5 Tips for Getting Organized and Getting Paid on Time

As a small business owner, if you spend more time managing your money than doing work in the first place, you’re doing something wrong. Whether you’re constantly chasing late payments from clients or trying to work out who owes who what, spending too much time getting your payment into your bank account is a recipe for disaster.

Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to get organized and paid on time.

1. Share Expectations

Let’s face it, sometimes money is the last thing you want to talk about with a client. Perhaps you’re working for a friend, or maybe you don’t want talk of rates to get in the way a creative project — whatever the reason, it’s wrong: money has to be ‘in the room’ from your first client conversation.

Simply stating your payment process is the most straightforward approach and will often seem more professional, but if this makes you nervous you can always start by questioning the client: ask them when they like to be invoiced during a project and whether there’s anything special they’d like to see on the invoice itself. You can then follow up by talking about your expectations for payment.

2. Be Clear

You don’t want to receive late payments because your client is confused or unclear about something. State your payment terms in your contract, and reiterate them whenever you have the chance. Don’t allow confusion to be an excuse.

3. Get to Know Your Contact

If you’re freelancing for a business with an accounts or operations department, it can be very helpful to know who to contact should a payment become overdue. A name, email address and phone number will do wonders for prompt payment. You should obviously always be polite and patient with the person holding the purse strings, but it’s also important not to be a pushover.

4. Create an Invoicing Process

An invoice is a piece of communications just as important as anything else you send to your client. This invoicing guide will give you a comprehensive walk through on how to invoice, but here are a few quick pointers:

  • Include a thorough breakdown of costs
  • Include your payment terms
  • Invoice regularly for smaller amounts rather than irregularly for huge bills
  • Include your contact details

This list of invoicing services provides some more options worth exploring. You could also consider using more robust accounting software to help you create more professional invoices, send them out promptly and then keep track of payment dates for everything that’s going out the door.

5. Keep Communicating

Keeping the lines of communication between you and your client open throughout a project will make payment a lot easier. If you’ve been difficult to get ahold of while delivering the work, your client might feel like you deserve the same treatment when it comes to payment.

In the same vein, when it comes to talking about money, make the effort to communicate simply and clearly. If you’re discussing payment on a call or face-to-face, always follow up with a written version of what was decided.

If a payment is overdue, you need to keep the pressure up in your communications. It can also be useful to keep track of dates — for invoices and follow up communications. That way, you can easily prove that the late payment isn’t anything to do with your lack of engagement.


Image credit: johnridley

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Alyssa Ennis
Alyssa is a small-town-girl-gone-big-city who is currently tackling the vast world of online marketing. With a strong passion for gadgets, the internet, marketing and photography, you can typically find Alyssa holed up in a Seattle coffee shop writing about one (or all!) of these things.


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  1. Alyssa Ennis

    Nica, absolutely! As a virtual assistant you are considered to be an independent contractor rather than an employee, so managing expectations and staying organized is ultimately your responsibility.

    And thank you, Meredith!

  2. I personally had a lot of difficulty keeping invoicing organized until I found an online tool to track and do some of the work for me. I started out with Freshbooks – http://www.freshbooks.com/ (which I loved) but their billing model didn’t work with my business model (lots of smaller clients) and I ended up switching to Harvest – http://www.getharvest.com/ (who had unlimited clients at a cheaper price).

    Having access to reports and combining my time tracking and invoicing has helped tremendously with worry and chasing down clients. It is also easier to send out smaller invoices more frequently so I go over everything monthly. I even have a couple of clients that I bill yearly and I’ve set the invoices to be created and emailed out automatically. It makes the whole process so much easier and I have also noticed a faster payment when people can pay it online.

    Thanks for the tips. I have found each of them to be spot on in my business.

  3. And one you forgot to mention: 6. Finance your Unpaid Invoices – If your customers are insisting on long payment terms (90 days anyone?) or are missing the payment due date, you can turn to outside companies to get the cash you need without nagging your valuable customer. At The Receivables Exchange, business owners can get up to 98-99 cents on the dollar for their unpaid invoices, with no personal guarantees or long term contracts. Invoice financing is one solution that can keep both you and your slow-paying customers happy.

  4. Pingback: Invoicing 101: A Refresher Course | Small Business Bonfire

  5. Charice

    Such a great post. This will really help people to in getting organized as well as getting paid on time.

  6. Often small business owners don’t take time to communicate properly with their clients. Many of them see communication as a chore while, in fact, it should be considered as an ongoing marking effort to win more contracts/work.
    Invoicing is also an area where business owners should pay more attention. A clients that get an incomplete invoice will for sure question the work quality of what has been delivered.
    There many tools that can help small business owners get organized and increase their productivity. I use keepek for invoicing and also to keep track of who pays me on time and who doesn’t.

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