Have late paying customers that have not paid your SEO agency or who are overdue?
Today’s post is for other SEOs and marketing agencies—these tips also apply to many small business owners too.
If you are an SEO, not getting paid by a Client is frustrating, especially when you have gotten great results for them and have worked very hard to do so. If they owe you money, you need to first make sure that they are happy with your service and that the lack of payment is unrelated to their satisfaction or you may end up talking about more than payment with them. Still, regardless of satisfaction, unless you are in a pay for performance agreement, the Client should pay you for the scope of SEO work you executed.
‘How did I get into this situation to begin with?’ is a good question to ask yourself. Because not getting paid by clients for the services you have provided is a reality in any type of business when you don’t get paid upfront.
And, though I’ve had some partner agencies swear on trusting clients and billing only after work gets done, as an SEO agency you want to limit liability and mitigate risk. You won’t lose the respect of Client’s by asking for payment and explaining your policies upfront. You will have an issue if you change policies with no notice or do not inform clients how you work upfront and on what payment terms.
Make it their choice to work with you or not.
Here are 10 things you can do if you don’t get paid for your SEO work that will make you run your business better:
- The best thing to do would be to get paid upfront always. Full payment or a deposit is the minimum you should take. Yes, you might lose some customers who don’t want to pay to play but you won’t lose money and well, that’s worth money.
- If you get paid by check, then also keep the Client’s credit card on file (or up to 2 forms of payment) with them understanding it can be used as a backup for payment on a specific date of the month if they don’t send a check on time.
- Always use a contract that explains payment terms, late payment charges, interest etc., especially for larger accounts.
- If a client misses one payment, immediately stop working, inform them work has ceased and do not continue service. If it’s your fault because you billed late, this does not apply.
- If you are getting the run around or a lack of communication from the Client after addressing the late payment on the phone, email or even text, then ask the Client for one small ‘good faith’ payment by a specific date to show their commitment to pay you. Do this in writing. Yes, it can be uncomfortable but not as uncomfortable as not getting paid. For example, if a company owes you $2000, ask for 10%, or $200. If they won’t send $200 this week chances are, they have no intention to pay you, ever, in most cases. It’s a good way to see their intent and SEOs we must understand intent, right?
- Call and speak to your Client personally. Be nice but be direct. It’s how you communicate and what you say. You can be stern and hold your ground but most importantly, establish policies and communicate them. It’s easier to refer to your company’s policy than it is to have an off the cuff discussion about your needs for payment. If you attempt to get in touch and you find the Client delays response or beats around the bush, or even threatens to not pay you if you do not actually continue to provide service, then you are in a manipulative situation you must get out of.
- Keep your policies the same for family and friends and unless you are starting up try not to mix business and personal life.
- Consult an attorney or mediator if you know one who can help you write a letter. Hopefully you can avoid courts and lawsuits. Write and behave in a manner that limits your exposure.
- Hire a collections agency who can work on your behalf. They may or may not collect but it’s worth it when direct communication has failed and you don’t have other options.
- Document a paper trail of communications to establish a record you may need later, for example, if you go to small claims court.
What you should NOT do if your client refuses to pay:
- Don’t miss sending invoices and reminders weekly.
- Never make threats that increase your liability.
- Never act hastily and do something you might regret later.
- Never insult, curse or act aggressively to a Client.
You will be much better off in the long run if you learn to limit risk better. You’ll thank yourself later. Because when you aren’t getting paid for your agency’ services, it’s not better to have SEOed and lost than to have never SEOed at all. The best solution is prevention.
About the Author:
Doug Betensky is the Founder and President of Upside Business Consultants, an SEO agency and online marketing firm based on Long Island, NY that helps Clients generate Customers not just Leads. Upside is a customer acquisition company using a combination of SEO, Search Engine Advertising, Social Advertising and Inbound Marketing to help its Clients build better brands and more profitable lead generation strategies.