When you’re asking for money, use an approach calculated to minimize conflict and maximize results.
Asking for money is challenging for many of us. We aren’t comfortable with asking for payment on accounts or replenishment of trust accounts. We’re normally talkative to the point of annoying others, but when it comes to money, we get quiet.
You should, of course, send your client an invoice explaining fees that are due. Send it via e-mail or snail mail. That’s a reasonable approach.
However, when the bill isn’t paid, it’s time to deal with collecting the amount due.
That’s when we need to go low tech. Don’t let your hesitation about asking for money steer you toward high tech. It’s easy to put technology between you and your client in an effort to avoid a difficult conversation.
Instead of talking about an outstanding balance face-to-face or on the phone, many of us try other approaches. Email is our favorite. We shoot off a quick message (or even better, have someone else do it) and hope for a quick payment.
Email is no way to collect money. Don’t do it. It’s a mistake.
Conversations about money with clients who aren’t paying their bills need to take place one-on-one.
Asking for money tends to surface issues. Clients who are unhappy about anything respond to requests for money with negativity. You don’t want that conversation happening over email. Email is a terrible way to have an upset conversation. You need to talk to the client the old-fashioned way: you and the client connecting directly so you can hear each other.
Ideally, you’ll remind your client about fees when he or she is in the office talking with you. It’s helpful if you’re actually working for the client when you bring up the fee. The second-best approach is a phone call. You should make the call rather than delegating it to someone else. You need to be in the game when it comes to fees. Don’t hand it off to someone else. The client hasn’t forgotten to pay. The client got the bill and ignored it. You need to find out what’s going on by placing the call yourself.
Be proactive about collecting balances from your clients. Make the call. Find out what’s going on and figure out how the client is going to fulfill his or her obligation. Don’t put an email or an automated system between you and the client. Don’t bring an administrative assistant or paralegal into the process.
Make the call. Get it done. Find out what’s going on, and collect the money. That’s the approach that will minimize conflict and maximize results.