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.

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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.