Ever have this happen to you?

There's no doubt that the economy has slowed down. You'd have to be blind not to see rising prices affecting everyone's spending - across all demographics. That includes small businesses too, and of course that's understandable. The problem, however, is self-inflating. See, if you don't spend, you don't contribute to the solution, you contribute to the problem, so in a way, we're our own worst enemy.

(Same with gas prices by the way... if you drive less, demand goes down, then the oil dudes slow production to make the supply drop, so prices go up... sorry but that's the reality of dependence on foreign sources of fuel, food, goods or anything!).

But this isn't about politics, it's about payment. Over the last month we've gotten no less than 5 calls from collection agencies. And no, they're not looking for our money... not directly. We're all paid up thank you. No, they're looking for us to hire them to collect bad debt from our customers. Of course, we said... no thanks, we have the best clients in the world, and they pay their bills.

Every now and again, however, every business will discover themselves in a situation that requires a little special handling. Here are some tips from experienced freelancers for getting paid for work you've done in good faith:

  • Always send a formal invoice. Include a description of the work, who is being charged for the work and your remittance information so they know exactly when and how to pay.
  • Send a reminder in a week or so. It could just be that your invoice was overlooked quite innocently.
  • If you find the reminder was a little too subtle, and your client isn't getting it, you'll need to send another reminder. Be firm and reiterate the invoice information and due date.
  • If your second reminder is not attended to within the specified time frame, send a third letter stating the account will be turned over to collections and a financing fee will be incurred for late payment. There are companies that handle this (we've heard from 5 of them recently) and for a small fee, or a portion of what they get back for you,  will take the account from this point.
  • If all else fails, go to court. In Georgia, you'd go to Magistrate court and the allowable limit is $15,000. Check on the maximum amount allowable in your state. If you can, talk to an attorney in your leads group, or chamber of commerce.
  • Report the company to the Better Business Bureau. You won't get your money any faster, but it may help someone else in the future.
  • Depending on the amount owed, you may decide it's not worth it.

Whatever way you choose to go, be a professional. Handling yourself well is an indication of your character. You are, after all representing your business