Working for yourself is cutthroat. This I know for sure, for many reasons, many of which revolve around money….and nine times out of ten, the lack thereof. The business-owning reality is this: netting zero doesn’t mean that there isn’t any work to be done; these are, perhaps, the moments in which business owners are working their hardest to break even or better.
But what happens when business is coming in, but invoices are not returned on time? Disbelief may be your most immediate emotional response, followed by anger, and then discomfort when the reality of not getting what you’re owed slowly settles in. But somewhere in there, you may also begin to analyze the interactions with your client in a desperate attempt to grasp some sort of understanding of where you could have gone wrong.
Every business owner, contractor, and freelancer has been there. Myself included.
And though the feeling of having your work not be valued is a tough pill to swallow on its own, non-paying clients can seriously mess with your livelihood, and cause some debilitating self-doubt. Luckily, like anything else in our lives, there are lessons to be learned from these situations, that will help prevent you from getting taken advantage of again…
So long as you put these five practices in place while managing your sales funnel:
- Place such high value on your product or service that non-payment is not an option. Don’t give your client the option to not pay you. Wait for the invoice to be returned before you proceed with their project.
- Invoice first, and work second, as agreements, both contractual and verbal, can be violated at any moment. Even on paper, words are easily trumped by action.
- Do not entertain conversations that require doing work and then getting paid. If you want your product or service to be taken seriously, also get serious about charging people for it.
- Approach your client’s non-communication of how they will pay with caution. Your client should be just as engaged in the conversation on how you will bill them, regardless of how big or small the project fee is.
- Don’t assume your client has the same level of respect for others that you have. Productive conversations and rapport do not constitute respect, and even the most unsuspecting people can have sinister motives.
Still not convinced that your business needs these protections? I can change your mind with my experience chasing invoices (and yes, it is a horror story).