One of the most frustrating things about business is when invoices are not paid on time. And, one thing even worse, is when debts are not paid at all. London may retain its status as the financial capital of the world but not everyone living there is solvent and you may have clients who are not forthcoming with payments.
If you are unfortunate enough to have clients who have tried to get out of paying their debts, are slow payers, or have disappeared completely, then you need to know how to recover your money.
This article will explain some of the methods you can use to get clients to pay on time, how to manage debt, and how to find people when they run off with your cash.
Using technology and other methods to track down absent debtors
Sometimes a debtor may completely disappear on you. If the client was a sole trader or a very small business, then possibly they could disappear overnight. If this happens then you will need to know how to track them down.
Not surprisingly, social media is a favourite way to find people nowadays. So much of everyone’s life is put on the internet that it makes it a valuable resource for locating people.
The electoral register
Another favourite way to find someone who has absconded with outstanding debt is to look at the electoral roll. The electoral roll has strict rules about how it can be used and these are controlled by the Information Commissioner’s Office but there is an open version that anyone can buy and use.
It takes six weeks after someone registers a new address for it to show up on the electoral roll and if an individual fails to register for voting they will be missing from the register completely. With fines in place, most people will register.
You can employ professional companies to track down your debtors. These firms will use the methods listed above but will have access to software that helps them find people faster.
Once you have finally found your debtor you will need to make them pay. There are strict guidelines about how debt collectors can be used and you will need to make sure you are not breaking any laws. The Financial Ombudsman Service handles complaints about debt collectors, and you will be responsible for any firm you employ.
If you have used the small claims court then bailiffs can be instructed on your behalf to recover goods or cash to the amount owing once the client receives a judgment.
Using your unpaid invoices to raise funds
Factoring is one method you can use to raise funds on overdue invoices. This method involves you selling on the unpaid invoices to a factoring company who will typically give you around 80 percent of the total due.
The client will now have to pay the total to the factoring company who will then reimburse you the outstanding balance minus their fee. This is an alternative way to chasing invoices without needing the use of debt collectors.
Invoices can also be used to take out short-term loans but this doesn’t solve the problem of how to make the client pay. Another way you can speed up payments is by including some conditions on the invoice itself.
Report the debtor to a credit agency
State on the invoice’s small print that any invoice that goes past 90 days unpaid will mean the company is reported to credit agencies. This threat to their reputation and creditworthiness will often speed up payments.
Give an incentive to pay faster by offering a discount for speedy payments.
Penalise late payments
Add interest or penalties for late payments so it is in the client’s interest to pay faster.
Why is debt management so important?
Clearly, no business wants to have lots of outstanding invoices owing to them, but the importance of managing credit lines properly may be lost on some people. Keeping a business’s cash flow running smoothly is key to operating normally and surviving. If you end up with too many debtors you will end up being unable to pay your own bills and you could even cease trading.
When people take out finance they don’t always think the consequences through. A beginner’s guide to loans would point out that anything borrowed needs to be repaid, and most people fully intend to do this. However, some clients may hit hard times and if their debt isn’t managed properly then they may end up in a position where they are unable to pay to leave you with empty pockets too.
One of the ways that debt can be managed is with purpose-made software.
Using software to manage credit
Although it may come to a point where you are considering using debt collectors, avoiding debt in the first place may be your better option. You could insist on credit card details being given for orders so you can charge the total due at the time of invoicing, or if you allow credit then you can use software to manage it better.
Using an efficient cash collection system will allow you to automate many processes and free up much more of your valuable time. The software can help you in many areas such as sending follow-up communications, sending out reminder notes, and offering multiple payment methods.
Chasing debts can be time-consuming and get in the way of your real daily tasks. It can be frustrating too. Using automated systems means you can let most of the work be handled by software while still being included in the loop.
Working out a payment plan
One popular way to get unresolved debts paid is to allow the client or customer to set up a payment plan. This is an effective way to manage the debt as you will be more likely to receive the money owed if you make it easier for the debtor to pay.
For example, the debtor owes £1,000 and they have been dragging their heels. You could then suggest they make a payment each month of £250 until the debt is cleared. You will have to wait longer for your money to be returned but you will be more likely to receive these payments on time than if you keep chasing a larger amount that the client doesn’t have.
Modern debtor management software made by companies such as Payt often has options for setting up and handling payment plans. Once the plan is set up, the software can continue automating certain procedures and sending out invoices with little input from yourself.
Chasing debts holds little fun for you or the debtor, but not recovery money outstanding can leave you in a precarious position so it is a necessity. Debt collectors, lawyers, and the small claims court can all help you to recover funds outstanding but ideally, you will want to maintain a good relationship with the client.
If your client is generally a good payer it makes sense to try and hold on to them for future transactions. Using debt management software and controlling how much credit a client has may be the preferred route to take. This helps your client pay their debts easier, helps you to receive cash owing, and keeps you both on friendly but professional terms.