my client is always late paying me

A reader writes:

One of my clients, a creative agency, has always had issues paying my invoices on time, but it’s getting worse. Every single time I send an invoice, I have to go back and remind them to pay me. It’s a great company, but I’m starting to get frustrated that I can’t send an invoice without having to follow up repeatedly. Sometimes they say they missed the invoice, sometimes they apologize, but I eventually always get paid. How can I broach this? It’s embarrassing to be in a position where I can’t ride out their inconsistencies.

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Can I use a heating pad for cramps at work?
  • Will it reflect poorly on me if my husband turns down a job with my company?
  • A candidate wants to know why we didn’t reschedule their interview

{ 99 comments… read them below }

  1. She of Many Hats*

    LW 1 – It’s not a great company if they’re consistently not paying you in a timely manner. If you did that with your electric company, you’d get sent to collections and have your power cut. You can fire clients and it is probably time to do so or rewrite your contract with them to pay a significant amount of the expected bill ahead of the work.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      There are multiple axes of “great” though. A company that provides a great deal of work, is easy to work with, is flexible with scheduling, pays top of market rates, and eventually pays is not a client you want to fire lightly. Even if chasing them down for payment is a pain in the ass.

  2. Heart&Vine*

    Late fee! Late fee! Late fee! Some people just won’t fix their bad behavior until they’re forced to face real consequences. Update your contract. Getting hit with a “5% fee every day the payment is overdue” will surely create a Come-to-Jesus moment for them.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        This, if they balk at agreeing to a contract with late fees. It is the same thing, but feels like a bonus of swift payment rather than a penalty for tardiness.

        1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

          Especially if whoever actually does the paying can point to the amount of money they saved the company come evaluation time.

        2. Heart&Vine*

          The only problem with that is that you have to bank on the carrot being more effective than the stick. It might work but, if it doesn’t, OP is still stuck wasting their time and energy chasing them around. A penalty ensures that OP either starts getting paid on time or gets compensated for having to chase them.

          1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

            Either way, OP’s getting paid. The new pricing model will ensure that; the only difference is whether it’s called a “penalty for lateness” or a “reward for promptness.” The latter works better sometimes.

            1. Heart&Vine*

              Yes, as long as the contract includes both the late fee and the early payment discount, and not just the latter.

              1. fhqwhgads*

                I don’t think that’s what’s being suggested.
                Current method: invoice says due amt X
                Punitive method: invoice says due amt X, plus Y late fee if paid after DUEDATE
                Carrot method: invoice says due amt X+Y, mentions “if paid prior to DUEDATE, get discount, due amt = X

              2. JSPA*

                So long as the difference is dramatic enough, or comes in stages, it really doesn’t have to be both, so long as you adjust the base price way up.

                For example, you bounce up fees 30%, with a 30% discount for payment in under 8 days, a 15 % discount for payment between 9 days and three weeks, and full price after that. Or heck, you can even give them a 32% discount for the fastest payment; you’ll still come out ahead, one way or another.

          2. goducks*

            Also, it’s increasingly common for companies (especially large companies) to take offered discounts even when paying well beyond discounted terms. They know that trying to collect that improperly deducted 2% will cost the vendor more in time and trouble than it’s worth, so many will just let it go.

          3. Workfromhome*

            Well you could do a two pronged approach.
            “Hey i’m changing my fee schedule. My price is going from $20-25. Since you are such a great longstanding client i will give you a $5 discount for paying within X days so your cost shouldn’t increase at all as long as you keep paying me promptly.

            So now if they “go over” when you chase them you will be chasing them for a higher rate.

          4. parsley*

            I work in transactional finance, and in my experience late fees have generally been treated as suggestions more than threats, whereas every Finance Manager I’ve worked for has been keen to get an early payment discount where they can.

        3. Emikyu*

          I agree with this, but I wouldn’t agree to something that’s actually less than the current rate of pay. Basically what I would do is come up with a rate increase, with the early payment discount amounting to whatever you’d charge them normally. That way you either paid your normal rate on time (win!), or you at least get more when they do get around to paying you.

      2. AnonInCanada*

        This. You build the late fee in your price, then give them a carrot when it comes to terms. Let’s say you bury a 5% late fee in your price, but give them a 3% discount if they pay within 10 days of invoice. They think they’re getting a deal, and you’re getting paid on time. Win win!

