How do I deal with cheap clients who always pay late?

A common problem when working for yourself – especially in a service business where delivery of the project can take some time – is late payments.

Now there are a number of things going on here and it’s not necessarily going to be what you’re going to want to hear. But, underneath it all, there are two possible reasons that they’re paying late.

Firstly – they simply don’t have the money. This is a bad situation to be in. They’re not a good client for you, they shouldn’t have signed up with you and you should not have accepted them. It’s an easy mistake to make. I’ve got a client right now who owes me thousands, and I keep kicking myself over the situation I’ve put myself in.

Secondly – they don’t trust you to do the job. This is a bad situation to be in. They’re not a good client for you and you failed completely during the earlier stages of your relationship to remind them that the work you are about to embark on is important enough, vital even, to the success of their business.

In both cases it’s your fault.

So now you’ve found yourself in this situation, what do you do to deal with it?

Step 1) Stay in touch. Email and messaging isn’t enough. Schedule a weekly call with the client and keep them up to date on the progress made on the project every week. Just remind them that things are going well. I really don’t like talking to people but this has to be done. If they’re the “don’t have the money” type they will start to feel a bit of pressure to find the cash. If they’re the “don’t trust you” type they will start to understand that you’re actually making progress.

Step 2) Get some help. If things get too bad, ask someone else to get in touch with the client for you. I don’t know why, but having someone else’s voice delivering the message that payment is due makes a real difference. They don’t even need to be some muscly heavy type.

Step 3) Make sure it doesn’t happen again. Be more careful in how you select your clients. Add “guard rails” into your sales process where you inform yourself as to whether these are good clients or not.

Step 4) Give yourself time to find new clients. Make sure you understand what your pipeline looks like – if things are looking good, just feed your marketing activities in the background. But if your pipeline looks a bit empty, in three months time1, now is the time to take action. That way, you aren’t desperate for work the next time a dodgy client shows up and you don’t end up in this situation again.

If you’d like to know more about how to predict your business pipeline so you can take action early, check out my free email course – “Your Two Magic Numbers”. Just fill out the details below to sign up.

Unpredictable Business? Inconsistent Cashflow?

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  1. Actually I say 3 months time – this time period varies and you need to know how far ahead you need to be looking.

Meetings

Meetings.

An absolute waste of time.

There’s always someone that turns up late.

And that person who drones on and on about nothing in particular.

And when it’s your turn to talk, someone just interrupts you.

An hour of travel time each way means a short meeting takes up half a day.

And that’s before it runs over.

Why does it have to be that way?

There are some simple things you can do to improve things.

Set an agenda.

Have a deadline.

Use video-conferencing where possible.

But, as I was sat in the car today; a two hour drive for a one hour meeting; I realised one thing that was more important than all of the above.

By the end of the meeting, what counts as a success?

Bear that in mind, guide everyone towards that goal, and it makes the meeting worthwhile. Well, maybe not two hours on the M60 at rush-hour.

Just do it

So, you’ve got some great stuff to sell. You want to do it online – a cheap store-front, no geographical restrictions, open 24 hours. We all know the benefits.

But which platform should I choose? Get my own site built or use a service like Shopify?

First things first; there’s no point having a shop, online or otherwise, if no-one visits. You can have the greatest products in the world but it’s for nothing if no-one knows about them.

So, item number one in your plan has to be marketing. How are going to get the word out? And when they land at your site, why would they want to stay? Your competitors are just a click away, so getting people here is just the start of the process.

Don’t despair, there are a whole series of different strategies and tactics you can apply to make your site a great destination that people spend a lot of time on. But, as like so many things, the technical side is nothing compared to the rest of it. So give it some serious thought.

Then we get to platforms. There are loads of ecommerce platforms, many of them open-source (and hence free to install). But that doesn’t mean you can set up a shop with no outlay.

At the very least, you’re going to need a domain name and an SSL certificate (which allow communications to be encrypted). You’re going to need a design for your site. And you’re going to need a method to receive payments.

It has to be said, a hosted platform, such as Shopify, is really easy to get going. They have a load of pre-built templates to make you look good and they are PCI-compliant, meaning you don’t have to worry about taking payments online. You also get a whole series of other tools – you can take credit card payments in person, add “buy” buttons onto other sites, sell via Facebook and even help to manage your physical retail locations. Plus, as it’s a hosted service, all backups and server maintenance is taken care of for you.

Using an open-source platform, such as Magento, WordPress/Woocommerce or OpenCart, is a load more work. For a start, you need somewhere to host the site, get the server configured, make sure you’ve got backups (never forget the backups), then install the software, install a theme (you can buy one pretty cheaply but you will need one) and set up your payment gateway. But be warned, there are some payment gateways you cannot use – because if any credit card information touches your server, even momentarily, you will have to comply with PCI-DSS, a standard designed to 1) ensure the financial data stays safe and 2) ensure you, rather than Visa or Mastercard, are liable if it is not. PCI-DSS does not apply to every payment gateway (“off-site” gateways that transfer the customer elsewhere to actually enter their card details don’t count) but it will have an impact on the customer experience. And finally you have to manage the day-to-day running of the site – ensuring all security patches are up to date, dealing with downtime (because everything fails at some point) and testing that those backups are easily restorable (never forget the backups).

So you have a choice – getting started quickly and easily but paying a monthly fee for a service that is somewhat beyond your control. Or do more up-front and take more responsibility for the ongoing maintenance, but keep everything in your own hands.

It’s a question I cannot answer for you – but in most cases, I would say going with the hosted service is the best way to get started. Not least because they can deal with payments for you. And as you grow and expand, there’s nothing to stop you moving to your own platform in future.

All about your IT infrastructure

You really don’t want to be managing your own IT infrastructure. It’s a massive drain on your time. Time that’s better spent on things that interest you, on things that help your business.

But getting a company in to look after that stuff for you can be a bit nerve-wracking in itself. How can you be sure that they’re any good?

The single most important thing is “can you talk to them?” It doesn’t matter how technically proficient they are, if you don’t understand what they’re saying, you won’t get very far.

But once you’ve established basic lines of communication, what else do you need to know?

Here are a few things that you need to know the answers to; in six badly drawn sketches.


Any questions? Ask us anything (preferably about software, but we might be able to help with other stuff too)