Any business that sends out invoices knows the frustration of waiting to get paid. This is especially true when you’re dependent on those payments to make payroll or fund necessary business expenses.
How can you keep running your business when your clients drag their feet about paying you? Is there anything more frustrating than the endless cycle of hassling customers about their bills?
If you’re facing this challenge, what you need are ideas for motivating your clients to pay on time. With that in mind, here are seven tips for how to collect receivables faster.
1. Use customer-friendly accounts receivable practices. To be certain you’re not the reason payments get delayed, make sure you are following your clients’ accounts payable procedures. It’s well worth the extra effort to make sure your invoices are not missing information that will delay processing. Likewise, bill promptly — immediately upon delivery or completion of the service, not weeks later. Also, a few days before an invoice is due, contact the client to make sure it has everything needed to pay you.
2. Meticulously track your outstanding A/R balances. One key step in reducing Average Days to Pay is tracking. Create an accounts receivable (A/R) aging report to track and measure the payment status of all your customers. Typically, an aging report breaks down accounts into length of time since invoices were issued: 0-30 days, 31-60 days, 61-90 days and past 90 days. Each account will list the business name and how much is owed in each applicable timeframe. Creating and using a report like this will enable you to quickly, seamlessly check for potential problems so you immediately know when someone’s slow to pay — and then determine your best course of action.
3. Be proactive about getting payments. Believe it or not, your clients are less likely to pay you the longer their invoices are outstanding. In other words, the longer they go without paying, the less likely they are to ever pay. Don’t wait until payments are far past due to contact your clients. A week before the due date, send clients a friendly alert. Soon after the bill is due, start contacting them with gentle reminders that payment needs to be made.
4. Encourage advance payments. Whether you require a retainer on projects or request an advance, finding ways to get clients to pay something upfront can make a huge difference in your business cash flow. Advance payments greatly improve cash flow, as well as reduce your exposure to late or uncollectable receivables — giving you peace of mind as well as a more solid financial foundation.
5. Provide an early payment discount. While you may not want to discount your invoices, consider this: If a two percent discount gets you payment, that’s 98 percent more than you’d have gotten while you were waiting for a client to pay its bill. Try giving clients a small discount if they pay within 10 days, for example. In exchange for the small decrease, you might boost your overall cash flow.
6. Accept multiple payment options. Make it easier for your clients to pay you by accepting a variety of payment options, including checks, credit cards, PayPal and other online payment solutions. You may even want to suggest automatic payments for recurring clients to simplify and automate the billing process — something that may be very appealing to your clients.
7. Know when to enlist collection agencies. Most companies don’t want to resort to unleashing collection agencies on their clients, especially when they’re trying to maintain good relationships with them. In situations where accounts are severely delinquent, however, you may have no other choice. Research several options, look for a company that will deal professionally with you and your clients, and move forward confidently, knowing how important it is to get paid.
Nobody enjoys the hassle of chasing down payments — yet knowing how to collect accounts receivable in a timely manner is essential to successful business. If you’re struggling with getting clients to pay on time, start implementing the tips above. It could make all the difference in your cash flow month to month.
Author bio: Shanna Mallon is a copywriter for Straight North, a Chicago-based Internet marketing agency that specializes in B2B SEO, PPC, email marketing and web design. A freelance writer, Shanna has been creating online content professionally since 2007.