Get paid quickly – a straight talking guide for small service business owners

This article will contain a fair amount of “stating the bleedin’ obvious” about how to get paid quickly, but I’m going to write it anyway. Because, well, even if it’s obvious, you might not be doing it in your business. AND when it comes to money, we can sometimes get a bit ‘funny’ (not as in haha, but ‘weird about it’ funny).

Money is such a loaded subject for many of us. Don’t get me wrong, I get that you probably like money–I mean what’s not to like about it? It lets you do all the things you want to do. And I’m guessing you would have no problem if there was more money in your life/bank account.  And yet sometimes we can have a ‘thing’ about it. All manner of overthinking can take place around the subject of money and getting paid, which can spill over into your business.

Funny money things (and how they can stop you getting paid quickly)

  • Asking customers for money: “Ohhh am I being pushy?”, “I don’t like to ask”, “It’s a bit ‘salesy’”, “I’ll sneak in the bill later when they’re not looking, definitely at the end of the job, because, I couldn’t possibly ask before I start! The cheek!”
  • Chasing money: Worse than asking for money in the first place! It’s like every time you have to chase, it gets more uncomfortable and you worry you look ‘needy’ or (worse still!) mercenary. I can’t possibly ask AGAIN even though I can’t do the work/continue with the work/have finished the job… how awful will that look?! I don’t want to be ‘that’ person… even though I do want to get paid….
  • Being ‘all about the money’ is so rude: Only someone really ‘arrogant’ would talk about money and ‘demand payment’ before getting on with the job. Instead, I’ll do the work then hope **fingers crossed** that customer will be OK to pay me… at some point… you know, when it works for them…
  • Paying online? That’s fraught with danger! Of course I’d much prefer a cheque so I can wait days before going to the bank, then more time waiting for it to clear, all the while wondering if it actually will clear. Oh, and I love that the bank charges me for that. BACs is great too, I don’t mind waiting for you to ‘get round’ to paying me. No rush…
  • Apologising–I’m so sorry it costs this much: I know I need to eat and pay my team and suppliers, but truly I am so sorry I’m even having ask you to pay. This is MAGNIFIED if you’re simply selling your time, by the way–especially if it’s for something you find really easy. Just because you’ve been doing it for yonks and are trained in it, the fact is that it’s not ‘hard’ for you so it feels terrible you’re asking to get paid for it…
  • Apologising because you’re VAT registered: Yes, sorry, I will need to add VAT to that because unfortunately my business is selling too much of my great service and HMRC made up these rules where I have to charge you 20% more. I know. Awks.
  • Yes, it IS a lot of money: I know, it looks a lot to me too. But it’s actually what this work is worth. I am cringing inside I’ve even dared put that amount in a quote though and ask to get paid. You have no idea how I’ve been stressing about even sending this to you…

Money overthinking can show up in all sorts of ways. So while I’m going to share some VERY simple tips and actions in this article about how to get paid quicker, you’ll maybe need to get past your ‘thinking’ on some of the suggestions.

To get paid quickly here’s what you can do:

Have different ways to get paid: Take credit and debit cards, offer direct debits, direct bank payments and BACs. Cash could be the quickest option technically for having money in your hands, but when you factor in taking it to the bank when they’re open (and the queuing), probably not all that quick (plus: Cash? Really?)

Ask to get paid up front: Yes, it’s a “bleedin’ obvious” alert–if you want to be paid more quickly, ask for the money now. And I appreciate this might not be ‘how you do things’ at the moment, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be. If you offer a great service (which I am sure you do) and your customers want to work with you (which I’m sure they do), then if this is how they have to pay, then it’s how they’ll pay.

Ask for payment in full: If it works for your business and what you’re selling, then don’t just ask for a payment upfront, ask for the entire payment before you start work. Just because this isn’t what ‘other businesses do–if it’s what your business does and that customer wants to work with you, they’ll pay.

**Example on getting paid up front and in full: as the director of a marketing and web design agency, we used to have a lot of clients who ‘expected’ stage payments, as that’s how everyone else worked when they sold websites. So for a while we offered that, but sometimes projects would get drawn out–and that’s after you finally got the content, having re-jigged the start date a few times.  Then we switched to not even booking in website build projects until payment (in full) had been made. The clients who wanted to work with us still did, and our cash flow (and time planning) looked a lot better as a result**

Offer online payments: Taking cards doesn’t mean you need an eCommerce store set up. It’s very easy to add online payment options to an order form you email out with your quotes or proposals with no sign of a shopping cart. We’re big fans of Stripe for online payments as they offer a great service with low transaction fees. Online payments mean you can get paid at ANY time of the day or night when your client is ready to say “Yes” and pay you–neither you nor the bank need to be awake. You can **cheesy line alert** get paid while you sleep.

Consider Direct Debits for monthly fees: So your payments are automatically taken from your customer’s bank account and you don’t need to invoice or ask to be paid every month. And because you don’t have to worry about a card expiring, direct debits are more reliable for ongoing payments. We’re big fans of GoCardless for this.

Confirm how you’ll be asking for payment IN your sales conversation: As part of getting a “Yes” in the sales conversation you have with your client, also discuss and confirm how they would like to pay. That way they know what to expect and don’t have to decide later (or think about it) when you ask to get paid that way.

Include an order form with a payment link WITH your quote or proposal: Don’t wait for a “Yes” to raise an invoice–include an order form that can be accepted right away along with a way to pay. Ideally include an online payment option here, but even if you invoice, ask for an agreement to the order and send the invoice automatically by return.

Set up a sequence of automated reminder emails to go out after you send your quote or proposal (and order form) if you know clients will need a nudge (or 3) before paying. These could be as straightforward as “Don’t forget to pay so we can get started” reminders, or some more examples of your work or testimonials to remind them why they said “Yes” to working with you. Another option here is to assume they are going ahead and send the client preparation work or tasks ahead of getting started so they feel they are already working with you and so will make sure you get paid.

Set deadlines: If you need to get paid before starting work, and planning your time to work in advance is an important part of this, don’t be afraid to set deadlines for payments and stick to them! When this is your business policy, it’s OK to say things like “I’ll try to keep that date blocked off until payment is confirmed” or “I’ll pencil you in now, but it will only be confirmed when payment is received”. It’s entirely understandable that you won’t hold any dates indefinitely without payment as confirmation, so don’t feel you have to.

Have waiting lists: If it fits with your business model, don’t be afraid to make people wait. If you build up a waiting list, then when you do make bookings or sales available–especially if those are limited in availability–you’ll get paid quicker. Buyers will want to confirm they are ‘in’ having been kept waiting. You literally line up buyers ready to pay you and let them all pay at once to secure your services until you’re sold out again and the waiting list starts over.

Obviously I could mention here that if you want to get some of these ‘get paid quicker’ actions actioned, then you might want to think about using some simple connected software to help you book those sales calls, send out nice quotes, include order forms with online payment links, follow up afterwards automatically and then add everything directly into your accounts… But that might be a bit too obvious. However if you were curious, then *coughs*, Connectably can help with all that ^^

Connectably is simple connected business software, connecting everything you need to run your small business in one place, from marketing, to sales, to getting paid, to accounting.

From your phone or desktop send emails, create quotes and proposals, track sales, take payments and know everything is already up to date in your accounting software. Save time and work smarter with connected software to make ‘evening admin’ a thing of the past.

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