Eighty percent of small businesses are struggling with late payments. 

When small businesses have delinquent accounts, it puts a major halt in their cash flow.

If cash is king, what are these businesses supposed to do when they’ve lost control of the money that should be coming in?

No business should be put in a position where they cannot effectively manage their cash flow. Small businesses need to put an end to late-paying customers, regaining control over their cash and their financial wellbeing.

Start preventing delinquent accounts today by following these six simple tricks that will make sure you get paid.

6 steps to help you get paid faster

Be careful.

Net terms are not for everyone. Plain and simple.

There are some customers who you can trust to pay you, and some you cannot.

Your job is to become an expert in figuring out which is which. How so? Due diligence.

Know as much about a customer as you can before extending them credit. Pull their business credit report to see how they’ve financially performed in the past.

Have each customer apply for credit and make your credit application specific enough that you can do quality research on credit candidates. Ask for trade references so you can see their past payment behaviors.

Nothing can be more informative than knowing how a customer has operated with another creditor.

Be clear.

Make sure your customer understands your policy.

Create a written credit policy and put it in a place that is consistently visible, such as your website. Identify the terms in which you operate with customers (30 days? 45 days?) and reference your late payment consequences.

Leave no room for questions, and eliminate the possibility of any “he-said, she-saids.”

Also, use clarity in your invoice wording. Don’t overwhelm them with a ton of information, but be concise and to the point. Avoid general phrases like “due in three weeks” and stick with an exact due date.

Use this opportunity to reiterate the details of your credit policy. You can never over-inform when it comes to extending credit.

Be polite.

Did you know by simply adding a “please” or “thank you” to your invoice, you can increase your chances of getting paid by five percent?

Being polite can go a long way. Be friendly and warm in your invoices. Remember, the customer hasn’t paid late yet.

By being cordial, customers will have a more positive response to your communication and you have a better chance at being atop their payment priority list.

Be convenient.

The easier it is for people to do something, the more likely they will.

It’s time to embrace quicker payment methods for your customers. Make online payments available, which will make it easier for your customer, allowing them to immediately react to any payment notice and cut out the time it takes for you to receive a check in the mail.

Be flexible.

There are times when customers hit difficult financial spots. We’ve all been there.

You’ve been cautious when extending credit, but you didn’t see this coming (and neither did they). Sometimes it’s O.K. to work with customers whose cash is momentarily tight.

You just have to be the judge in deciding if this is habitual or situational. Don’t indulge the habit, but help out those who’ve hit a rough patch.

Look at offering these customers installment plans. Although you don’t receive your entire sum up front, it will allow you start receiving cash and will help guarantee that you, in the end, receive all your cash.

When you work with a customer to develop a plan that meets their needs financially and still gets cash flowing into your system, you’re saving yourself.

Installment plans, in fact, are at times the difference between you getting paid or not getting paid at all. Option number one is always the best, even if you have to be flexible with the terms.

Be consistent.

The thing to always remember when extending net terms is the human element.

We are busy people who easily get sidetracked and easily forget. It’s not unheard of for a customer to receive an invoice, set it aside, and unintentionally allow it to get lost under a pile of papers.

Do them a favor and remind them. If it is a week before payment is due and you still haven’t received anything, don’t hesitate to send them a friendly reminder email or letter.

Keeping yourself on their radar will only help increase your chances of getting paid.

What to do when these aren’t enough

Sometimes, no matter what precautions you take, you’re still going to have customers who take their sweet time to pay.

Or, perhaps, you’re just now starting to implement the steps above, and it might take some time for you to see a difference.

Either way, if your cash flow is lumpy from slow-paying customers, and you’ve tried everything above and still are in need of your cash fast to get business moving, then you might want to try financing those invoices. 

In short, invoice financing is when a lender advances you money based on the value of an outstanding invoice (or invoices), and you pay the lender back when the customer pays you. This is a very general description, as there are many different invoice “financing” or “factoring” companies who operate in their own unique ways.

For example, you have traditional factoring companies that will buy the debt from you and actually pursue your client for payment. Not only are you getting a cash advance, but you’re outsourcing your collections.

Or, you have technology-enabled lenders like BlueVine and Fundbox, that allow you to connect your accounting software and run the whole process from your computer.

BlueVine operates more like a traditional financing company, where they upfront you a certain percent of the invoice amount (usually around 85 percent), and then give you the rest, minus any applicable fees, once your customer has paid. Your customer won’t know you’re financing the invoices, though, as BlueVine doesn’t collect on your behalf.

Fundbox is different, though, in that they use the invoices as collateral and advance you the full amount. You then pay back the advance (plus fees) once a week, for 12 weeks, until it is paid off. You don’t have to wait for your customer pay with Fundbox.

These are just a few of the many wonderful examples of companies that are trying to solve cash flow gaps left by slow-paying customers.

If you really feel like it may take some time for the steps above to start having an affect on your AR process, or you have a few customers that are just always trouble, it’s definitely worth it to check out your invoice financing options.

Do you have any other tips for getting paid faster? What has worked for your business?

View our Business Management Guide today!

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Meredith Wood
Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood is the Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Prior to Fundera, Meredith was the CCO at Funding Gates. Meredith is a resident Finance Advisor on American Express OPEN Forum and an avid business writer. Her advice consistently appears on such sites as Yahoo!, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, AllBusiness, and many more.