      3. I Have RBF*


        My contracts tend to have “-2% 10, net 30. +5% penalty after 30, +10% penalty after 60.”

        I made the mistake of doing some 1099 work for a company once without doing this. The bastards paid everyone on a net 90. So I had to wait three months after finishing the job to get paid. It sucked.

        If they say “But it’s our policy to pay everything net 90, no sooner.” then you just build the penalty into the price, and consider not working 1099 for them any more.

        But most companies? If they have a good accounting department, they will pay within 10 days just to get that 2% off.

    1. Zzzzzz*

      New process based on history: 50% estimate upfront before work starts (actually, this should be done, always), and now, bc of their always late payment: they don’t get your final files unless they pay the final tally.

      1. JSPA*

        For home contractors, 50% upfront is now illegal in many states. I don’t know how broadly this applies to other contract jobs (probably varies by state?).

        CA (and NV, I think, unless it was AZ?) limit to 10% down or $1000, whichever is less.

        Several states limit to 30% or 33% down (off the top of my head, I remember MD, probably VA, maybe PA, and some that I didn’t expect…might have been GA or TN?) and similar 30-to-40% limits are common in other states (not sure if that’s by custom or by law).

    2. MassMatt*

      I would make sure the fee was high enough to truly compensate you for the hassle and lost revenue of late payments, or else they might take it as a license to pay you even later, on the “we’re paying for it” excuse.

      I would also re-think whether this organization is as great as you say. They might make the best widgets, tastiest pizza, or provide the very best aid to the homeless; if they are not paying the bills (especially the bills they owe ME) they are NOT great in my book.

    3. Statler von Waldorf*

      A 5% daily interest penalty wouldn’t be a come-to-Jesus moment. It would be a talk-to-my-lawyer moment, as a a 5% fee every day is flat-out illegal in my jurisdiction and I’d be surprised if it was legal in yours.

      The maximum amount of interest allowed by law in Canada is 60% annually. 5% a day would be 1,825% annually. While I am unfamiliar with the usury laws in all the US states, as the USA doesn’t have federal laws on this like Canada does, I would be surprised to find one that would allow you to charge a 1,825% annual interest rate.

      I’ve worked in a law office, and I have seen a case get thrown out because someone put a really high number in the interest rate box that made the entire contract illegal. That ended up being a very, very expensive mistake to make.

      1. Heart&Vine*

        Fair enough (I think in the US the standard is 1-2%). But if we assume the client has been given at least 30 days to pay (and OP can verify the invoice was received and is following up), I wouldn’t consider 5% unreasonable, esp. for repeat offenders. They would have to be 20 days late (beyond the initial 30!) before their overall payment doubled. In that case I’d be tempted to say, “You haven’t paid me for my work for almost two months. If you’re more concerned about the total doubling, you should probably be keeping a better eye on your bookkeeping.”

        1. Statler von Waldorf*

          A 2% late payment penalty per month is pretty standard in Canada from what I’ve seen, including from major US companies that do business here. That’s 24% annually, which is a very different from the 1,825% you proposed.

          But ok, you believe a 5% daily penalty is reasonable. Maybe you’ll even be lucky enough that the company pays it willingly, but I’m pretty skeptical on that front. What happens if they don’t? What’s your plan when a client decides not to pay your illegal late fee? Good luck getting the courts to enforce an illegal contract.

          This is important because in my experience, once the lawyers get involved, people simply don’t get paid, though this can vary depending on the specifics. So this practice can actually work against you if your only goal is to get paid quickly.

          That’s why this stuff matters. An illegal contact is worse than useless. It’s like a parachute with a big hole in it. It might make you feel better, but if you ever need to use it in court, it won’t save you.

    4. Mary Ellen*

      In 11+ years of running my business, I have yet to have a company actually pay the late fees in our standard contracts. No matter how late they are. In many cases, their procurement departments actively negotiate them out. The bigger the company and the better they pay, the more likely this is to be true. I just account for the delays in my margins.

    5. Pete*

      The other benefit of the late fee, is it forces the conversation on the LW terms.

