How to avoid bad payers

We've all had them, - the customer who's never in when you go to collect the money,- but here are the steps i've been taught to make sure we get paid for ALL the work that we do.

there are 3 reasons for not paying -can't pay, won't pay and don't know they have to pay

Can't pay = They havn't got the money to pay you.

Solve it by - doing a credit check in advance or asking for a deposit, For a larger project, - Asking directly, - Do you have the funds in place now, or will you need to get a loan?

Won't pay = Are they unhappy with your work, did you not say how much it would be,

Solve it by - Specifying in advance what you will be doing for what money (Assume - makes an Ass out of u and me) Checking all through the work that they are ok with what you have done, - if problems solve them before continuing

Don't know they have to pay = do you state your T & C's when you have to be paid by? - or have you stated at the beginning that you will need paying xxxx amount by yyy date?

Solve it by - being clear from the beginning (on your website?) what you charge, state what is included and what is extra, and when you expect to be paid by - my t's and c's say by the 28th of the month for regular clients, within 2 weeks of invoice date for all other projects

When I started in business, I didn't like talking about the money side of things, - I loved what I did, and was keen to get into peoples gardens, and help them make them better. - Now I make sure my initial conversation has something like " your initial investment will be....." - so that I can judge if they realise what the price is likely to be.

What processes have you got in place, and what do you need to improve on to make sure you get your money promptly?

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  • PRO

    Personally, I'd shorten it a bit, take out some of the side comments, change to proactive stance (remove words such as 'may', 'obviously' ) and make it totally focused.

    Give them no room to squirm or object or argue. The Courts do look at the stance you take and how you have 'managed' the situation as well.

    Take no hostages, play fair, hard and to win :-)

    Here is the text we use (set up within our QB Accounts package):

    25 April 2013


    The following invoices are now long overdue despite our previous reminders for immediate settlement:

    Inv. No.    Inv. Date       Due Date      Inv. Amount    Balance
    1234      31/03/2013   31/03/2013      £9999.99     £9999.99

    Unless we receive your in full settlement in the next days we shall have no alternative but to 'to instruct our solicitors to recover the amount due' or 'take legal action in the Small Claims Court to recover the amount due' (delete as needed) including legal costs, reasonable expenses and Late Payment Penalty as allowed under 'current' legislation'

    We still hope you will settle this account without further delay and thus save yourself the inconvenience and considerable costs of legal action.

    Please contact us immediately regarding this situation.

    Yours sincerely

    Mr A N OTHER

  • We are aiming towards getting a system that will charge the customers credit card the second the job has finished. That means you have no cash flow problems, no invoicing, no collecting cash, no problems.

    • Like the sound of that Adrian any further progress, would the system work for regular maintenance jobs. ???
      • Hi Chris.

        We now only take on customers that give us their credit card and email details details before we start the job and we get their card authorised immediately, so we know that it will work.

        We now take payments from all our private customers within seven days of doing their job. Commercial customers pay monthly.

  • Most time I dont have trouble being paid. Tend to wait 7 days on average.

    It does pee me off when at 2.45pm the lady of the house says i'm just nipping out to get the kidz from school then at 5.30 when your all done with the invoice in hand their still not home!

    We do charge a deposit of 20 -30% on invoices over £200.

    Most commercial customer are offered 10% off if paid in 7 days. But then they pay 10% extra. Shhhhhhh dont tell them.

    No cheques! Cash or BACS only. Stops the crap of work didnt pay thats whey cheque bounced etc....

    So far the only people I have had to chase hard is commercial customers.

    I have learned to harden up.

    Tescos wont let you take a trolley full of food without paying.
  • if you're accepting the concept of paying the card companies their extortionate fee (when you consider the work you had to put in to earn the money and then they skim a % off labour and materials), then have a look at the following link, my local Indian asked me to pay by it was easy, quick, painless. the customer calls a landline number on their mobile, taps in their card details, and the amount, the vendor and customer then get a text saying the amount has been paid. pretty cool i thought.
    the downside - £1,000 max per day and £200 max per transaction - unless you enroll via a 'rep' and then you can get better terms. 2.9% fee, but you could for instance take 4 stage and a 1 final payment on a 5k job - assuming you could get the floor limit adjusted.
    the main benefit is there are no other fees or equipement required - just a plastic card with your details on it for the customer to use when making a payment.

    obviously not for everyone, and i'm far too tight to let 3p in the £ go to some money handling vulture, but it has a lot of potential/

    Adrian Noble said:

    We are aiming towards getting a system that will charge the customers credit card the second the job has finished. That means you have no cash flow problems, no invoicing, no collecting cash, no problems.

  • PRO
    Money is the evil of mankind! Don't know who said that but they had a point. For me I offer no terms but do have a process for collection. Payment is on the KISS process Keep It Simple, Stupid. BACS or cash. Old and reliable customers I allow cheques but one bounce and they're off. There is an xcellent process for debt collection through the courts but as said earlier make sure you have "all your ducks in a row". Collect all debts, you earn the money!

    I vaguely recollected seeing in the news a builder who built a porch for a person who couldn't afford it. That person assumes the court would say oh well tough to the builder but instead they gave the builder the right to claim his materials back so he promptly demolished the porch! If you've got it right the courts will nearly always find in your favour one way or another.
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