Dealing with the slow payers

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A client just set the record for taking longest to pay in my career: About six months.

This was a public University, and so had specific bureaucratic rules. Plus they made a bit of an exception for me up front, which caused problems later.

I would never have gotten paid at all if I hadn’t followed up correctly.

If you have late or slow-paying clients, here are some tips:

1. Be polite but firm.

2. Let them know you have completed the work and expect prompt payment.

3. Find out the process to get paid, and set a timeline. That way, you can follow up and put the ball back in their court.

4. If the client misses a deadline, or disappears for a while, contact them again. Be polite. Explain that they missed the deadline and that you are concerned about getting paid promptly. I love this line: “I depend on prompt payments to feed my family and pay bills.”

5. Keep following up. Ask if you can do anything to help speed up the process. I send brief emails that say: “Just checking in on the status of payment. Is there anything further I can do to expedite payment?”

6. Don’t make any threats or nasty comments. Never threaten legal action unless you are prepared to make the investment in time, hassle, and money required.

7. Touch base with a variety of decision makers. In my case, the payables department of this university was awful. But once I copied my sponsor (a Vice Chancellor) and a professor who loved my work, things got moving.

What else?

Andrew NeitlichAndrew Neitlich
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