How to Deal with Clients that Don't Pay
Being a self-employed tradesperson has numerous risks, one of which is the late paying customer. I expect that we have all experienced this at one time or another. For the most part, it's usually due to the customer forgetting, or your email has gone into their spam folder (I still don't know how this happens, they always receive your quote OK). Other excuses include, “the cheque is in the post”, “my Internet has been down”, or “I thought I'd done it”.
In reality, they simply don't want to hand over the money. And worse, they insult you by finally paying, but round the invoice figure down rather than up! I have a black book for customers like that.
However, there are some customers that you don't mind so much because they always pay once reminded and do come back to you for repeat business.
But what do you do if they don't pay?
All your phone calls and emails are ignored, empty promises made, or if it’s a commercial client, their phone system bounces you from one person to another. You endure excuse after excuse, and probably a degree of stress and anxiety.
There have been many thoughts that have crossed my mind, like returning to the property and removing the items I installed, or simply removing their main fuse until they pay - I don't recommend the latter, the legal repercussions may not be good.
After a lot of stress and worry, I thankfully found a saner option: the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). For a small annual subscription (which is also a handy tax right-off), you can get instant legal protection and advice.
One client in particular was giving me the run-around, it wasn't even a lot of money, but they probably assumed that I would let it go. I contacted the FSB, entered the invoice and client details, and a solicitor’s letter was promptly sent.
Within a week I took a phone call from the client stating they had received said letter and asked me why I hadn't contacted them first? Nearly choking, I replied that he should check the many emails I had sent, and that all my phone calls had been ignored. With no apology from the gentleman on the other end of the phone, he then asked if I wanted to work for them again! Yup, I nearly choked, but politely responded with a no because my time is worth more to me than being messed around. He hung up. No loss there, eh? Two days later, the money was in my account, along with the appropriate interest added by the FSB.
Having had my business for many years and the stress of customers not paying, I wondered why it took me so long to become a member. They offer a variety of benefits, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Always state your payment terms on your invoices, and when overdue, don’t suffer alone or for too long, give the FSB a call. You can of course start legal proceedings using the Small Claims Court without paying for FSB membership, but you will have the time and stress of managing this yourself. To find out more about the FSB’s Debt Recovery service and many other benefits, please check out their web site.