One of the most important ways to get paid on time isn’t about giving yourself good invoicing habits or having a well-crafted collections letter. These things are important, of course, but even more essential to your long-term success is fostering a good relationship with your clients.
Spending a little extra time to lay a good foundation with your new clients can pay off. Clients who like working with you and who respect you are more likely to be proactive about communication and to pay you in a timely fashion.
Before writing up the contract for your new client, dedicate some time to a formal discovery session. In this 30- to 60-minute meeting, you will achieve the following:
- Determine the client’s “pain points.”
- Offer a solution based on the goods or services you provide.
- Establish a professional positive rapport between you and the client.
Chances are, you are already achieving goals 1 and 2 in the sales conversation. After all, why else would the client be choosing to work with you?
But goal 3 is critical, and it is not usually the focus of sales conversations. The discovery meeting allows the client to reveal to you more about their workflow, and you can do the same.
How does the client like to communicate? What is the best way for you to receive feedback about your work? How often should you touch base about the on-going projects? Who will be in charge of paying you?
Sitting down with a client for these 30 minutes gives you both the opportunity to learn more about one another without that immediate sales pressure.
Establishing yourself, and your business, as the solution to (some of) your client’s problems will set you up for success in your long-term relationship. Your client will want to remain on good terms with you and will therefore be likely to pay you on time, every time.
Writing Good Contracts
Based on this discovery session, you will be better able to write a contract that sets up a good payment relationship.
Contracts, of course, cover logistics. They describe the who, what, when, and where of this new relationship you’re creating. They make sure that everyone is on the same page before any work starts or any money changes hands.
Essentially, though, contracts also describe the how. How will you let the client know it’s time to pay? How will they pay you? How should they let you know if they need something from you?
These are some of the questions you clarified in the discovery meeting. Codifying them in a formal contract ensures there are no misunderstandings. If you establish your formal business relationship on a foundation of mutual respect, you are setting yourself up for receivables success in the future.