I’m currently doing a series on being a virtual assistant, which was how we paid our bills for a while before Organize Your Biz was around.
One of the questions I’ve heard from my lovely Facebook groupies (you should join us, we love meeting new entrepreneurs! The group is right here.)
Each client and assistant works differently, but the best way to manage your clients’ payments are through an automatic system like Dubsado. Dubsado manages your payments for you, sends reminder invoices if your clients don’t pay on time, and they even help you manage things like allowing clients to sign your contracts!
For one-time jobs, you can do something like a simple Paypal invoice, but since you’ll still need to send them a contract anyway, it’s just easier to have everything on one easy place that makes it simple to manage your business when you have more than one client. It also makes you look more trustworthy, instead of having someone just sent you money, which adds a layer of trust to the relationship.
Tips for making sure you always get paid
People have a lot of fear around not getting paid – because working for free probably isn’t your dream right? Yeah, it’s not mine either. I like getting big, fat checks, and hate any uncertainty around money and whether or not I’ll get paid. Money should always be a sure thing, so here are my best tips for making sure you get paid for your client work quickly, efficiently, and consistently.
Don’t work for free
When you’re working with clients, don’t start working until you have money. I don’t care if you’re working for your aunt’s friend or your best friend’s mom – don’t work without having money in hand, unless you want to work for free. If they don’t pay you upfront, they may decide to cancel the project, then you’ve worked for money that will never happen.
I had this happen. A friend of my husband’s needed some designs done with a quick turnaround. Since he was a friend, I “knew he was good for it” and didn’t bill him before I started. At first, he needed one design, which quickly grew to five different designs. It took me months to get paid, after sending him bi-weekly invoices and becoming increasingly aggressive. Ultimately, it really ruined the friendship and was a huge frustration to Ian and I, because we really felt like he took advantage of our friendship to get free work done. Part of the payment was supposed to be
Always, always, always have a contract!
Having a contract protects everyone involved. So, let’s say you had a client who hired you for a big project. You take half the money upfront, and expect the other half when the work is completed according to the terms of the contract. If the client gets mad and demands a refund, but you’ve already done significant work on the project, if you don’t have a contract, you can get into hot water, but if your contract says that the first half of the project they paid to you is non-refundable even if the client cancels the project, legally you are fine.
I’ve actually had that happen to me! A client got mad because I told her I would not rush a job over a holiday weekend when I was out of town. She was so mad, she demanded a refund and I calmly reminded her that her deposit was non-refundable. She decided that she needed her website built in two days, so she went to someone else. It sounds big and official to have a contract, but it protects you from working for someone without actually keeping the money for the work you’ve done. It’s really something you have to have, which is a big part of the reason why we cover that in the new course, How to Make Money from Home as a Virtual Assistant.
Tips for billing for ongoing clients
If you’re not familiar with the virtual assistant world, there are typically three kinds of work you can do for a client. You can have hourly projects, projects with one-time fees, and ongoing clients who keep you on retainer. It’s a pretty common problem that people have when they’re assistant, and it’s really a shame because if you run your business properly it shouldn’t ever happen. Here’s how it goes.
A assistant has a client who says they need to pay them later, due to something they couldn’t forsee. Not wanting to offend the client and lose them, or sometimes because they don’t know how to say no, the assistant keeps working without being paid. This cycle drags out, and the assistant ends up doing a lot of work and being owed a lot of money. The frustration involved can ruin a relationship and create a lot of bitterness and frustration on both sides, because by the time the assistant “quits” and doesn’t do anymore work, the client has been used to them working on credit and don’t usually get why their assistant is suddenly mad at them.
So, here are a few quick tips for making sure ongoing client billing is smooth and easy:
- Make sure your payment terms are in your contract. Payment is due on the first of the month, and it’s late if it isn’t paid by the 5th, or whatever you decide on. Also, have a cutoff date. You’re providing a service, just like paying the electric bill. If your client hasn’t paid you by the late-pay date, stop working for them and let them know you’ll resume work when it’s paid.
- Automate your billing, payment reminders and the entire process around money. It can be hard to have conversations like “Uh hey, that payment was due a few days ago!” but if the process is handled by a system (like Dubsado, which is what I recommend!) then you write the email one time, and the system handles it for you. No awkwardness.
One quick note: f you’ve had an ongoing relationship with a client and they have consistently paid on time and suddenly they don’t one month, always check in with them. I know my assistant who basically runs the behind-the-scenes of Organize Your Biz and I had this issue. We love working together and one month, I had paid late. I’d switched banks and had forgotten to update the bank card that I had used for her automatic payments, and it had declined my payment. We fixed it, and it was no big deal. A new client who constantly has problems paying you should be a reg flag to you for your long-term relationship, but with someone you have worked with long-term without issues, don’t be afraid to reach out and make sure everything’s okay.
My point is: don’t sacrifice a good relationship with a great client over one late payment. On the other hand, if a client is constantly paying you late, it may not be worth the headache to keep them if it’s affecting your workflow and making your life difficult. Honestly, those kind of clients are the worst kind. I would never expect my assistants to work for free, and I hated it when clients didn’t respect me enough to pay me on time for the work they expected me to finish on time.
I loved my clients I worked for as a virtual assistant, and hope if you’re looking to become a virtual assistant you found this post helpful! I am always happy answer your questions, so if you leave a comment I promise to respond, and your question might even become a blog post! 🙂
If you’re looking to build your own virtual assistant business, this may help you out.