      Instead of calling and trying to convince them to pay on time, they will need to initiate contact about waiving (or just not paying) the late fee. Even if they are hard-line about it (“We’re not paying this”) it requires them to:

      1) Reach out to LW, or start a conversation with LW – not the other way around
      2) That conversation will be about the late fee, and therefore the late invoice payment

      LW has so many options from there: “I can waive it this time, but in the future I need to be paid on time like any of your employees”, or “I’m sorry, this is the X time you’ve been overdue. I’ve waived it in the past but I can’t anymore” or even better “If we can figure out a method to ensure I get paid on time from now on, I can waive this”

      Plus, it’s a middle step before “Ongoing work stops if there is an outstanding balance over 60 days”

  3. DMLOKC*

    LW 1 — call the customer 10 days in advance of the due date and make sure they have the invoice teed up for payment. Then, call 3 days before payment is due and ask what date the check will be cut. My A/P is down to 28 days because we start chasing the money ahead of the due date. Does it annoy the customer? In 15 years, no one has said anything. I think they understand the importance of reliable cash flow.

    1. Blue*

      Hmm. As a freelancer with multiple clients, having to add this into my workflow would be an incredible pain to keep up with. I also think this would land really differently from an individual than from a vendor.

    2. Statler von Waldorf*

      Just because they don’t say anything to your face doesn’t mean your customers aren’t annoyed by this.

      I’ve done books for over 20 years now for a variety of clients. I have 100% seen vendors get “fired” for pulling stunts like this in a business-to-business context. I don’t think your point about no one complaining about it is as strong as you think. When I’ve seen this play out, they never complain about the client to the client’s face. They just replace the client with someone who is lower-maintenance.

      To be clear, I’m not saying it doesn’t work. If you’ve got clients booked for months ahead, or if you have a unique product, or if you are just really picky about your clients, than this can absolutely work. However, in most business contexts, pissing off your customers is rarely a good business move. I would advise adopting this advice with caution.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Agreed. If this happened at my old company, we would definitely say something! “Why are you always calling? We cut checks on Tuesday; if you have the invoice to us by Friday, a check will be in the mail Tuesday afternoon!”

      2. goducks*

        Yes. With this advice and with a lot of the other advice on this letter, a contractor should be careful with implementing, and fully understand their spot in the food chain, so to speak. If your field is full of people who could take your place, you have little leverage to be demanding and are better suited finding ways to work with the structures your clients have in place, rather than trying to bend them to your will. Vendors that are easily replaceable and the squeaky wheel or otherwise don’t go with the flow find they don’t have clients. If you are in high demand, you have a lot more leverage.

      3. MassMatt*

        research has confirmed that most customers are more likely to simply leave/not give repeat business than complain. This is why businesses should be grateful to a customer that brings up a valid complaint. They probably represent another dozen or hundred customers who experience the same thing and remain silent but never come back.

        Getting away with this kind of preemptive strategy really depends on where the vendor/individual is on their industry status or career path. Someone starting out can’t afford to turn many people away, while someone with a waiting list of clients (or rare skills) can afford to pick and choose who they want to work for. Maybe try it just for the problem client.

    3. Lurker*

      Except how you manage your cash flow is not the other company’s problem/business/responsibility.

      If I had someone do this to me, I would probably pay them more slowly to be annoying, and/or ignore their “reminders.” And choose to work with someone less high maintenance if the opportunity presented itself.

      1. MassMatt*

        Their cash flow is not your responsibility, but paying your bills is.

        This comment is reminding me of the boss who wrote in miffed that her employee was “disrespectful” in demanding payment after payroll had screwed up her paycheck for multiple pay periods.

        Habitual late payers get dropped by providers that have better alternatives, and find their options limited, because providers definitely talk about who doesn’t pay.

      2. Texan In Exile*

        It’s not “high maintenance” to expect to be paid on time. And it’s a really jerk move to deliberately slow walk a payment to a vendor who has asked for nothing more than to be paid on time.

        1. Lurker*

          No, but what DMLOKC describes is high maintenance. Particularly if the company has no history of not paying on time, and/or as in the example from Peanut Hamper, there is a set schedule for payment processing. If the vendor knows that the company processes payments on Tuesdays and the cut off for invoice submission is the Friday prior, you don’t need to follow up on Monday to see where the payment is. That’s annoying. Also, don’t turn your invoice in on Tuesday morning and expect it to be in Tuesday afternoon’s payment run.

