“Never take your eyes off the cash flow because it’s the lifeblood of business” (Sir Richard Branson, entrepreneur, investor, and author)
Cash is king, said one anonymous business genius. At the end of the day, it’s having money in the bank that keeps a company running smoothly. According to a recent study by Sibongiseni Selby Myeni at the Walden University, the majority of SA’s small to medium enterprises are destined for the scrap heap and the majority of these cases will be due to a lack of cash flow. In an era where more invoices are going unpaid, how can your invoicing process help to make sure you are one of the lucky ones?
Send the invoice immediately
The best time to send an invoice is when you and your relationship with a client is still fresh in everyone’s minds. Ask for the invoicing details up front, so you can send the invoice with the final deliverable.
Invoice for immediate payment
The invoice should request payment immediately, or failing that, at the end of the month and not only when you need the money. Smaller businesses are likely to comply, and bigger companies may rush faster to ensure you get paid promptly within their next payment cycle. Making the assumption that your client needs leeway or payment time scales well into the future only guarantees your invoice loses priority.
Check your clients
If you are going into a large contract, it’s wise to do some groundwork on your client. One of the biggest reasons for non-payment is the client’s own cash flow worries. Getting some intelligence from other clients, or if possible, running a background check on them, will ensure you don’t invest huge amounts of time and resources into defaulting clients. If you do establish a client might default, you don’t have to cut them off, simply invoice with the intention of being paid up front, or at least request a deposit and include a punitive “late payers’ fee” or interest on non-payment to encourage them to prioritise you.
Never miss the payment cycle
Your larger clients are going to be fanatical about their payment cycles. Ask them upfront when they need to receive invoices and make sure you get the invoice in before that date. Failure to do so will often mean a 30 or even 60 day delay in payment.
Request Debit orders
If you have a client who uses the same service regularly, don’t be afraid to ask for retainers and other contracts, to be paid by debit order, to cover the costs rather than invoicing each month. Be sure to offer perks to encourage your clients to take you up on these offers.
When it comes time to pay, even struggling companies will want to pay the people they know and like first, over the anonymous supplier. Knowing who at your client is responsible for the invoice and following up politely with them is a great way to ensure your invoices are treated with priority.
Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.