“Hi Graham, it’s Al with A+ Paintworks calling again. I’ve left a couple messages and stopped by the other day, but you weren’t home. Please call me when as soon as you can…your invoice is over a month past due and we still haven’t received payment.”
Sound familiar? You’ve done the work and the client is happy. Final inspection has come and gone and everyone involved is delighted with the results of your paint work. However, one problem remains: you have yet to be paid for the work. Making things even more challenging is the fact that the client is ignoring your phone calls, emails, and invoices. Instead of focusing on growing your business through new sales or paint jobs, now you’re spending time you can’t afford to waste chasing payment over an invoice that was due long ago. You never thought you’d end up handling bill collection as part of your day-to-day activity, did you? Even worse, there seems to be no easy way to deal with delinquent clients who owe you money except to spend more time calling, emailing, and trying to make contact in an attempt to collect the payment you rightfully deserve.
Here are four ways to ensure your collections don’t fall behind.
- Provide written estimates. A surprising number of service professionals conduct business with a handshake and a nod, rather than a written agreement. Before starting any paint work, provide your client a written estimate that details the scope of work you will be performing. Take them through the proposal line by line and clearly state the complete cost of the work. Then, ask for a signature on the proposal indicating acceptance of both the scope of work and the agreed-upon price. Finally, make sure the payment due date is understood before you start working. Most non-payment issues arise from a disagreement over the work being completed or the final invoice amount. An acknowledged price quotation ahead of time prevents disagreement later in the job.
- Require a deposit. Asking clients for a deposit is a great way to protect the financial investment you have in the job. For example, asking for a deposit or payment in advance equal to the cost of paint and materials means you won’t be out any money if something goes wrong with the job. A deposit or partial prepayment also demonstrates that your client likely has the means to pay for the work you are about to perform.
- Offer a discount for prepayment. Offering clients a discount for a large prepayment is an excellent way to prevent payment issues later in the process. Discounts of five to ten percent for payment upon acknowledgement of the proposal are often substantial enough that clients are willing to pay early.
- Accept credit cards at every turn. Many small businesses and service providers avoid taking credit cards because they believe doing so is complex and expensive. That used to be the case, but today all that is required is a bank account and a (often free) account with a service like Square, Paypal, or Intuit Quickbooks. Credit card processing typically costs around three percent per transaction, but the money will appear in your account in as little as a single day. Furthermore, bookkeeping and cash management are made easy by a simple, automated credit card charging process.
While it would be nice to think that clients always pay in full for services rendered, the vast majority or professional painters have experience with clients that want to renegotiate the amount due or the work involved after you’ve completed the job. Difficult clients are an unfortunate part of most any business endeavor. However, that doesn’t mean that you should tolerate customers withholding payment when you have held up your end of the agreement. Click here to learn more paint business tips and marketing suggestions to keep you profitable and growing!