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Avoid the curse of late payment

The scourge of late payment is, and continues to be, a mighty problem for the small businesses. Government figures published late last year indicate that small and medium-sized UK businesses as a whole were owed £26.8 billion in late payments.

But on-time payment can be make-or-break and it’s imperative that businesses take steps to secure it. Here are my top tips for getting paid on time:

Check the credit risk of potential clients

Unless you do a credit check, you just don’t know whether a client is capable of paying you. There are now online ways to determine the creditworthiness of your business partners in an instant, and also the opportunity to find out if there is any change to a credit rating, so protecting your business even further.

Get invoices out on time

An obvious one, but it is one of the biggest reasons for late payment. It can be tricky to make time for paperwork when you’re caught up with running a business, but invoices can’t be ignored. Schedule time in your calendar to get invoices out quickly and accurately.

Put effort into your invoice design

Make sure your invoices are professional and well designed, containing all the information your clients’ finance departments (or householders) require, such as purchase order numbers, payment terms and date due. This will help to ensure prompt payment.

Chase late payment

Don’t let being busy stop you. If you use an online accounting service, you can set payment reminders for your clients. And don’t just send invoices – direct communication with the person who actually pays you (an accounts department or the householder) is vital. It’s much easier to ignore paper than it is people. 

Late payment fees

If your invoice clearly states payment terms but a client has not paid them, you could consider a late payment fee. This could be contentious so use it wisely.

Shorter payment terms

Some clients want your work as quickly as possible, so why not explain therefore that payment terms for certain jobs are shorter than the traditional 30 days. It is definitely worth looking at this for emergency work or smaller jobs needed more urgently.  

So while the blight of late payment shows little sign of abating, there are clear and simple ways to ensure you don’t fall victim to it. 

For information on managing your cashflow through Brexit, click here.

David Stapleton is CEO at online construction management platform TenderSpace