          If your invoice is net 30 and you turn it in on time, then it will be paid within the time frame. It’s annoying for vendors to turn in a net 30 invoice and 3 days later ask where their payment it, when are they going to be paid, etc. That is a sure fire way to get your payment paid towards the end of the net 30 rather than the beginning.

          1. HooDoll*

            Agreed. Also feel free to ask if there is a reason they are late. I run an Ap department and usually it’s one of three things; our colleague gave us the invoice late (so note, always cc the accounting team and not just your client contact!); make sure your invoice has net terms. We will assume net 30 unless you write differently; and lastly, our approval process has three layers and if any person on the approval chain is on pto, things get delayed. So I don’t think it’s a big deal to ask your client if there’s something that can be done to ensure payments meet your net terms, and assume it’s a process issue and not malevolence. We recently had some vendors complain, and I sat down with my colleague and she and I worked out a new approval process so that me as accounting could get her stuff processed faster. But if the vendors and clients didn’t complain it probably would not have happened! But also, don’t ask for payment after 10 days. Honestly net 30 is standard and I try to do net 21 for small businesses and independent contractors. Big companies like Amazon get net 30 from me though!

          2. Shandra*

            The flip side of this is the time I told a vendor some invoices had been paid, because our accounting system showed a check had been cut.

            I had to dig further to find out the check hadn’t actually been mailed. The project leader tried to negotiate with the COO about writing off some of the vendor costs, instead of charging them to the client. They didn’t come to agreement right away, and the issue fell off both their radars. Nor was Accounting proactive enough to ask either of them, hey what should we do with this vendor payment check still sitting here?

            The lack of action lasted long enough that the nonpayment issue came up again, with the project leader’s admin. If the admin hadn’t happened to talk to me first, they’d also have told the vendor that payment had been made.

    4. COHikerGirl*

      Accountant, AR, AP, and everything else. Companies who do this? Their money gets paid on the nose 30. Companies who don’t? Usually a couple days sooner. I don’t say anything to the company but I sure do remember them (and not in a good way). I’ve recommended against companies like yours if all else is equal. Because cluttering up my inbox puts you on my “ignore at will” list.

  4. BillyJoe*

    It’s so frustrating how common this is in creative fields. A lot of companies aren’t well-organized when it comes to their pay-out procedures. I worked for one small org where all checks had to be signed by 2 people, neither of whom was in the office at the same time very often.
    It might help to inquire with your main contact there what they think is the most reliable method of getting paid out – some places are better if you can offer a credit-card payment portal or ACH

    1. Mrs. Bond*

      I’ve been in situations like that too. And I agree about starting by asking them what we can do to solve this problem. I’ve had good success with getting an email for their accounting department and sending the invoice straight to them, with a CC for my client. Accounting will make sure it gets signed off by the right people.

      I’m also kind of skeptical that this client is really that great. If you’re working for good people who respect you and your work, they will make sure you get paid. Is the work otherwise worth it? I mean, it could be. I’ve been in situations where the work was really interesting/fun/prestigious or I just really needed the work so I put up with some bad behaviour from clients. Maybe you want to keep looking for other clients who treat you better.

      1. Miette*


        I’m a freelancer now and regularly cc the accounts payable person when I send my invoice to one of my larger clients. The A/P person is like a dog with a bone in getting people to act quickly on invoices, and it’s a point of pride for that particular org that they pay everything early, especially freelancers.

        That said, I also do work for a small creative agency, and they are forever 60-90 days past due, because they are waiting for their client to pay them first before they pay me. I recommend discussing if that’s the case here and work on an arrangement to get them to pay you more timely, whether it’s via a retainer or something else. I think it’s ridiculous that someone else’s lack of cash flow management becomes my problem, but I couldn’t do much about it at the time. In the future, I’ll be renegotiating terms.

    2. Sasha*

      My husband has worked in tech agencies for the past 20 years, both FT and freelance, and now at Director level. Many agencies, at least in the UK, explicitly pay freelancers as late as possible, as part of their financial workflow. It’s not lack of organisation, it’s often a financial decision the CFO has actively made to pay people late. The rent and electric bills get paid bang on time.

      It sucks, but they are all like this once you start working with agencies over a certain size, so you just have to build it into your own financial planning as a freelancer.

      My husband has never not been paid, but he has often had to camp out at people’s desks to get invoices processed (ongoing multi-month projects), and he has had to threaten small claims court a couple of times (never had to actually file).

