Being self-employed has many advantages, but I’m sure one bugbear we all share is debt collection. When it comes to payment, customers generally fall into a number of categories:
- Those that pay immediately on receiving the invoice, or even all in advance; you want to hold on to these with both hands!
- Those that pay precisely on the 30-day due date; which is fine, we all have cash flows to manage
- Those that pay on the first reminder; not too bad
- Those that pay sometime after the second reminder (when I start threatening interest) or not at all; now you’re yanking my chain
After almost a year of doing this full time, and almost 3 years before that part-time, I’ve had at least one customer in each of these categories, although I guess I’ve been fortunate that most are in the better groups. Luckily I’ve only had one so far that I’ve pretty much given up on seeing the money; if I don’t know the customer I tend to ask for a retainer for significant work to mitigate the risk, but in this one case although I received the retainer I doubt I’ll ever see the balance. It’s not a large amount (probably not even worth the time engaging an international debt collector on) but it’s the principle that counts. It’s tempting to name & shame the company involved here, but it’s really not worth the hassle - I’ll just cut my losses and move on. If you see me in person I’ll be happy to dish the dirt in confidence 😉
Over time I’m sure we all tend to build up a leaderboard of our clients - and there’s always an ‘A’ list that you have a really positive and low-maintenance working relationship with, whom you’ll instantly favour over others (I’m not going to name names in this blog, but if you’re reading this you’ll know who you are). Repeat work from these clients is always something to be savoured, but it does take a while to establish those relationships - I can count mine on one hand. However they do represent about 30% of my client base so I guess I should be grateful for that 😀
Going forward I now have what is looking likely to be a fairly long-term contract, so that should cut down on the overhead (managing lots of small projects takes up far more admin time), and with any luck it may add another entry to my ‘A’ list. Fingers crossed 😀