid this in the first place is to address it in the contract/agreement you maintain with your client. For example, “Client will be invoiced on a bi-monthly basis and will submit payment within 30 days of receipt of invoice. If a client exceeds 45 days, a one- time penalty of x-dollars or x-% interest shall be due”. If you have a more casual agreement with your client, then you must contact the client directly through a variety of channels. First, shortly after sending an invoice, email or call and confirm the receipt of your invoice; this ensures that your client cannot pull the old, “I never received your invoice” excuse. Be certain that you document the time, date and whom you spoke with. If they did not receive it for some reason, immediately resubmit the invoice and request that the client confirm its receipt.
When the payment due date has come and gone, it’s time to call your client. If your client has an accounting or billing department, then call and ask for that department. Ask if a check has been issued to pay invoice #xxxx, and if the answer is, “yes, we have issued a check and it should be mailed shortly”, then proceed to ask two more questions. 1) May I have a check number for my records, and 2) When do you expect the payment to be mailed? Usually by requesting a check number you are calling their bluff, and if they cannot provide one, then it is likely that they are stalling. If they are able to provide a check number, jot that down and allow a few days for the payment to be made. You can then send another invoice, noting the days that the payment is past due. If they agreed to the penalty/interest clause, reissue a new invoice including the penalty and remind them that there is now more money owed.
Depending on the type of work and arrangement you have with your client, you may be able to tell the client that you will be discontinuing work until payment is due. This can often give your client a nudge in the right direction. If the client still fails to pay, you may want to have an attorney send a threatening letter. If you have attorneys that are friends or family this could be accomplished for little or no investment. Ultimately, you may have to sue your client. Depending on the State you live in, and the amount that is owed to you, you may be able to file a claim in small claims court without the assistance of an attorney. It is a simple and cost effective procedure. A client will likely pay you rather than have to hire an attorney to appear in court. A last resort if you do not want to sue, is to renegotiate a lower payment due, cut your losses and then settle the matter.