Payment issues and being the door mat

Pay for this before paying us?

Pay for this before paying us?

Everyone we meet in business is different; they have different visions, different ideals, different lifestyles and different ideas about paying their providers.

It is the different ideas about paying that concern us here.

My business is different from most accountancy firms, because it isn’t strictly an accounting firm. My business undertakes quite a few one-off projects. Normally I agree the fee in advance, the work is done, it is billed and the bill is paid, usually quite quickly. That should not be surprising. Generally you expect to pay for something when you have had it, whether it is a carton of milk, a car or a service such as mine.

However, one thing I have in common with accountancy firms is annual clients, or one might say perennials. We have them every year. With these clients, again their fees should be reviewed and agreed annually in advance. However, should they pay in advance?

Many firms have a monthly standing order so that their clients make easy payments towards their fees. A lot of clients are happy to do this. Some are not.

Yet what do we say to clients who know six months in advance what their fee will be and when it will be due, and then fail to provide for it? In the meantime they go away on holiday when you need to speak to them about something, and they put paying for their holiday in front of paying us. Should we press them for payment at the risk of having a frostier relationship?

I think we do have to press them and maybe appeal to any element of conscience they have. We need to stress that they are not the only ones with cash flow problems. Even if we do not have one ourselves (I hope we don’t) it is a perfectly true statement that they are not the only ones.

In the end, though, we have to say that we will not hang on for months every year waiting to be paid. Most will pull their socks up. Some will not, and we will need to show them the door politely.

I think that if a client does not think it honourable to pay on time, they are either unreliable or they are bullies, treating us like their doormat. Except in the face of their business being about to fail, that behaviour is unacceptable, and even then they might have warned us before commissioning more work.

How do you feel when your client doesn’t pay you promptly?

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