You should always get paid for the work you do. No exceptions

Image by neo tam from

By Henry Brown

When a major company sends you a bill, you feel an immediate urge to pay it. You know that the full force of the law will come down on your shoulders if you don’t.

The same law that protects large businesses also protects their smaller counterparts. Yet, many of us forget that the law works in our favor when approaching clients for cash. Everyone should pay for work done on time and to the agreed-upon quality. No exceptions.

In the real world, though, that’s not always how things pan out. You build a close relationship with a client that feels personal. Then, when they don’t pay you on time, you feel bad for not asking them for the money they owe you, even if they’re the ones failing to hold up their end of the bargain.

So what’s the solution here? Take a look at these ideas for getting paid on time.

Don’t become “buddies” with your clients

Avoid becoming overly friendly with your clients. They’re not necessarily your friends. Instead, they’re people to whom you provide a service for mutual economic benefit. You might like them on a personal level, but ideally, you should professionally address them. They may want to draw you into something less formal, but stand your ground if you can in a way that isn’t rude. Try not to break roles. Stick with the service you provide, and don’t leave them in any doubts as to the nature of your relationship. It’s economic: nothing more.

Use professional services to make claims

You can be as professional as you like with your clients, but sometimes, even that’s not enough. Sometimes, therefore, you might want to use process servers. The idea here is to give any legal documents a professional backing so that you know you’re abiding by due process in the event of non-payment. A third-party company takes over the legal matters for you, so you’re not left guessing. And if that fails to produce results, you should be sure you know how to sue someone who owes you money.

Insist on money upfront

If your invoices allow clients thirty days for payment, they’ll take them. Sometimes, they’ll run over them – a major bugbear for your cash flow position.

You can, therefore, ask for money upfront and see what they say. Not all clients will agree, but most will, especially those who know you. It might sound like you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage against the competition. But customer liability is a big issue and one that actually puts your rivals at risk. If you make receiving a deposit part of your routine way of doing business right from the start with a new client, this will be easier to enforce than it will be if you try to start this after you’ve been working for them for some time without requiring deposits.

Create a late payment process

Late payments are, unfortunately, an unavoidable part of doing business. Therefore, it makes sense to develop a slow payment process that maximizes the chance of getting the money you’re owed while avoiding offending accidentally forgetful customers.

You can resolve most payment issues by simply contacting the relevant party in person and reminding them gently that they owe you money. If that doesn’t work, you can send an official letter from your company. Only after that doesn’t work should you go down the legal route to recover the money they owe you.

Fire clients who are habitually late with payments

Clients who you constantly have to dun for payment are not clients worth having. The stress they cause drains you and your bank account. You’re better off politely turning down their business and finding someone who will respect your need to be paid on time. Firing a client is a scary thing to do, especially the first time you do it. But taking this power into your hands will make you a stronger business person and help you attract new, respectful clients in the future.


Henry Brown is an online marketing executive. When he isn’t talking shop, he’s roaming the streets of London, uncovering the extra-ordinary in the ordinary.

Leave a Reply

The Self-Employment Survival Guide can help you succeed. Learn all about it here.

Self-Employment Survival Guide book cover