Credit Control – Before you start work
Credit control really starts from the moment you consider taking a job, from any client, translation agency or not. Have you confirmed all costs in writing, with or without VAT? Is it a fixed price or dependent on an hourly rate? Is there a limit on number of hours? Have you been given a purchase order? What are this company’s credit terms? When you are clear on these answers, and happy with them, only then should you start work.
Once you have finished the work
Once the work is completed, invoice promptly. Often, the sooner you send your invoice, the sooner you will be paid. Plus, take it from me, it’s annoying to receive an invoice several months after the work was completed.
Do follow the instructions on invoicing to the letter. Get all the details correct – including full company name and address. If in any doubt, include as much detail as possible, purchase order number, job numbers and references. Remember that your invoice should also include your full name and address, and contact details in case of any query. Make sure you add how you would prefer to be paid, including any bank details, PayPal address etc. Use a numbering system for your invoices as this makes it much easier to keep track of payments and anything that may have got lost.
Submit your invoice
Send the invoice by the method instructed. Usually these days, an email is sufficient. Some companies (like Atlas), ask you to log in and submit an invoice online.
A key part of credit control is keeping careful records of all your invoices, when they were sent and when they were due. Follow up to ensure that the invoice was safely received. If the client has a query, resolve it as quickly as possible to avoid any further delays.
If payment does not arrive promptly, send a polite message to the accounts department and/or your contact at the company, to check everything is OK and that payment is on its way. Whenever you send a reminder, also attach a copy of the invoice, so if it has somehow been lost, the client now has a new copy without having to spend time requesting it.
Remember that large companies can have quite complicated purchasing systems (and extended credit terms) so it really is worth following up your invoice, even before it is due, to ensure it’s been received. If you wait 60 days and then discover the invoice has never been received, you will have to submit again and potentially wait a further 60 days. Very frustrating so best avoided to start with!
However you remind clients about overdue invoices, make sure you use a friendly and professional tone, not rude or abusive. No Accounts Manager will put you at the top of the list if you are grumpy and unpleasant. Delays happen, people leave, managers don’t keep up with their paperwork, someone forgets to approve your invoice… Chances are whoever you speak to isn’t responsible for the delay. Remember this when managing your own credit control!
Still no money?
Make 2 or 3 phone calls, and if no payment is forthcoming, send a Formal Demand for payment. This assumes that no queries have been raised regarding your work. The Demand will clearly state all details of the invoice, and dates of your calls and email messages, and will indicate that despite your very best efforts, no payment has been received. Include a date by which you will be expecting payment and make it clear that this is your last attempt before you are forced to take further (legal) action to recover the amount due.
If you are based in England and waiting for payment from a company based in England, the system is straightforward. This website is very helpful. At Atlas we will complete the court forms, including interest and court fees. We then send the client a copy of the form, advising it will be submitted online within 5 working days if no payment is received.
With your record keeping, you will have no problem completing the details on the form – in summary that you took on a job, you have agreement of payment and terms in writing. You completed the work and submitted your invoice. You have tried your best to recover the amount owed (list phone calls and emails, any promises made, formal notice). Keep this factual and do not add in personal details or your frustration with the client! You will need to pay a court fee, which the client will need to pay, along with interest.
We follow procedures along these lines for any clients who seem to be avoiding paying us. And if we need to start court action to recover any debt, even a small one, we will do so.
I wish you all luck and plenty of fast paying, trustworthy clients – as most of them are!
If you’d like to find out more about our translation services, have a chat with us using the ‘live chat’ box in the bottom corner of your screen. Otherwise, contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss your needs.