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Start: Mark Evans

Getting a client to pay up Add to ...

You do the work, send the invoice - and wait patiently for the client to pay the bill.

Sometimes, it can take a few weeks, even a couple of months. You're subject to the client's payment policies and approach to managing cash flow.

At the end of the day, however, when the cheque arrives and you cash it, everyone is happy.

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But what happens when the client doesn't pay?

Since starting my consulting business two years ago, it is a situation - knock on wood - that I have encountered just once.

But I want to be prepared, and so I have talked to many people to appreciate the different approaches to getting a client to pay up.

The first step in payment recovery is to send a simple reminder that you have not been paid. In most cases, that's enough of a nudge to make whoever is responsible for processing cheques get his or her act together.

It may have been that your invoice was sent just after a bunch of cheques were issued, so you'll have to wait until the next pay cycle - but you'll know that payment is coming.

If the polite approach fails to work, the next move would be to send another e-mail. Make it firm without being too aggressive. That should be enough to catch someone's attention.

If that doesn't work, either, you can escalate the issue by sending a letter to the client, saying that you will be adding interest to the bill.

If none of these techniques is effective, the next step is to send a letter from a lawyer, stating that you will pursue your claim to small claims court.

This can be a hassle unless it involves a large enough amount of money or it becomes a point of principle that you are willing to pursue.

The other option is to simply write off the payment, particularly if it is a relatively small amount.

That's what I did with the client who stopped a project in mid-stream because it wanted to head in a different strategic direction.

It was frustrating because I had done a fair amount of work, and so I felt I should be paid for it.

In the end, however, I walked away because I decided it was not worth the hassle.

I'm hoping it's a situation I won't soon encounter again.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting, a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

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