      1. goducks*

        Yep. I read a very long twitter thread recently where freelance writers were discussing how long it took to get paid by various well known publications. It was not uncommon for it to be 12-18 months for payment for one article. This is absolutely a choice on the part of the companies because they know that they have more writers willing to submit work than they could ever need, and they’re largely interchangeable. Unlike the power company, whom they know they can’t live without.

        1. Me...Just Me*

          Yes. It’s a strategy companies use to keep their money longer so that if they’ve got invested, they can make those additional days interest before pulling it out to pay vendors. It’s about what’s in the best financial interest of large companies – it’s not ethical, but so many do this that it’s become the norm.

    3. GreyjoyGardens*

      I once worked for a place where we were both vendor and client and we switched over to entirely credit cards or ACH because it made life so much easier.

  5. TootsNYC*

    My experience of this “getting paid late” is that it’s not so much the company as it is one individual.
    I used to be the person who signed off on an invoice and submitted it to the financial people. They were never the people who held things up; it was all on me. If they got it, they acted; they had a whole process.

    I, however, did not have a process, and invoices were an extra thing that it was easy to forget to do. I’m not proud that it took me a couple of months to realize that.
    I became fierce about sending it over as soon as I got it; I’d drop everything to do it.

    If you’re mailing it in, it may be getting set aside on that one person’s desk.
    I might ask, “is there someone I should submit it to, that will find it easier to get it into the system?” Like, maybe you send it to their assistant, and personally ask the assistant to make sure it doesn’t get lost in the “task clutter” (or even the desk clutter).

    And call it out directly but politely: “This is a problem; it there one single bottleneck?”

    1. mango chiffon*

      Ugh yes…we had/have a huge problem with some payments at my org because one of the admins would submit invoices for payment processing, but then the person who approved the payment would just. Not do it. We were behind on months of signatures from her for no good reason other than she simply did not do them. This was on invoices, contracts, timesheets, you name it.

      1. I Laugh at Inappropriate Times*

        Yeah, we lost a couple of specialty suppliers because AP just……didn’t pay them. For a year. More than once.

        1. MassMatt*

          It begs the question: Who was in charge of AP, and what happened to them? If anyone in sales, or customer service, or IT, screwed up that badly for that long they would have been fired many times over. Either they had a mandate to slow payments (not uncommon in businesses that are having trouble with cash flow) or the dysfunction reaches far higher in the org chart.

          1. Texan In Exile*

            I worked for an F100 that had a policy of paying after 90 days. My team worked with a vendor who was a two-person shop. He would call me almost in tears asking if I could intervene to get his invoices paid so he could pay his employee. I was horrified when I learned my company was deliberately slow paying and that this was a common practice with big companies.

            1. riverofmolecules*

              On the podcast Scam Goddess, the host talks about this in relation to the entertainment industry. She says corporations treat actors and vendors like, “Oh you ‘need’ to be ‘paid’? You must be REALLY poor.”

            2. I Have RBF*

              I have done 1099 work for companies like that. I had to rattle cages to get paid within 60 days. They paid everything but rent and utilities on a net 90! Horrible.

      2. Anonymous cat*

        When I first started out in office jobs, I worked for someone like this. Vendors would call me and email me for help and there was nothing I could do because I was just the assistant.

        I felt really bad for the individual freelancers with few resources but it all depended on when my boss decided to sign.

  6. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    For the spouse whose husband was interviewing with their company: If he turns the job down, it might well give HR a sigh of relief! “Oh, he was a great candidate but I really didn’t want to have to deal with having a married couple on the staff…”

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Except that LW says the company treats partners and spouses as preferred applicants.

      I mean, that sounds troublesome to me for other reasons, but it’s right there in the letter.

      1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

        Saves on benefits. Old Job was actively trying to matchmake.
        (Job was in the US, company is based in a country where matchmaking is more common and pressure to marry is much stronger.)

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      In reverse that also becomes a socially acceptable reason to decline without another job–we decided we would like to work in different places so it’s easier to leave work at the office.

  7. And thanks for the coffee*

    I had one primary contact and had to contact regularly for payment. It was both annoying and was difficult not to be able to close out that invoice after a reasonable length of time. I then started putting a “payment after this date” (I can’t recall the number of days, perhaps 30) that was 20% more than the original invoice.
    After that she considered that invoice date +30 days as the due date. It helped a great deal. No more chasing.

