Collections for Freelancers

Client Not Paying? Freelancers Can Still Take Action

Freelancers and home business-owners do have options when it comes to non-payment by clients. Here are the professional ways to deal with the problem and try to get your earnings back.

Contract

First of all, do you have a written contract and is it signed by the client? This should detail your payment structure listing how and when you are to be paid. It should also mention your late fees. If you haven’t already done so, invoice your client a second time and refer to the terms and conditions in the contract. You can use an online accounting tool to send automatic payment reminders to your customers when invoices are due. Facing late fees may prompt the client into paying.

Having a contract can help protect you if you decide to take legal action against the client. But you may not even get as far as the small claims court. Sometimes merely filing a claim can spur the client into paying.

Play safe

The softly-softly approach might not be your style but try to remain civil with your client. Staying on good term means you don’t risk jeopardising any future contracts. This may just be a blip and they may be having a hard time with their own business. If you know your client well, assess if this seems to be a short-term problem.

Have a little patience and try to negotiate with them. Are you financially comfortable enough that you can offer the client a payment plan? If it seems to be a deep-rooted problem, then you need to explore other options.

Proactive approach

Send your client a detailed outline of the work you’ve completed along with the invoice. Keeping a timeline of completed projects will provide you with back-up if you need evidence of the work involved. If you feel confident enough, send your client a polite notice 7-10 days before payment is due and ask them to acknowledge this.

Make sure you’ve established a well-defined process to chase clients. Have templates ready to send reminders at set intervals. This saves precious time, enabling you to focus on what’s important to you and your business. Stay focused – your client may just be trying to stall the payment or even be testing your firepower. Check your company insurance so you’re sure of your legal cover level if things go wrong.

Business savvy

You can choose to withhold your services until you receive what you’re owed, depending on your payment terms. If the client is refusing the final payment, then you can refuse to deliver. Withholding the service should hopefully prompt the client into action.

Depending on the nature of your work, you could transfer files only once payment has been received. Explain what you’re doing to the client so they are fully aware of the consequences of late payment.

Lending Club Is Now Offering Business Loans

You likely know Lending Club is a peer-to-peer lending site that offers personal loans to individuals as well as the chance for personal investors to invest by lending money to individuals.

Now, however, Lending Club is expanding their services and offering business loans.  This is of particular interest if you own a business.

If You’re Looking to Lend Money to a Business

If you’re already investing in Lending Club, you may want to lend money to a business as well.  However, ordinary investors cannot yet do that.  “For now. . .the program is limited to institutional investors such as hedge funds, insurance companies, and family offices that manage wealth for the very rich, but eventually the company plans to let anyone invest” (Bloomberg Businessweek).

How to Qualify for a Lending Club Business Loan

Business funding can often be very difficult to get, so Lending Club’s business loans offer businesses a nice alternative to traditional funding options.  In order to qualify for a loan, a business must meet these minimums:

  • At least $75k in annual sales,
  • a personal guarantor by at least one 20% or greater owner of the company, and
  • the guarantor’s personal credit must be at least “Fair”

What Are The Loan Details?

Businesses that apply for a loan can borrow up to $100,000 for 1 to 5 year terms.

The interest rate is fixed for the life of the loan and can be as low as 5.9% to as high as 29.9%.  The rate your business gets depends on a variety of factors including:

  • how long your business has been established,
  • how financially strong your business is, and
  • the credit worthiness of the business, among other factors.

“Lending Club Chief Executive Officer Renaud Laplanche says the average interest rate will be 12.5 percent” (Bloomberg Businessweek).

Lending Club offers a “check your rate” button on their website.  Simply enter how much you need and what you plan to use it for and then you’ll be taken to a form to fill out that will check your potential rate.  (Filling out this form does not affect your credit score in any way.)

One of the best perks of the Lending Club Business Loan is that you can pay it off early with no pre-payment penalties.

The Fine Details

When borrowing, checking the fine print is always best.  There are a few other fees attached to the loan.

