When you are conducting your own business there will become a time when a person feels you should do certain work for them and not get paid. Relatives and ‘friends’ are notorious for this and it is not uncommon for others who simply feel they are close enough to you to enable them to extract the same ‘favours.’ There are also others who damn well have no intentions of paying for anything unless they are somehow forced into doing so.

How you handle your friends and relatives is up to you but there is no way a virtual stranger should have any work done for them and not expect to have to pay at the finish. No business can sustain giving away free products or services for too long and if you want to be successful you too must ensure that your efforts are rewarded. Why? There will be a cost involved in running your business and in order to survive you will need to make a profit over and above that cost. It is really that simple.

What is not so simple however is how to get a serial bad payer to cough up as many play on the fact you will eventually give up asking for compensation and they will then have got what they wanted.

There are some basic rules about lowering the risks of not getting paid and if you cover all these bases you may avoid building up too large a list of debtors. Debtors than can put you out of business, even when, on paper, your enterprise looks quite sound.

Rule Number One

Be upfront right form the beginning. Don’t undertake any work unless you have an agreement in place of how and when you are to be paid for the work you are about to embark on. This need not have to be a long winded policy statement full of small print and traps. It can be quite brief and straight to the point. The main thing being that you both know where each other stands before you you get started.

Rule Number Two

Insist on part payment as a show of goodwill. If you are fortunate enough to be in a business where you can insist on payment before you start any work you will be very lucky. If this is not possible try to get a deposit paid. By doing this it indicates the client can and will pay when required. It is not always possible but if you are able to be strict in this area right from the beginning you can save a lot of future heartache.

Rule Number Three

Hold back on delivery. When you have finished what you have been requested to do and it is all ready to be passed over, have a policy whereby you will only send the product once you have received payment. Once again, when you are first starting out this might be hard, but give it a go and you could be surprised how many people these days are willing to pay in this way.

Rule Number Four

Don’t be too willing to offer credit. There may be a situation where giving credit can be beneficial but this is not to be treated as being normal. Only give credit if you are getting something in return but under normal business circumstances you should be able to be paid before you hand your finished work over. If you are dealing with other business people they will all understand this and if it is an individual you are dealing with there is no reason why you should have to carry them financially. They should have access to their own banks and credit cards to pay when they have to. If they can’t do this it could indicate they are a bad risk.

Rule Number Five

Readjust your attitude to monthly billing. It is still commonplace to bill many clients at the end of each month but in this fast moving modern world you should not need to adhere to such protocols any longer. Much work can be undertaken in a month and a lot of money can pile up during that time. Unless your business is such that monthly billing is desirable, such as when you produce a large number of small products to the one customer, it is not generally to your advantage. If your client in not going to promise ongoing business on a regular basis there is no reason why that client can not pay as soon as the product is finished.

Rule Number Six

You have got caught out and your client is not paying. It will happen, have no doubt about it, you won’t be able to escape the odd debtor but when it does occur don’t pussyfoot around. Before the end of the month send out a demand for your money. If the month comes around and no payment has been received call him or her by phone and ask if there is any reason why their account with you can not be settled. At this stage you can make fresh but firm new conditions and if this is not complied with send out a debtor notice. If the second month comes around and no payment has been received don’t hesitate to put the account in the hands of a debt collector.

There are many ways people try to recover money owed to them for services and products delivered. Don’t get yourself too involved in these tricks. Keep everything you do professional and don’t waste time chasing money. You are far better off making it. Leave the chasing to the experts, even if it costs you something in the process. Eventually you will be able to add this cost to the prices you charge.

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About the Author

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Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic and web designer based in Fribourg, Switzerland, as well as the co-founder of We Jobshare.