  8. MondayMonday*

    Heating Pad: No problem at all!!!! I have a back issue and for 10+ years I had a heating pad on my chair at work. I now WFH. But in all honesty, I mainly used the heating pad to keep warm because our office was freezing year-round. No one ever questioned it and in fact I got compliments on the great idea since we couldn’t have space heaters.

      1. Lyudie*

        If cords are an issue, those microwaveable rice pads are great. I got some on Etsy a few years ago that are a mixture of rice and flax, and they stay warm for a decent amount of time. You could easily tuck one behind your back or drape it over your feet.

  9. Clare*

    With regard to letter 2:
    It was only after I took medical leave for endometriosis surgery that I started getting sympathetic looks from the men in my workplace when carrying a hot water bottle. I assume before then the assumption was ‘Clare gets cold easily’. So it’s not always as glaringly obvious as it feels.

    1. Ashley*

      Honestly I would worry they would start tracking and start speculating if you were pregnant if you weren’t using one at some point. In an all male office I would be more concerned about that then in other settings.

      1. Frank Doyle*

        I’m sure it’s possible that could happen, but I find it highly unlikely. These dudes sound like they want to stay OUT of ladies’ business because it’s foreign and confusing, not the type of guys that are going to try to get further INTO it by . . . tracking her cycle?? That’s some outlier behavior right there.

        1. Clare*

          This is right. Plus with endometriosis my cycle can be anywhere from 2 weeks to 6, so I expect anyone who did attempt to keep track would be extra mystified.

  10. Statler von Waldorf*

    For LW#1, this is just a friendly reminder that putting a “A X% late fee will be applied to all outstanding invoices” on your statement is not the same as putting late fees in an actual signed contract. The former is unenforceable in court and is frequently a waste of time. The latter is not.

    On the other hand, discounts are legally much easier. You can discount whatever you want whenever you want. Because of that, I would recommend using early pay discounts instead of late payment penalties.

  11. Alle Meine*

    For the heating pad, my daughter has started high school and when she had a (to her) rougher period, we discovered that period pain relievers have come a long way from when I started having periods! They now make heating pads that stick to your belly (like a patch for your back) that heats up and adds pain killers as well. I found for once in a while use, they were economical for our budget and my teen said that it felt nice and she forgot she was wearing it.

    1. SpringIsForPlanting!*

      Yes, the stick-on ones are great! I don’t like to use them too often because it’s a bit wasteful, but if the choice is “use this disposable thing and function” or “stay home and whimper”, hey I’m gonna use the stick-on thing.

    2. M2RB*

      Yes! I keep one in my little emergency kit in my desk at work. Haven’t needed to use it but it’s there if I do.

    3. Burn the Snitch*

      Not sure if this is allowed? But any chance you could pop a link in for this? I am intrigued as my 15 year old is in a world of hurt two or three days each month & this might be a game changer for her!!!!

      1. Lisa*

        I don’t know which brand Alle Meine is referring to, but one I know of is “ThermaCare Menstrual Pain Therapy”. If you search for “menstrual heating patch” you’ll find several brands.

  12. Ebonworth*

    For LW #1, consider using an online invoice-submission service. These will automatically send reminders, so you don’t have to remember to do so, and also makes it less awkward (because a computer is sending them). Those services can also make it easier for the client to pay you by providing ways for them to pay you online (by credit card or other means).

  13. DisneyChannelThis*

    Depending on the field you are in, heating pad at work is sometimes still not a common thing at all. If people are being weird already about you being the only woman I would recommend not using the large, plug in the wall heating pads. Sexist people will start making comments about your mood/attitude and time of month. I had a bad experience once with people saying my criticism of aspect of project was due to time of month rather than actual insight. If you can afford the stick on patches you wear under clothes that heat up that’s a more subtle option, less effective but cheaper are the charcoal activated hand warmers you can palm discretely. There are also higher end rechargeable “hand warmers” that are basically a usb brick. There’s a lot of battles when being the first woman in a role, and you have to pick which ones you want to fight.

  14. Name*

    Heating pad – A previous job had my desk near a vent so I was always freezing. I brought a heating pad and would rotate it to keep warm. It would be laid across my shoes (ballet flats), on my back, I’d sit on it, and in my lap to keep hands warm. My coworkers got used to seeing it daily and figured I was cold. Even if your area isn’t too cold, you could have it out on lowest setting or off so that coworkers think you’re trying to keep warm. That might be a solution if you don’t feel like going the medical issue route.

