Getting paid as a consultant can be tricky, even though you’re an expert in your field. Perhaps you’ve even been burned in the past. You’re not alone – we’ve all lost revenue to excess fees, unreliable payment methods, or even worse, unreliable clients.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to increase your chances of getting paid on time, without having to chase your clients around.
Whether you've been consulting for years or just about to launch your first consulting business, the tips in this guide will set you on the right path to a smooth payment process and a successful consulting business.
6 Ways to Accept Payments as a Consultant
To reap the maximum reward from your consulting business, you need to work out how to make it as easy as possible for clients to pay for your services. One great way to do that is offering a choice of payment methods.
In this section, I’ll review some of the most common ways that you can accept payments.
Although it’s becoming less and less common, cash does still remain a valid way to accept payment for services.
Cash payments are not ideal, however. If a client claims they paid you when they actually didn't, it becomes your word against theirs without a proper paper trail. If you do accept cash, make sure you provide official receipts and keep track for tax purposes as well.
Checks aren’t the most convenient way to get paid, seeing as they require a trip to the bank or ATM to deposit them in your account. Checks also mean having to deal with the old “the check is in the mail” excuse and waiting a while for each one to arrive.
Once a check is deposited into your account, you might also have to wait a few days until it clears and the funds are available for use.
Despite the downsides, it could still be worthwhile to offer you clients the possibility of paying by check – especially if you work in a more traditional industry.
You may already have a PayPal account and if not, it’s easy to open one (in most locations). Since PayPal is so common, your clients probably won’t object to the idea of using it to pay for your consulting services.
What’s great about PayPal is that as soon as someone pays you, the money appears in your PayPal account and you can then transfer it to your own bank account at your leisure. The downside is that PayPal does charge transaction fees which can eat into your profits.
4. Credit Cards
Many businesses prefer to pay service providers via credit card, and accepting credit card payments can put you ahead of your competition.
Accepting credit cards is easy when you use Pay.com as your payment service provider. You can generate Pay Links and send them to your clients directly via SMS or email. When a client clicks a link, they’ll be taken to a personalized checkout page, where they can choose their preferred payment method and make the payment.
5. Digital Wallets
Google Pay, Apple Pay, and other digital wallets are becoming more and more popular. Giving clients the option to pay using those methods can make your business even more appealing.
Pay.com lets you accept a variety of digital wallets.
6. ACH Transfers
If your business is US-based and you have a business bank account, you can also accept payments via ACH (Automated Clearing House Network) transfers. Essentially, this entails providing the client with your bank details so they can make a transfer from their bank to yours.
The upside to this method is that the funds go straight to your bank account without you needing to make any additional transfers, as you might with PayPal or some digital wallets.
One Payment Service, Multiple Payment Options
We’re going to let you in on a little secret: you can actually get set up with Pay.com and then use one platform to offer your clients most of the payment options above, all in one place.
When it’s time for a client to pay you, they can choose whatever method they prefer. You can simply send them a direct Pay Link and let them pick from all the options.
Pay.com’s fee structure is completely transparent, so you’ll always know up front exactly how much you’ll be charged.
6 Tips to Make Sure You Get Paid for Your Consulting Work
Any successful consulting business needs a clear payment infrastructure and a seamless and efficient way to collect payments. That said, there are some other things to consider. These tips will help you ensure you get paid on time.
Establish a Clear Pricing System
When you’re a consultant, the expression “time is money” is your reality. This means you need to decide up front what your time is worth. You may choose to bill clients per project or by the hour.
Once you’ve established your pay structure, create a rate sheet that you can easily share with potential clients when they ask about your services. Even if you offer customized packages tailored to each individual client’s needs, a rate sheet can be useful for initial enquiries or discovery calls.
Require a Signed Contract
There’s nothing worse than doing all the work and then being ghosted by a client who disappears right when it’s time to pay. Don’t feel like you’re being the bad guy by insisting on a written contract that lays out both sides’ obligations.
You can find plenty of contract templates online. Before you have clients sign your contract, get a lawyer to look it over to be sure it’s enforceable. Hopefully, you’ll never need to actually go to court to enforce it – just requiring a client to sign is generally enough to show that you’re serious, professional, and expect to be paid.
Make It Super Easy for Clients to Pay
You can offer to be flexible on things like up-front deposits or the number of payments throughout the process, but just remember that the simpler the system is, the more likely you’ll get paid in full and on time.
Invoice on Time
Nothing speaks professionalism like sending timely communications, and this applies to invoicing as much as it does to emails and other communications. Having benefited from your services, your clients will expect to receive a bill within a short space of time. If you wait a month to send an invoice it can come across as sloppy and unprofessional.
To make your invoicing process smooth and efficient, set up a system that works for you. This could be in the form of reminders in your calendar to manually send out invoices on a certain date, or it could be signing up for an automated system.
Whatever you choose, you must have a way to ensure that your income lines up with your completed projects.
As frustrating as it may be, there are clients who won’t pay upon receiving the first invoice, and you may need to send a couple of follow-ups to make sure you get paid. We’ve got some ideas and templates that you can use when writing these reminders. You want to be assertive so that they’ll take you seriously – but not rude, of course.
You may need to set reminders for yourself to remember to follow-up. A good rule of thumb is to resend invoices if they haven't been paid after a week, two weeks, and a month.
Update Your Website
If you offer other services in addition to consulting, people might be more likely to ask you for free advice without realizing that it’s actually another paid service. It’s worth updating the services section of your website, adding consulting to the list of options.
When people approach you asking for advice, you can direct them to your website where they can review your rates and services and decide for themselves whether they want to move ahead.
The Bottom Line: What's the Best Way to Get Paid as a Consultant?
The best way to get paid as a consultant is the method that your clients will actually use to pay on time and in full. It may sound obvious, but it’s true that the easier you make it for your clients to submit payment, the faster it will get done.
With Pay.com, you can get your payment infrastructure up and running before you know it. You’ll quickly be able to offer clients multiple payment options – it’s a win-win for everyone. Click here to find out more.