Doing the 100 yard Dash chasing payments
This post has two purposes. One, is to assist you in any way I can, with tips on how to chase payments from slow accounting departments. The other purpose is for me to vent, I admit it.
Maybury’s two laws for living in society. Really quite simple to remember, a bit difficult to put into practice for some folks. #1 — Do all that you have agreed to do. #2 — Do not encroach on other persons or their property. That’s it, that’s all. Unfortunately, I see these two simple principles broken and abused almost every day. By individuals and by super-powers around the planet.
Only a minuscule percentage of my clients are delinquent. Not bad when you think about it. But it’s still a hassle when you come to the realization that you have to put on your running shoes to do the 100 yard Dash. These delinquents have certainly not followed Mayburry’s first law. A contract, even verbal, by email, or PDF, is an agreement. I do something for you, and in return, you agree to pay me. Hola. Par ici. This way with the snail mail cheque. Or jeez, a super modern-like email transfer. Some accounting departments are still stuck in the 80s.
So many people work as individual worker bees, coming into virtual teams for special projects. Seems there should be a site for deadbeat companies, that do not pay on time. Am I ranting? Yup.
TIPS TO GET PAID:
- Stay polite.
- Verify the post box before sending an email reminder to the accounting department. Invariably, a paper cheque shows up that day. Paper? Oh jeez. (Fargo lingo)
- Oh, and check the email address, I’ve sent curt reminders to the wrong people. Twice.
- Make a connection with the person in accounting. I never do this. Sigh.
- Send the invoice the same day that the job is completed and approved.
- That email above, use the “read receipt” option. I never remember.
- Always ask if a P.O. number is required for the invoice.
- Just as in the utilities bills, I should start putting in a line “If paid by… $##”, “If paid after… $##” rather than writing a small footnote with interest charge details.
- Make sure the invoice and quote mirror each other, or explain why there are differences in the costs, i.e., increased scope of work, excessive edits, not supplying the final version…
- You have to decide what an adequate delay can stretch to, in order to get paid. Sometimes only an email is required to jog them into action. I specify fifteen days to get paid, and will tolerate thirty. Anything above sixty days gets me wary of doing work with them again. I met your deadline, you look good in the eyes of your boss or your client because of my hard work. A contract works two ways.
- Can’t really simply drop by to pick up a payment, at any time in my work career as a PowerPoint Guru, as most of my customers are somewhere over the horizon, somewhere across Canada.
- Be polite.
- Give the accounting department an exit door. No one likes to be cornered. Maybe a huge snowstorm prevented the postal trucks from delivering mail (for three months). Someone on vacation? Someone new to the job? Maybe the internet was down for a few weeks. Jen dropped the internet on the floor and it broke. (IT Crowd lingo) Maybe they never received the invoice from the project manager. Maybe the project manager no longer works there. Who knows. It’s not my fault and it’s not your fault. We just have to get it figured out together.
- Ask them if the work was unsatisfactory. They are usually thrilled that I met their deadline and their customer and supervisor are happy.
- Sometimes simply emailing your contact and CC’ing the supervisor or company CEO is enough to get action.
- Document your efforts to get remuneration. Write down the date and person you spoke to. They may feel guilty if you remind them of their commitment to pay you at a certain time.
- Sometimes the threat of legal action can spur a client to pay you. But it might be your last contract with them if you rock the boat. And sometimes it might be a good thing to dust off a client. Too high maintenance. Not worth the effort. I draw the line at three months; this is disrespectful on their part.
- I’ve never done this, but it might be a good idea to ask for a deposit for any future work with a troublesome payer.
For all of the above worrisome situations I think: Is is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
Yes for number one. Number two, well, it depends which side of the battle you’re on. Yes for number three, we all have expenses. Whenever I work up the courage to send an email or call accounting, I end up regretting it. And oops, it’s probably too late. But at the very least, I hope all of this can help my fellow self-employed sub-contractors and consultants get paid a bit faster. If you have any advice to add to my list, please do so in the comments section below.
Then there are those lovely clients that appreciate you and call again for your assistance — and they pay in record time! Thank you all.
Cheers, all the best for 2018,