Chartered Management Accountant
Midas Accountancy
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Invoice Etiquette

I know I have posted on this topic before and in my recent post (Sinking without a Trace) I have pledged to "grow some" and stand up to clients who are taking the proverbial but...

I have two clients for whom I have completed the accounts, mostly and now they have the information they wanted (in one case an estimated Net Profit for a mortgage application, and the other the amount of corporation tax due for the year), they are refusing to respond to emails sent requesting a last few pieces of information required to complete the accounts and thus raise my invoice. I know I should be billing up front and collecting Direct Debits and I am tackling this client by client. But in the meantime:

1. For the client who has 2 small queries outstanding and has his mortgage reference, but the accounts are not completed would it be acceptable to send him an invoice for a % of the work completed? This was a substantial job and because the mortgage reference was required asap I (foolishly) prioritised it. It's been several weeks since the final review meeting which highlighed a couple of small points that required clarification. Otherwise 90% of the work is completed.

2. For the client who wanted to know their corporation tax bill for the year, they again wanted their accounts completed asap. I attended a year end review meeting, which one of the directors decided not to attend at the last minute, but the other director happily signed off the accounts. The following day the other director (who could not attend) sent me an email with a list of queries and has requested that the accounts were not filed until the issues were resolved. This has been rambling on for 2 weeks now, and the invoice I raised (the day the accounts were signed off) is overdue for payment. As the accounts have not been filed, is it acceptable for me to chase for payment?

I will be insisting that both clients pay monthly in advance next year or seek a new accountant as I'm sick of dealing with these people.

Thank you in advance for all advice.

SD

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By imain
27th Jun 2011 20:16

Get on with it man!

The delay is not of your making, I see no reason whatsoever not to bill on an interim basis on both cases while you wait for the response.

You might want to remind them that long delays lead to inefficiencies and possibly extra fees at the same time!

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By Flash Gordon
27th Jun 2011 21:16

Invoice in full

Send invoices in full. If they reply and say you've not 100% finished tell them that you're waiting for them, haven't had an answer and so have no choice but to bill them. After all you've done the work that the invoices relate to. And in future definitely get the money THEN do the work :)

Hindsight's a wonderful thing!

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27th Jun 2011 21:43

Spell it out

Try to be tactful (not one of my strongest virtues, I'm afraid!), but point out that you have done them the courtesy of giving their work priority, and you would appreciate the courtesy of speedy responses in return.

If you don't get a quick response I would write/email again saying a good business relationship is based on mutual respect and cooperation, which you are not currently receiving, so you are now invoicing additional fees to reflect the additional work, ie. the repeated reminders, and the constant rescheduling of your work caused by their lack of communication.

If you want to keep these clients I would get ALL the money up front on a permanent basis in future, and refuse to do any work otherwise. If you have the money in advance, and you make sure you keep good records of who is causing the delays, then the stress and worry isn't as bad. Make it clear that jobs will be completed in order of receipt, and they go to the back of the queue if you have to wait for information. DON'T rush to make up for their delays unless they are paying a premium for the privilege.

Personally, I would get rid of them, as they are unappreciative and disrespectful.

A generalisation, I know, but it is this type of client that causes our stress levels to rocket, and they are typically the biggest whingers if they get treated as shabbily as they are treating you.

 

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Thanks all

Thanks for the responses. I've sent off the invoice and a reminder for the late invoice which hasn't been paid. That feels much better!!

It's so frustrating that I provide a very high level of support to both of these clients and they are always telling me how much they appreciate the high level of service they receieve. Also, these two clients were putting on the pressure for these jobs to be prioritised over my other clients, many of whom would have paid asap and provided all of the required information straight away. I suspect they think I'm a pushover and a mug.

Shirley, you are absolutely right. It's taken me a long time to come around to this way of thinking, but I am now of the opinion that any of my clients who try to treat me in this way, will be told to take a short walk. I have too many grey hairs already and I'm only 29!

Sir Digby

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27th Jun 2011 23:23

It is worse this year

I've found that even some of my best clients have been slow this year. It's quite difficult to know who/how. I don't want to introduce measures that affect all my clients due to actions of a few. I've had somebody take a week to give me the ok on accounts, two weeks to send me credit card statements. Three weeks to send me transactions for three days after sending me everything up to 28/03/11. Months to send me bank statements. I don't think they are doing it to delay payment. I think it's the spread of incompetence. There seems to be fewer people around who think it's important to do things well. If something is not fun they try not to do it. I keep chasing them and I charge them more. I don't give fixed fees. I tell them what it will be if they give me the information I ask for in the format I ask for and complete and accurate. Any time I have to chase or deal with their errors I charge them more and tell them what they have to do different. OK, I get paid later which isn't great but a lot of my clients pay quickly so I just accept it. I don't think you can have a one size fits all but by all means zero in on people who make things difficult.

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Chick ....

 it is always the clients that 'appreiciate you the most' and who 'couldn't do without you' and who need a bit more help than others, who end up screwing you over in the end (excuse the french). Tough love is often needed ... failing that stick them on DD!!

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By thacca
28th Jun 2011 13:31

Draft Bill

I always invoice 75% when I have produced draft accounts.

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01st Jul 2011 11:39

Billing

 I found out many years ago that the clients who could afford to pay quickly didn't and those that couldn't really afford it paid the moment they got their invoice (or sometimes before). I introduced a scheme whereby we added on 7.5% to all bills and showed a "discount" if paid within 7 days. Surprisingly it seems to work! If I know people genuinely cannot pay and they contact me within the 7 days I always show tolerance but the guys that can afford it don't know that! I know many of you believe in standing order/up front billing but I have tried that and I find there is much less incentive to do the work if you have "other" things to do when you have been paid already or is that just me being lazy and having a hectic home life as well?

Another thing we have done this year is send out a letter asking clients to get things in early (last year 40% of clients brought there stuff in Dec/Jan). Because information is always missing we are also sending a list of essential records and a list of "might be required if they had done ....... records" together with a note saying incomplete jobs will go to the back of the queue and dated as received when the last piece of information is received!. That gets me out of the stringent penalties if they delay things next year and so far we have had lots of phone calls cchecking what is needed but only one person who failed to bring everything in! Fingers crossed.

You might want to think about the late payment interest for small business's on your already outstanding invoices as well. If nothing else the threat of it should shift them!

 

 

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