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There are several ways to try to prise money out of the clenched fist
of a deadbeat client:
1. Bypass the manager you've been talking to and call Accounts Payable.
Simply ask if they've received invoice #xx, and when they expect
to pay it. Don't TELL them anything -- inquiries about invoices
are a dime a dozen, and you do not have to justify them in any way.
You want to hear A/P's side of the story, because it may be completely
different from the managers. The situation may be entirely different
from what the manager told you, and the check may be forthcoming if
you send another copy of the invoice, or provide additional itemizing,
or satisfy some A/P requirement that the project manager doesn not
understand or is hostile to helping you with.
(Hint: Never, ever send an invoice only to the project manager. Always
send a copy to Accounts Payable. The A/P copy gives your invoice an
official existence, while the copy lost on the manager's desk is just
a piece of paper. Since A/P people are paid to pay bills, they start
looking bad of they accumulate too many overdue invoices, and will
eventually start leaning on the manager to sign off the invoices so
they can be paid. You will be told to send invoices only to the project
manager. Ignore this. Send two copies.
Hint #2: Never assume that a project manager knows anything about his
own company's financial policies, or that he can relay messages from
A/P without completely garbling them.)
Accountants do not like telling you that their business is not a
going concern, and that you're out of luck, because it's fraudulent
for the company to engage in business at all under those circumstances
without filing for receivership. Thus, you are VERY UNLIKELY to
be told anything but finance that isn't:
a. Send us another copy of the invoice and we'll get to work on it
b. The check is in the mail,
c. For some reason the invoice hasn't been approved by the project
manager, but when he approves it you will be paid,
d. We are filing for receivership, and send us another copy of the
invoice and I'll make sure you're on the list of creditors.
Option 'c' should trigger a call to the company's head of Finance,
who should be told that the project manager told you that the company
can't pay, while A/P says they can, but he has withheld approval, and
that you are confused by this, would like your money, and is it true
that the company is foundering? The Wrath of the Accounting Gods may
wreak a satisfying vengeance on all those who have worked to hold
up your check.
2. If they claim that they aren't going to pay you anyway, you can sue
them or engage a collection agency. If the debt is small, Small Claims
court is good, because it's cheap and company representatives rarely
show up -- so you win by default. It's somewhat easier to collect
on a court order than on an ordinary invoice. Collection agencies
don't do anything that you couldn't do yourself, but they're more
persistent about it.
(Hint #3: The first time any client pays you, write down their bank, bank's
address, and account number from the check. That way, you can present
the court order at the client's bank and siphon off the money directly
from their account. This worked for a friend of mine.)
Robert Plamondon, President/Managing Editor, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc.
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139