  15. Llama Chameleon*

    Lw1, this was me for a while. I am a very small provider of very niche services, but it’s my side gig & my clients know it helps keep my household running in an expensive state. All of them but one always paid me on the spot and that money went right to groceries, kids’ shoes, etc. My wealthiest client was slow pay/no pay, to the point where another client who knew the score called her personally to tell her to quit taking food out of my children’s mouths. What really solved it was when she had a huuuuge order on a quick turnaround and I calmly suggested she’d have an easier time making her deadline if she kept me on retainer. “What’s that?” she asked, wide-eyed. “That’s when you pay me in advance and I’ll tell you when you’ve used up your credit.” This finally landed and I’ve never had to chase money from her since. Worth a shot?

  16. Industry Behemoth*

    LW 1: Agree it could be a payment delaying tactic by the company, for as long as possible. One client at PastJob would sometimes reject our pending invoices in their online submission portal, because that would also reset their 60-day payment window.

    LW4: I was ghosted by a prospective employer when I asked to reschedule an interview because a work conflict came up. I think they had second thoughts about my salary level after asking to interview me.

    I was working for a Top 25 firm in our industry, and the other firm was just outside the Top 100.

  17. RJ*

    LW1, I would advise keeping the words ‘late fees’, ‘penalty’ or ‘interest’ off any invoice issued to this client. I worked at a firm that was notorious at signing contracts to pay net 30 when really they paid net 45-60 (the new industry standard for my trade). If you can, use a generic ‘mark-up’ with the percentage being assessed and use this terminology in any future contracts. Another thing I would recommend is assessing the payment history for this client to see how they’ve been paying you over the past 12-18-24 months and increasing your fees/requesting a 25-50% retainer for services, depending on how late their payment have been.

  18. e271828*

    I worked for a small business that was usually a sub-contractor to either other sub-contractors or direct contractors to the government, and our receivables gave me nightmares. We ran on fumes because none of the companies we contracted to would pay us until they were paid, and not until the next cycle after they were paid, either. Yet we had to pay our rent, our employees, our taxes, and our health insurance contributions on time. We were also stuck because it was simply impossible to pad our rates, give discounts for prompt payments, or charge for late payments.

    In LW1’s case, where there is no government rate stuff to worrry about, I would gleefully not offer a discount for prompt payment, but, since LW1 is setting their own rates, build in danger money on jobs for those late-paying clients. I’d also assume that the late-paying client is financially unstable and work to diversify billing, with the ultimate goal of not serving a client who does not pay invoices in 30 days. There is no reason for a healthy business not to pay promptly, and a business client who is, say, delaying payments to collect interest on invoice balances isn’t worth the hassle of working with them in the long run.

  19. SB*

    I implemented a late fee for clients who consistently pay late. I sent an email to them explaining the new fee structure for all future invoices. I also call a week before the invoice is due to ask if they have a copy of the invoice, ask that they ensure it is included in their payment run before due date, & remind them about the late fee. This has not stopped some paying late but it has reduced the number of clients who pay late & has reduced the amount of time the rest are late by (instead of being 90 or 120 days I rarely have anyone paying more than 60 out as the late fees increase each month).

  20. Raida*

    Without more context I can’t say how bad the problem is
    – do you expect payment by the end of the week and remind them every week until it’s done by the end of the month?
    – do you have 7 day payment terms and they just don’t respond until you remind them two weeks past due?
    – do you have 30 day payment terms and they take six months to pay?
    – do you *personally* chase them up? Is there a specific reason you don’t use a system that will send out a reminder notice automatically (removing your work and energy)?

    I would suggest, without knowing your situation, that you use some system to automatically send reminders. You will need to be on top of marking invoices as PAID if the system isn’t also used to take payments.
    Also review your payment terms – is this especially annoying because you’re already generous with due date? or because the due date is short so a few days quickly becomes overdue?
    For this company, could you take a deposit up front, and then change their payment terms to be shorter/later to suit their likely payment speed/requirement to be reminded?

  21. CompaniesDontAlwaysHaveAProcess*

    In my experience I’ve had to work to the terms of the client, although I had a chance to review and push back on their standard contracts/terms.

