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Late payers - possibly the worst type of client?

In the world of self employment, late payments can be a frustrating and all too common occurrence. As a virtual assistant based in the UK, I have felt the impact that overdue payments can have on your cash flow and overall business operations. There are steps you can take to address this issue proactively and ensure that it doesn't happen again.

Understand the Impact

Late payments can disrupt your business in several ways. They can strain your cash flow, making it difficult to cover expenses such as bills, payroll, and supplies. Additionally, chasing clients for late payments can be time-consuming and frustrating, taking you away from more productive tasks, like your other clients. Personally, I'm a "chase twice kinda gal", as I like to give the benefit of the doubt, but you need to be comfortable with your terms from the outset. Things can go wrong, life happens, but that doesn't mean that people can take advantage of your good nature. We all have bills to pay.

Setting Clear Terms

One of the most effective ways to prevent late payments is to establish clear payment terms from the outset. When taking on a new client, be sure to outline your expectations regarding payment frequency, methods, and penalties for late payments. Make sure your clients understand these terms and agree to them before you begin working together. I know this can sound quite formal and negative, but in my experience the only individuals that take issue with the formalities are the ones who would take advantage of not having them in place!

Invoicing Promptly

Sending out invoices promptly can help to expedite the payment process. Be sure to include all relevant details, such as the services provided, the amount owed, and the payment due date. Consider using invoicing software to streamline this process and track outstanding payments. I use Anna for my business banking and I also invoice through it, all from a handy little app.

Following Up Politely (1st chase)

If a payment becomes overdue, it's important to follow up with your client in a timely and professional manner. Send a polite reminder email or make a friendly phone call to inquire about the status of the payment. Often, clients may simply forget or overlook their financial obligations, and a gentle reminder can prompt them to take action. This happens to the best of us, and it's important to keep an open mind initially and maintain a positive relationship.

Applying Late Fees (2nd chase)

If your client continues to neglect their payment obligations, you may need to take more assertive measures. Consider implementing late fees or interest charges for overdue payments, as outlined in your initial agreement. These penalties can serve as a deterrent for future late payments and help to compensate you for the inconvenience.

Seeking Legal Assistance

In cases where all other attempts to secure payment have failed, you may need to seek legal assistance. I once had a non-paying client who left it until I was applying to small claims court to pay, and I was going to complete the process myself, but you can also consider consulting with a solicitor who specialises in debt collection to explore your options. While this step should be considered a last resort, it can be necessary in situations where your business is facing significant financial strain due to unpaid invoices.


Dealing with clients who don't pay on time can be a challenging aspect of running a business, but it's important not to let these issues go unaddressed. By establishing clear payment terms, invoicing promptly, following up politely, applying late fees when necessary, and seeking legal assistance if needed, you can protect your business interests and maintain a healthy cash flow.

Remember, communication is key. Keep the lines of communication open with your clients, and address any payment issues promptly and professionally. With persistence and diligence, you can minimise the impact of late payments on your business and ensure that you are fairly compensated for your services, as you deserve to be.

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