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Getting paid as a small business owner can be a bittersweet experience. While it does, in fact, represent payday, it’s not always easy to track down payments from clients. In fact, it’s estimated that about 16% of all work small business owners do is unpaid. As a small business, you need invoice payments to be on time or else you’ll run into serious cash flow problems.
Even if you take all the necessary steps to avoid late payment, the problem may still fall on the client. So how can you sniff out a deadbeat client before it’s too late?
Here are five signs your client won’t pay your invoice on time.
You Don’t Have a Signed Contract
One of the first steps you should take when engaging with a potential client is sign a contract. On that contract, you need to list everything from your invoice and payment terms as well as any penalties for late payment. As long as your terms are crystal clear and fair, your client should have no problem signing.
If the client refuses to sign it’s a huge red flag. In my opinion, you should never start work until a contract is signed.
The Client is Disorganized
Typically you can tell if someone is disorganized after the first time you meet them. Things like poor communication and unpunctuality are telltale signs that someone isn’t on top of it. While this doesn’t make them a bad person it’s difficult to conduct efficient business with them.
The Client Insist on Paying With a Check
If you offer multiple payment options you’ll get paid quicker. That said if your client insists on only paying with a check you may have a problem. First and foremost paper invoices and checks are outdated. I highly recommend using an online payments solution that offers online invoicing and expense management.
These platforms allow you to accept payment with an eCheck or credit card from a digital invoice. This way you can avoid snail mail altogether. In addition, if there are any issues with the payment you’ll know right away.
The Client is Indecisive
As you put together the project scope with the client you should pay attention to their decisiveness. An indecisive client is a real pain to work with. You want a client that’s confident in both their own and your decisions. If they are constantly changing their mind or doubtful of the choices you make, then they’ll probably be dissatisfied by the final product as well. That said, do you think they’ll be paying your invoice on time?
When you scope out the project, make sure the client is satisfied with the deliverables and don’t forget to include it in the contract!
They Don’t Trust Your Rates
As a freelancer or business owner, it’s typically up to you to set your rates. The simplest thing to do is to set your rate at the market average. But what if you don’t produce average work? If you set rates higher than the market average you’ll need to be able to justify them.
For new clients, you’ll likely need to show a few portfolio projects. In addition, you should provide a few references of clients who’ve paid those same rates. If the new client still argues with your rates then there’s a good chance they’ll be unhappy with the final bill. I can almost guarantee an unhappy client won’t be paying your invoice on time.
Getting invoices paid on time is a challenge that many business owners overlook. It’s challenging because it largely involves someone you cannot control, the client. The best way to avoid a late-paying client is to pay attention to the five signs listed above. If they show any of these you may have trouble getting paid on time.
This article originally appeared in Due.