Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.
Being a solo practitioner has many perks. You are your own boss. No office politics or vying to make partner.
And you generally can work as much or as little as you like - as long as your clients consistently pay.
Of course that is the major downside to being a solo practitioner - if clients don't pay, you don't eat.
So how do you get your clients to consistently pay?
Here are ten tips for solo practitioners to collect fees:
1. Build relationships. Provide quality firm customer service. Send birthday and anniversary cards on firm stationary. Remind your clients that you care. It will be difficult for clients to not pay if you have a relationship. Plus, good customer service can lead to referrals.
2. Use an understandable agreement. Make sure your clients sign your written fee agreement. Clarify the fee, how it is calculated, and when payment is due. Be clear about the consequences of non-payment, including your ability to withdraw.
3. Use a fixed pricing structure. Have clients pay for your services prior to any substantial work being performed.
4. Shorten the payment deadline. Make payment due upon receipt of the invoice. Send out invoices on or about the 25th of the month. Clients will receive their bill in time to pay on the first day of the following month with the rest of their bills.
5. Send statements after a positive outcome. Clients are more likely to pay quickly if they are happy.
6. Offer payment convenience. Accept credit cards for clients to pay for legal services. Even your smartphone or tablet can be used as a credit card machine .
7. Manage your cash flow. Prepare a budget of cash receipts and payments for the next twelve months. Divide your billing by alphabet throughout the month to have a consistent stream of income. Or invoice two weeks before your significant monthly bills are due.
8. Create a firm collection policy. Establish a plan to keep track of delinquent clients. Have your staff call or send a letter the day after payment is due. Clients will be reminded that payment is due. Plus, clients will know you will be persistent until payment is made.
9. Know when to say when. As you build relationships, you may be flexible with clients having financial problems. But know when to say enough is enough. Evaluate your twelve month budget to determine how flexible you can be without hurting your business.
10. Don't back down. Collecting from delinquent clients is not easy. But you work hard. And you deserve to be paid for your hard work.
Jennifer K. Halford is an attorneywhose practice focuses on business law and estate planning. She is also a professor at California State University, Chico, where she teaches Entrepreneurial Law.