In a perfect world, CPA practitioners wouldn’t have to worry about collections.
Unfortunately, the world is indeed imperfect. Clients do pay late, and worse – sometimes they don’t pay at all.
The good news is, there are proactive steps you can take to increase the likelihood of getting paid on time. Here are ten tips that work for my firm:
The FDCPA is enforced by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), and it’s important that you and your team familiarize yourselves with it.
The Act prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect money owed.
Make sure you’re operating within the bounds of the law. Know what conduct is required, and what’s prohibited.
By identifying and avoiding “problem clients” from the outset, you can avoid collections in the future. Before signing on a client, ask:
Does this prospect fit the profile of our ideal client?
Does the prospect demonstrate integrity?
Is the prospect financially viable?
Does the client owe money to their prior accounting firm? If so, why?
In addition to screening prospects for signs of trouble, you’ll also want to perform due diligence with:
- A background check
- A credit check
- Checking references
I believe every firm should use an engagement letter because it documents your understanding with the client and serves as the first line of defense in the event of a dispute.
Additionally, it documents expectations for the engagement, including billing and payment terms.
During the term of this agreement, the client shall pay the accounting firm for their services the agreed upon sum of $_____. Payment shall be made by the ________ day of the following month.
This one’s easy: the more promptly you invoice your clients, the more promptly you will be paid.
One avoidable thing that can delay payment is when the client is confused by your invoice.
Sometimes people are more apt to put a bill aside unpaid (sometimes for months at a time) rather than call you and get clarification.
Make it easier for them – ensure that your invoice is easy to understand. Strive for detailed but concise descriptions of services rendered.
Your client should never get to a place where he grumbles to himself, “What am I paying all this money for?” And he won’t if you remember to constantly remind him of just how valuable you are.
Don’t be afraid to tactfully point out all the ways in which you go above and beyond, like with regular consultations and advice and providing genuinely useful content.
You need never hear the excuse “I forgot my checkbook” when you accept credit cards.
Credit cards make it possible to take payment any time, anywhere.
Don’t let late payments lapse.
Have a system for generating a reminder as soon as a deadline is passed.
The longer you let the account go, the less likely you are to see your money.
Some practitioners use only one method to collect, but that’s a bad idea.
For example, if you send out reminders only by regular mail, it’s possible your client may have a tendency to ignore mail and let the envelopes pile up for months. V
ary your approach by also sending our reminders by email and placing the occasional phone call.
How many of these methods can you implement over the next 3-4 weeks?
The more steps you take, the less likely you are to ever suffer a slow-paying or non-paying client again.
Having a large roster of clients and premium fees are beautiful things, but they mean nothing if you’re not getting paid.