How to get from quotation to payment

Do you know the steps to ensure you get paid for your work as quickly as possible? Use the flow chart 'From quotation to payment' to keep control of the path from quotation to payment. There are several steps between the first contact with your customer about an assignment and the moment the money is in your account: the quotation, general terms and conditions, an invoice, and debtor management. Suzanne Rietveld, owner of translation agency SRV Engels, and the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce KVK advisor Gé Gijsen use a practical example to explain how to get paid in time.

Flow chart

The flow chart is a simplification of reality.

Customer requests delivery

You need a customer who wants you to do a job for them. Rietveld practically only works for business clients. Before she takes on an assignment, she could do a credit check. She does not. Rietveld: "I work mostly for returning customers. New clients are often referred to me through my network. I do always check the website of a new client. And I do not take on every assignment. If it is too much for me, or the deadline is too strict, for instance."

Gijsen understands Rietveld's reasoning: “Because customers come via your network, you have a certain amount of confidence. But do not let that guide you too much. It is important to always gather information on a new client. If the financial stakes are high for you, I would advise a credit check. Or you can take out credit insurance, in case your client is unable to pay."

Make a quotation

Use the information you have about your client to decide whether or not to make a quotation. Will you make a quotation? You have progressed to part 2 of the flow chart. Use the (Dutch) step-by-step plan for making a quotation as basis. Make a clear quotation, that describes what you will deliver in enough detail. Indicate for how long the quotation is valid. Gijsen: "It makes sense to follow up on a quotation with a phone call. Put the date on which you plan to call in your quotation."

General terms and conditions

Attach your general terms and conditions to your quotation, or refer to them. In your general terms and conditions, you put matters like your standard delivery conditions. Sector organisations often provide their members with general terms and conditions. "They are also often called delivery and payment terms. They do not only concern delivery, but also your client's payment. In your quotation, state that the general terms and conditions apply, and add a copy of the terms", Gijsen advises.

Email

Rietveld does not always send 'real' quotations. That is fine, as long as the agreement between you and your customer is clear. "I charge a price per word for my translations. I usually send my customer a fixed price by email. We do not need a real quoation in that case. I do indicate in my email that my payment term is 30 days. In effect, our email contact is the agreement we enter into." Determine for yourself whether or not you need to draw up a complete quotation.

Execution of the assignment

The execution of the assignment depends on the nature of your business. If an assignment takes a longer period of time, keep your customer informed of the progress. Send a partial invoice once part of the assignment has been concluded. That way, you will have money in the bank sooner, and you limit your debtor risk. Gijsen: "And do not forget the risk you may run while executing the assignment. Make sure your business insurances are in order."

Invoicing

Rietveld sends the invoice for her work after completion. "I usually round off my assignments in one or two days. Should an assignment run for longer, I send a monthly invoice." She uses an online invoicing system, and sends her invoices via email as pdf files. That is called digital invoicing. Gijsen: "In business transactions, the electronic invoice is gaining ground. In electronic invoicing, e-invoices are exchanged as files between automated systems."

A tip Rietveld gives is to ask your client if there are any particulars you need to mention on your invoice. For example, a purchasing number, or a slightly different description of the work. "It will make processing your invoice easier, and you will have your money sooner."

Self-billing

Rietveld knows on which moments some of her regular customers pay. She invoices near those dates, so she gets paid quickly. She also has customers who use self-billing. This means that the customer draws up the invoice. That invoice has to meet the requirements, and it has to contain the phrase 'invoice issued by customer' (or in Dutch: ‘factuur uitgereikt door afnemer’). "Make sure you keep your overview, and book those invoices into your records", Rietveld warns.

Debtor management

Rietveld's digital invoicing system allows her to automatically send reminders after the set payment term has passed. "My clients always pay. Although some stretch the 30 days payment term a little. If they do, I always get in touch via email. But all in all I have no worries about payments."

As soon as Rietveld receives a payment, she enters the amount and the payment date into the system. "That enables me to maintain a proper overview of my outstanding invoices. Right now, I have ticks against 2 customers' names, but I expect them to pay next week. I am not concerned yet."

Active debtor management is a must, says Gijsen. "You have delivered, your part of the agreement is done. Now the client can keep their end of the bargain: a correct payment. If you do not like to engage in debtor management, or if you need the money fast, consider factoring. You sell your claim to a factoring company, and they collect the debt from your client. It is a common practice nowadays, for example many dentists use it."

Debt collection

Rietveld is lucky to have returning customers who pay on time. She hardly ever needs to send a reminder. Because her customers are good payers, she does not work with advance payments. If you have customers whose paying habits have been irregular in the past, this is certainly an option.

There is no maximum to the down payment you can ask if you are providing services. If you sell products to private consumers, you may charge a maximum of 50% upfront. Advance payment lowers your business risk, especially if the assignment requires you to make expenses. Gijsen: "Consider taking out legal expenses insurance. You can often determine the coverage yourself, for instance legal support when dealing with non-paying customers."

Does your client fail to pay, or do they pay too late? Contact them, and send a reminder. If the money is not in your account 7 days after the reminder was sent, you send a warning reminder. You can hire a debt collection agency to do so. Does your client still not pay? Then consider enlisting a court bailiff.

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