Wise Women List Archive File
How to Get Clients to Pay Their Bills
I went through the archives on the site for information on handling
clients that just won't pay (one excuse after another, after "the check is
in the mail", etc.). The info in the archives really only dealt with how
to apply late fees/charges - not in actually getting the money. This
isn't for me (not yet anyway) but for a few people I know who just can't
seem to get certain clients to pay up and I'd like to have a strategy in
place in the event it happens to me or my husband (self-employed
So what are some of your tactics?
Late fees? (what kind of percentage is appropriate?)
Having a third party call?
Small claims court? (this is really a last resort I would think but has
anyone had to go to this point?)
Judging by the conversations I've had with small business owners (web and
non-web alike) this is a big issue but I've really only been able to
locate one article (http://www.score.org) that deals specifically with getting your money. Does anyone know of any other good articles?
Thanks in advance :)
Get a deposit up front and invoice regularly. If they don't pay, don't do
any more work. Having a good contract upfront that explains
responsibilities on both sides is very important.
I've been very fortunate that I've only had one client not pay, and that
was a fairly small amount that he thought he had been overcharged (I gave
away too much for free and when I started to charge for it he got
indignant). He was fired as a client.
For a debt that's already past due, it may help to send a certified
letter asking for payment and threatening Small Claims Court action. The
few times I've used this method, the clients paid promptly.
If an on-going project, I stop work until payments are caught up. If late
payment becomes a habit, resign the client.
Prevention is much more effective than collection:
-- a written, signed contract is a must
-- get 2/3 to all of your money before completing the job, and charge
enough that if you don't get paid the balance, it won't kill you.
-- if a new client and an individual or very small business, get all your
money up front. If not 100%, get at least half.
-- Never start work prior to receiving 1/3 to 1/2 deposit (many jobs
evaporate when the prospective client has to cough up money).
-- Never turn over the work until the balance is paid. For Web
designers, because sites can so easily be stolen, this may mean only
showing non-functional images or color prints instead of functional sites,
keeping the work on your own host instead of the client's, showing
functional sites from your laptop, etc.
-- be sure your contract states that no rights of usage are released until
full payment is received.
-- avoid working for the kinds of small business/individuals who have
problems paying. Sell only to mid- to large-size businesses.
-- But even with larger businesses, still try to do the incremental
payment routine. You never really know who you can trust. (The only
large debts that I was never able to recover were from a division of
American Express and a Sheraton hotel.)
Hope that helps.
My tactic is very simple, for a website the client has to pay 50% of the
total amount BEFORE I start touching my crayons and the other half needs
to be paid when the work is done BUT BEFORE delivering the work and during
the process I show only a mockup.
For the customization of a template, the client must pay the entire amount
BEFORE starting to do any change.
No one has been reluctant so far and that way, all fear of being burnt is
The way we handle it is that we tell them half of the full amount is to be
paid upon signing the contract. While working on the site, it is hosted
on our webservers. Once the project is fully completed, we require the
last half before we upload to their webspace. If this does not happen,
they don't receive the site.
>and during the process I show only a mockup.
How much of a mockup, and what if they keep asking how much is done? And
how do you have them check the text to see if it's accurate - sometimes
they send wrong information that needs to be corrected.
How do you do your mockup?
Thanks, I need this info because some people "nag". :)
>How do you do your mockup?
...I usually do all my preliminary design work in
Photoshop. I do the complete page layout right in Photoshop, never
doing HTML until the Photoshop layout mockup is approved. Where I
intend to have regular (i.e., not a GIF or JPEG) text, I greek in the text
in Photoshop using Verdana with anti-aliasing turned off). I then show a
JPEG of the page mockup to the client.
If I need to show a page to a client and the page has already been
coded, I simply show a screencapture of the page.
> > If I need to show a page to a client and the page has already been
> > coded, I simply show a screencapture of the page.
This keeps them from hijacking the webpage and using it, but be sure you
have already been paid for the design time you put into it. Very often a
great deal of the work is in laying out the design and navigation, not
just the html portion.
Like [someone else], I get the client to approve the design layout (done as a
photoshop image) before I ever start slicing, dicing and inserting text.
Even if you put the approval pages on your own server rather than theirs
it is too easy to copy the page and graphics.