Through most of my career, I struggled to send bills and clearly press for payment. My clients were largely people who were in dire financial need, usually coupled with a not-so-unique circumstance (in the foreclosure arena) of having been preyed upon by a lawyer or another “service” that took money and did nothing or took actions prejudicial to the client. It went against my grain to ask them for even more money, but I had to keep myself afloat.
I tracked my time diligently, but delayed sending out bills to paying clients. I often stretched the time between service and payment to 90 days.
By the time clients received my invoices, I often had resolved their case in the intervening time. The service that inspired a big hug right after court was a distant memory–a “high” paid for after-the-fact, no different from bills for holiday gifts arriving in February.
This year, I empowered my clients and me. I quit putting billing to the back burner. As long as I have to track my time anyway (toward the goal of turning in accurate fee petitions), I quickly reduce my time to a bill for paying client.
This cased such a change in my life I had to name it: TAMED (Think About Money Every Day). Now, I write down my time as I do it and take 10 – 15 minutes to ask clients for money as I go. The clients get small, frequent bills. This allows for quicker payment–a $375.00 bill is more manageable than a $3,750.00 one after more has accrued through the month.
From the client viewpoint, there is instant feedback. Mistakes are rectified in the moment, not much later when time has passed and all we have are notes and hazy memories. Clients can quickly see if bills are accruing too quickly and talk about ways to narrow our work together to keep bills manageable.
Of course, composing a Word or Google Doc takes time and can be clunky–so we had to ditch our old system. Instead, we use Quickbooks Self-Employed, an interface so easy I have actually sent bills from the hallway of the courthouse!
Quickbooks is available at about half off here:
(Of course, I get a small referral fee.)
Clients can “click” to pay using several electronic options, or a few still mail an old-fashioned paper check. For the former clients, the one-click features mean I am paid quickly and efficiently. Invoices are automatically marked as paid, and the payment information is integrated into my tax software.
I kept my old system for a few “old timers” who expressed anxiety about the new system. But, for most of my clients, the frequent billing, easy interface, and array of payment options have opened new doors of communication and feedback about my services.