Clients and writers often have great relationships. Clients want good work to market their product or service and writers are keen to deliver.
But how should writers deal with customers who aren’t the best at paying on time?
For writers looking to stay ahead of their bills, figuring out how to charge a client–and get paid–is essential.
Here are eight tips to consider when looking to keep a writer’s cash flow in the black.
1. Take Problem Clients Only as a Last Resort
While many people tend to see this as common sense, those same individuals often instantly forget this principle once a client is willing to put them to work.
Problem clients come in many forms. There is the penny-pincher, trying to squeeze every last drop of money out of their workers in the sacred name of the bottom line.
The grouch tends to be totally unsatisfied with every piece of work placed before them and doesn’t forget the disorganized, who take an unreasonable amount of time to get back to concerns, especially when parting with money.
Sometimes it simply isn’t feasible to dismiss high-maintenance clients. Sometimes the money talks so loud that it drowns out everything else. Whenever that problem arises, focus on making up where the client lacks.
Penny-pincher? Help them see the value of the service provided.
Disorganized? Set clear boundaries.
Grouchy? Keep conversations to a respectful minimum.
If a writer is only finding problem clients, it’s best to revise one’s strategies to look for loyal clients. Believe me; they’re out there.
2. Keep Invoices Simple, Stupid.
Is there ever a point where the K.I.S.S. principle doesn’t work?
One of the keys to successful billing is to make sure that both parties are totally aware of what is necessary to make a seamless transaction between client and provider.
Is there a specified deadline for blog completion? What about payment? Those two may be the most important parts of the contract initially, but there are many other contractual concerns beyond those two.
Some companies need certain people or departments to be billed instead of the company as a whole. When setting up initial terms, make sure whoever is footing the bill is firmly aware when it will be arriving.
Keep all responsible parties in the know through email or even a simple conference call at the beginning so that everyone involved is on the same page.
Clients should not need an attorney (or a translator) to tell them what the contract says. Spell it out for them in terms that everyone understands clearly.
There should also be no need to verbalize the details of the contract continually via weekly phone calls or emails. If a writer plans to charge a flat, per word or even per hour rate, write it out in the contract. No assumptions.
Once billed, make sure line items and the total are either the original amount signed, or that there is paperwork to back up any changes to what was initially approved.
Clients hate surprises, especially when they go over the allotted budget. Make sure to state clearly in the contract any additional fees when payment isn’t received on time.
3. Make it Easy for Clients to Pay You
Billing can often be a problem of general apathy on the part of the client. Get clients firmly into the 21st century with online billing where clients can see all of their invoices, both past, and present. No more “I never got your invoice!”
ZipBooks is one such tool that offers these services and then some–all for free. Writers can personalize and customize invoices for each particular client or even receive an advance on an invoice expected in the future.
Clients often have a preferred method of paying. Whether that be a credit card, Google Wallet or even check, let the money flow–as long as that money is flowing in on time.
For clients struggling to keep up with invoices in their preferred payment method, suggest something different to help bridge the payment gap.
4. Get Digital
Although giving clients some wiggle room on how to pay is a good way to build trust, give the old-timers a little nudge in the right direction: Get digital.
Let the paper check die with relics like the telegram, sequined jackets, and frosted tips. Get into paperless and start saving time and money.
Heck, writers can even be environmentally conscious at the same time. Win, win and win.
5. Speak Softly and Charge a Big Deposit
If a writer thinks for a moment that the client is going to withhold payment as a way to milk more work out of the writer, get some money up front.
A deposit is a piece of leverage that should go into every discussion. It’s not always the most comfortable thing to bring up, but it’s better for a writer to have a slightly awkward interaction in the beginning instead of walking away with nothing after hours of work.
6. Never Take Late Fees Off the Table
Here is one legal concept that I like: just because I didn’t charge a late fee once, doesn’t mean I can’t on future projects.
When it comes to clients who are a little sluggish in the payment department, the looming threat of a late fee can be just the pick me up needed to keep them paying on time.
7. Bite-Size Invoices Make Payment More Digestible
Don’t wait until the end of a big project to send an invoice unless you want to give your clients heartburn. Breaking up invoices into monthly payments or for certain milestones is a great way to cut down portion size–making a big future payment into more manageable payments over time.
Chances are they are going to care about cash flow as much as you do. You know, do unto others… and all that.
8. Move Regular Clients to Retainer
You know you are a valued and trusted customer when someone will let you run up a tab before asking for payment at the end of the night, and it’s time to flip the script. Trusted vendors can get paid up front for the work that they will do in the future.
It’s called a retainer. Lawyers do it, so why shouldn’t you? Recurring revenue is always the goal and moving a client to a retainer puts you on the path where your client gets used to paying you before you do the work.
All in all, a consistent approach is what will keep the cash spigot on.Whether that be through focusing on getting and keeping the best clients, sending smaller invoices or just going fully digital, there are plenty of ways writers can make sure that clients are holding up their end of the bargain.
If you got the time, you might want to read this other great post about top tools to turn your blog into a cash machine!