    I once had a full time 1099 contract that was awful in terms of payment time. I had to send them a monthly invoice with the hours worked at the end of each month, so that in of itself was a delay since it wasn’t even sent until 30 days after work commenced. I asked them the first month if they required anything specific on the invoice and was told no so I used the simple format the last place I did some 1099 work for wanted as I found it easy to use. As much as it irritated me, I gave them a month (net-30) before I started asking about the payment. My boss kept saying he was looking into it (this was another few weeks). I then told my boss I needed to get paid within the next week and he came back to me and said the finance department needs X on the invoice, resubmit. Two weeks later I was told they needed it submitted in a different file format. I did so, but also said I expected the payment to be expedited (by this point they owed me 10s of thousands of dollars). The following week I told my boss if I didn’t get paid by the end of the month I would have to stop working (I left the “and sue them for the money owed” implied – I had kept going because suing them would be super messy for a number of reasons as we were on opposite sides of the country and I got the impression it was incompetence not malice – also, it was the highest rate I’ve ever gotten, it was a fairly large and reasonably well known company within its industry, and I had a hard time believing they weren’t going to pay eventually). I got a check (for 3 months of work) via overnight mail with 1 day to spare at the end of my fourth month working for them. I kept working for them for another 7 months and my payments regularly took 1.5-2 months after the invoice at the end of the month being billed. It turns out I was their only 1099 contractor ever and they had no mechanisms in place to deal with paying me ahead of my sending the first invoice (apparently my arrival was not run by the finance department) and the process they ended up with was highly manual and run by the same person who paid all of the company’s purchase orders so it only happened after their standard duties were completed.

    I’m not saying that’s what’s happening to you, but it could be something similar if it’s a small agency or they don’t outsource much stuff. Do you have a regular amount? Maybe you could bill in advance so the processing period occurs while you’re doing the work and you get paid closer to when you finish?

  22. Web of Pies*

    LW 1, I know this is not a financial advice blog, but if you’re self-employed, you really need to build up a better financial cushion than it sounds like you have! Clients can be so unreliable and living invoice-to-invoice is really stressful and risky…even just having a few months buffer saved will make you feel SO much better.

    Obviously this is easier said than done! As far as the actual question, agree with the person who suggested offering early pay discounts; I’d add in a general raise-rate as well when you explain this (the raising rate is baking in the late fee).

  23. Princess Sparklepony*

    This is probably just a “me” thing but I hate the articles over at Slate. I signed up for their free account and it let me read the AAM articles a few times now it blocks me out. So I have to open up an incognito window and lately I’m just too annoyed to do so. Why have me sign up for a free account and then not let me use it? I know, I know, they want me to pay for an account, but I’m not going to do that.

    Could you summarize the letters/answers here and provide the link to people who do have Slate accounts? (I’m sure there are some rules involved.) And like I said, this is likely just a me problem.

    I’ve been out of the workforce for years but I really enjoy this site just to see what is still going on in the work world and lots of great advice that can be used in all sorts of situations plus the great comments section – I learn so much. (Could we get a like button on comments though?)

    1. LJ*

      These are revisited/sometimes updated letters. If you search the headlines, you can find the originals freely available on this site (maybe not word for word)

    2. allathian*

      There’s plenty of free content on AAM to read, I’m not too bothered if I miss a post or two per week. The original posts are usually easy to find, even if you miss the updated content that way.

    3. Ask A Manatee*

      Yeah, this is a you problem. I say that respectfully! Companies love getting email addresses to potentially monetize. And even if one out of a thousand people convert to a paid account, it’s a profitable practice. I’d be amazed if exclusivity for Inc isn’t in the contract, for at least a period. This is How The Internet Works.

  24. Squirrel*

    L4 this is likely a cultural thing but I would be taken aback and find it very rude and flaky if a company requested an interview then went back on that because they’d hired someone without doing all the interviews. In my country/industry you have to interview all the shortlisted candidates before making a decision, in the interests of fairness and avoiding any potential discrimination. For example there are legal requirements to interview anyone who identifies as disabled as long as they meet the minimum job requirement.

  25. Azure Jane Lunatic*

    With my Facilities hat on, I’m going to say that a plug-in device that generates heat might not be allowed, but microwave heating pads should surely be fine, or a hot water bottle.

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