Perhaps we’re naïve, but our approach to paying people on time seems to be pretty unusual in the land of contracting. When we paid a new contractor (Sally) for the first time, she emailed back to say, “I was working on the basis that I'd be lucky to see it before next week”.
It’s easy to see why she was so surprised to get paid on time. Many agencies have a terrible habit of stringing people along. We see it every month, when we follow up the clients who haven’t paid us by the due date. The excuses are pretty standard:
- “We’ve not been paid yet by our customer”
- “The bookkeeper’s on holiday”
- “Our accounts person only works Wednesday afternoons”
- “What invoice?”
- “The PO number, narrative and amount are all perfect. But you need to add a special little code that we’re only telling you about now – 30 days after you issued the invoice”
As a copywriting agency, we’ve got enough resources (and patience) to deal with all this nonsense. For us, it’s about making sure clients take us seriously. That means:
- Explicitly telling clients that we own all the intellectual property we’ve created, until we’re paid in full
- Calling to make sure the client’s happy with the work, before we invoice
- Sending out clear, achingly detailed invoices – including a nice, big due date
- Popping a statement in the post, before the invoice is due
- Picking up the phone – and sending another statement – when an invoice becomes overdue
- Talking to our solicitor friends when things get silly. We’ve had to do this three times in 11 years – not bad going
Perhaps more importantly, we keep enough working capital to make sure we don’t have to trot out excuses to our suppliers. Because if you run a business close to the wire, you soon lose the goodwill of your best suppliers.
And without the best suppliers on your side, you’re playing with a huge disadvantage.