As a business owner, your primary responsibility is building relationships with your clients. This involves communicating what your business brings to them, as well as discovering their needs and working to meet those needs. Your goal is to create such a pleasant working experience that they’ll come back to you each time they need work performed.
On the other hand, it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re paid for your work. Good client relationships won’t pay the bills and, over time, missed payments will kill your business’s cash flow. Approaching clients about getting paid can be awkward, putting you in an odd position. To remain in good standing with your customers, the best thing you can do is turn your money matters over to someone else, removing you from these awkward conversations altogether. Here are a few sources that can handle client invoicing to take the pressure off of you.
If you’re a one-man operation or small startup, you likely have little choice when it comes to delegating tasks. Automation can handle this for you. When invoices come from a system rather than you personally, your clients don’t see it as direct communication. You can send late notices through your automated system, keeping you from having to pick up the phone or send an uncomfortable email.
Best of all, when you automate, you can more easily track which clients are paying and which aren’t. As difficult as it may be, it’s important for you to realize when you’re getting yourself in deep with a non-paying client. The sooner you recognize this, the quicker you’ll be able to refrain from doing additional work that you won’t be paid for doing.
You don’t have to pay a fortune to have an administrator handle sticky tasks like contacting your clients about payment. You can even contract with a virtual assistant, paying by the task rather than committing to a full-time salary. Simply having a virtual assistant send the email will allow you to maintain a relationship separate from money talks.
Your administrative team can also handle discussions on sensitive situations such as rate increases. Occasionally you’ll have to increase the amount you’re charging and an assistant can communicate those changes in a neutral, professional tone. You may want to have a one-on-one discussion with your most valued clients over such issues, but an assistant can take care of the vast majority of these.
Sales Team Members
As the client-facing members of your organization, your sales staff members will often deal with the money conversation more than you will. Once you have people bringing in new customers and working to retain existing ones, they can often handle the money part of the discussion. You can even have your sales team send initial invoices, getting them in the system for tracking purposes. Once the client is regularly working with your business, invoicing can be generated by yourself or your accounting staff.
Before you put your sales professionals on the task of collecting money, keep in mind that they, too, need to provide good customer service to your clients. For that reason, they may not be the best people to have complicated conversations about late payments. However, they will often be tasked with negotiating prices, so they’re a natural choice for initial invoicing tasks.
Accountants and Bookkeepers
When you’re considering adding people to your team, an accountant or bookkeeper should be a top choice. With so many tools available to handle this for you, it isn’t necessary to have a full-time accounting team on site. However, having an expert review your books on a somewhat regular basis can be very beneficial, both for tax reasons and your own finances.
An accountant or bookkeeper is an ideal person to handle your invoicing and billing. When your clients receive information on funds due from a trained professional, that information is taken much more seriously than if it were from someone without expert financial knowledge. Accounting professionals also remain aware of industry standards when it comes to issues such as late fees and non-payment recourse options. When you do need this type of advice, it comes in handy to have someone around who knows exactly what to do.
While legal professionals don’t handle administrative tasks like invoicing, they can come in very handy if you have payment issues. You should at least have an attorney available to help you with writing letters to non-paying customers. A letter from an attorney packs much more of a punch than a standard letter on your company letterhead.
If you can’t afford to hire an attorney, consider an option such as RocketLawyer. The site’s debt collection section can walk you through the process of creating a collection letter or connect you with a real attorney. You’ll pay per incident at a more affordable rate than a local attorney would likely charge for the same service.
The process of invoicing and collecting funds can be grueling for small business owners. By delegating the process to someone else, you’ll be able to free up your own time to take care of other tasks. It will also allow you to maintain good relationships with your clients, since you can say your staff is merely doing its job of collecting payments due.