Tips for Getting Paid as a Small Business Owner

Conduct business for long enough and you’ll face the unwelcome scenario of not getting paid. If you’ve dealt with it, you know it’s not a nice situation to be in. To avoid it happening again in future, there are a number of easy steps you can take.

Dealing With “Lost” Invoices

You’ve submitted an invoice, but payment doesn’t come. You follow up, and the company has “lost” your invoice. Hey, mistakes happen. Whatever reasons they assign and however frustrated you are, it’s usually easily rectified. Just take a deep breath and re-submit the invoice. Make sure to always keep copies of your invoices for instances like this.

Problems with Your Invoice

Sometimes, a business will be unhappy with your invoice and won’t do you the professional duty of informing you. You may have miscoded it, didn’t submit the right form, or got the project reference wrong. Simply apologize, submit a correct version, and make a mental note to cross your t’s and dot your I’s next time!

Problems with Cost

One of the more common reasons to not pay a bill is an unhappiness with the cost. Talk to the client, find out their concerns, go and see them if necessary. In my experience, nothing will be solved by people losing their tempers. If you’re prepared to be reasonable, a compromise can usually be reached.

Payment in “Process”

You keep hearing the invoice is in “process” or “in the mail” but the cash never appears. This is the scenario where alarm bells should be ringing. They appear to be stringing you along, and you’re probably doing additional work as time rolls by. In this case, my advice is to stop working on the project and set that down formally in an e-mail to your client. State that project deadlines will now no longer be met. Asking for a face-to-face meeting is recommended.

Client is Refusing to Pay

Someone simply refusing to pay is hopefully a situation you face rarely, if ever. It should never have reached this point and there were probably a few alarm bells missed along the way. In my business life, this has happened to me just once. I signed a contract with a medium-sized consulting company. Basically, it consisted of a finders’ fee percentage for work I brought to the company plus a separate deal on projects we collaborated on. All was fine until I found them a $50,000 project and claimed my finder’s fee. At that point, the CEO refused to pay, saying he should “never have agreed to the fee”. I pointed to our agreement, and he still refused. I pursued legal action, confident I had a cast-iron guarantee. I was successful thankfully! You have to be ready to pursue these debts if the worst happens to you. It’s either that, or write it off. Not much fun either way!