Small Biz Advice: Staying Paid

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Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a small business consulting company based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to retail to art studios and pretty much everything in between. Her clients report increased income and profit, decreased expenses and a significantly better quality of life. Holly heads up the Small Business Book Club at McNally Jackson Books.

Want valuable insight into how to grow your business?  Holly hosts FREE 30 minute strategy sessions at The Yard in Williamsburg.  Email her to set up a time hhoward@askhollyhow.com or to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How.

Dear Holly,

I’m a freelance writer, and I work for a lot of very big corporations that I know are extremely profitable. The problem I’m having is getting paid on time. It takes me months to track down payments from these big corporations, and I’m frustrated and having a hard time keeping myself afloat. Is there anything I can do to guarantee that I get paid on time? I’m feeling helpless and discouraged. How can I win against bigger corporations?

Thank you,

Billing Department

Dear Billing,

Great question!! I’m sure many other freelancers can relate to what you’re going through. Not getting paid can be extremely frustrating and only adds stress to an already potentially stressful career path.

We often deem ourselves helpless against bigger corporations and like to place blame and point fingers. But, the reality is that there are things we can put in place as well as skills we can acquire to ensure that we are paid on time.

First things first. Make sure you have a clear contract and that your payment terms are clearly dictated. Both parties must sign off on this before any work begins. Too often, as the smaller party, we don’t feel like we have the right to dictate terms with larger corporations, but this is not true. People only treat us the way we allow them to. So, it’s important to raise our level of professionalism when dealing with large corporations and make sure that our expectations are in writing and clear to everyone involved. It pays to invest in having a lawyer write up your client contract. Having someone on your side to explain your rights and your terms is a very valuable investment. This will give you power when negotiating with bigger corporations. It could be a onetime investment for a contract you use with all of your clients with minimal changes if necessary.

Second, build up your confidence and ability to talk about money and payment. This is a challenge for so many service providers. If we are uncomfortable discussing money, we will have a harder time collecting payment. Discussions about rate and payment terms must be finalized before any work is done. Once all of the facts are on the table, make sure to follow up with the corporation and ask them if they are clear on your policies and if they foresee any issues with paying the required amount within the requested terms. In addition, make sure you are clear on who should receive the invoice at the corporation and who you should contact if you don’t receive payment on time.

Finally, stay on top of your billing. If you let things slide, you lose your ability to truly hold the corporation responsible. You want to make sure that you stay organized and bill on time and follow up on time. If you become lax and get off schedule, your client will take advantage of that, and you will have a much harder time with accountability.

Good luck in the future! It’s never too late to put these practices into place and move forward with a more professional way of working. Like I said before, people often treat us the way we allow them to. Take responsibility on your end, and you’ll be far more likely to get paid on time.

Best,

Holly

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