Borrower Origination Fee

The origination fee can range from 1 to 6%.  That money will be taken off the top of the loan.  If you borrow $10,000, for instance, and your origination fee is 3%, you will receive $9,700 because the $300 origination fee is taken off immediately.

The borrower must pay the origination fee to cover the cost of issuing the loans as well as the screening process.

Unsuccessful Payment Fee

If your automatic payment fails, you’ll be charged $15.

Late Payment Fee

A borrower is given a 15 day grace period.  If your payment is later than that, you will be charged either $15 or 5% of the unpaid monthly payment, whichever is greater.

Check Processing Fee

If you opt to pay via check, you’ll be charged a $15 fee.  If you use direct debit, you are not charged a fee.

Funding your business can be difficult, especially if you go through traditional channels.  Lending Club is expanding their business to offer business loans, which is one more way you can potentially find money for your business, whether you’re using it for debt consolidation, marketing, or another purpose.

If you have a business, would you look at Lending Club as a potential lender?  If you invest in Lending Club, would you like to invest in their new business loans?

Separate Your Business Accounts

I don’t think it’s any secret, in this online world, that just about everyone is trying to make a little bit of money with a website.  After all, it’s not terribly difficult.  It’s not necessarily easy, but it is far from hard.  Throw up a website, put some work into it, and start bringing in money.  I do it with this site and others.  There’s work involved, but you can make money.

If you’re going to do it, you’ve got to treat it like a business from the start.  I don’t mean that you have to create a company, license it with your state and the IRS, and create a board of directors.  What I do mean, is that you need to have the business assets and accounting separate from your personal assets and accounting.  Using your own personal checking account, savings account, and trying to keep them separate come tax time (and you’ll want to) can be very difficult.  So difficult that you almost have to be a CPA in order to keep it all straight.

Keep your business accounts separateWhen I first began making money with blogs and websites, I didn’t separate anything.  The money to buy the domains came directly from my personal checking account.  The money to pay for the hosting of the websites came directly from my personal checking account.  And then tax season came around.  While I hadn’t made much money from the sites, I did make some.  I wanted to be able to use the expenses of the sites to reduce the income from the sites, so I needed to figure all of that out and get totals for my taxes.  Instead of just going into my accounting software, pulling up the business accounts, and running a profit loss statement, I had to go through each months’ statement of my checking account, and single out the transactions that were related to the sites.  After I’d pulled them all out, I had to compile them into a spreadsheet and create a profit loss statement from them.  It easily took twice as long as it should have.  And that was when things were simple and I only had a couple of sites with a couple of transactions every other month or so.  It would be much more difficult now.

How should you separate your business accounts?

I’m still a fan of keeping things as simple as you can.  I don’t think you need to go through the whole filing process to create a company.   That’s something that can wait until you’re making a decent amount of money.  Ask your CPA if you want a more accurate number.  You can keep it simple.  What you really need is separate accounts and separate bookkeeping.

Start with setting up separate accounts for the business funds to flow into.  You’ll need your own business savings account. Add a checking too if you think you’ll have need of a debit card or actual checks to write out.  I’ve got a checking account and several savings accounts set up that are used solely for the business funds.  If you’re not going to use the business account debit card for online purchases (it’s probably safer not to), you’ll also want a credit card that is used only for business transactions.  Again, it doesn’t have to be in the business’ name, it just has to only be used for business use.  I use one that has a 1-5% cash back feature to save a little extra on expenses.

When it comes to keeping your books, you probably don’t need anything too fancy for your personal accounts.  Just enough to create your budget, and keep track of accounts.  For business, you really need something a little bit more.  I prefer a full on business accounting software.  There’s a couple out there, and you can probably pick one up cheap off of eBay.  They’re a little more complex than the software created for personal accounts, but I like the detail the complexity gives me.  Maybe you can get by with a robust spreadsheet.  But, something that you can use to give your CPA (even if that’s you) a full detail of the profit/loss of the company including all sources of income and expenses.

It may sound a little difficult, but it’s not any more difficult that it would be if you didn’t separate them first and then tried to separate them after you need to.  You’ll thank yourself later.