How to deal with Late Payers in your PT Business
Bill per session, weekly or Monthly?
Bank transfer only?
Having money owed to you is always frustrating and can lead to incredible stress and anxiety, especially when that money has been earned, the work completed and the deadline for payment has been and gone.
Late paying clients have caused SO many problems for me in the first 10 years of my Personal Training business. At times I’ve been owed as much as £6000 and when you have rent to pay, petrol to buy and food to put on the table, it can be an incredibly stressful and frustrating position to be in.
I’ve now implemented a system (which I’ll speak about in a few paragraphs time) which means every invoice I send gets settled 99.9% of the time in time and has made the debt-collection stress of my business vanish overnight and made my accounting workload reduce dramatically.
But how the hell did I get myself into this position in the first place?
I ran a successful PT business, worked hard with amazing clients, I sent my invoices out religiously and yet I was having to spend hours chasing payments which in some cases led to a massive de-motivation to train certain clients. All I was thinking was . . .
‘Why the hell should I train you when you haven’t paid me for the past 2 months!!!’
And I was bloody right.
However, the reason I was in a position that I was owed money was because I’d let this happen to me and my business.
I truly believe that the majority of clients don’t mean to make late payments and more often than not, a polite nudge is all it takes to see that money swing into your account. Just like us, they have incredibly busy lives and we all miss stuff, or put things on our ‘to-do’ list and don’t get round to it - I sure as hell know I do.
So the first place to start if you’re paid in cash or via bank transfer is simply to remind the client that they are in arrears and could they settle their outstanding invoice. (This is of course as long as you have the correct Terms and Conditions in place, which if you haven’t stay tuned as I’ll be writing a piece on this very shortly).
More often than not, that will be enough to jog their memory and make the transfer. When this doesn’t happen is when things can go south for you very quickly as it only takes a handful of clients to miss a payment deadline for you to find yourself £1,000s out of pocket with bills to pay.
One client of mine had some pretty interesting issues with money and each month I’d send him an invoice with 14 day payment terms and he’d say to me each month, ‘I’ll pay your invoice on the last day just before midnight as the money is better in my account than yours.’. A bit weird but completely within his rights when looking at my payment terms so I didn’t think anything of it.
But a few months went by and he started to miss the 14 day deadline by more and more and when I confronted him about this, he simply said ‘the money is better in my account than yours’.
I should have just ditched him as a client there and then, but I wasn’t the confident PT business owner I am now and I let it slip, agin and again. It caused me to feel anxious, frustrated and helpless and yet I was still turning up to train him three times a week. How could I let this client go??? - He takes three sessions a week with me!!!
In the end I ditched him and lost over £3000 of earnings. It was this that made me realise that I :
Had serious flaws in my Terms and Conditions
Had serious flaws in myself as a PT business owner
Didn’t have the respect I thought I had with my clients
He had done me a favour. It had cost me three grand, but it was a lesson worth learning.
First I looked at my Terms and Conditions and made sure the wording was strict and to the point so there was no room for interpretation. Once that was completed, any late payer in my business from that day forward was sent a polite reminder and if nothing happened, I’d make contact mentioning, still politely, the Terms they had signed regarding payment for services.
Straight away, clients were being held to account and being called out which made a HUGE difference. And it was just down to me being stricter and growing a pair of balls.
I reduced my late payers by 70% in a month and it felt brilliant.
I then started working with a business coach to help grow my personal training. It was another great learning curve that would see my late payers reduce to zero.
Which leads me nicely on to how a client is able to pay you.
Now this is a massive topic to discuss the pros and cons of each method and they all have merit and pitfalls which I’ll be writing about in the next few weeks.
The key is to work out which one you are currently using and MOST importantly, which one you want to use in the future to get the number of late payers as close to zero in your business.
I decided that because I wanted to create a lifestyle business where I was in complete control, had freedom and time to work on my property portfolio as well as launch The Business PT, I didn’t want to spend more than a second longer than I had to on invoicing and money collection so took the ‘big’ step to converting all my clients to a Direct Debit payment system. (I use gocardless.com)
With huge intrepidation, I researched, signed-up, tested and retested every element of the Direct Debit customer journey before making the decision to contact all my clients to say that payment would now be taken out of their bank account automatically each month and they would have nothing to do with the payment process apart from to review their invoice.
I waited for the barrage of emails back saying how angry they were this was happening.
And to my surprise, nothing happened.
All my clients were more than happy with the change I made to their invoice payments and most were very positive saying it was one less thing for them to worry about each month as it would be taken care of automatically.
A few clients had some questions about the process, but because I’d been through it all I was up to speed and able to answer all their questions, put their mind at ease and leave them feeling comfortable with the change.
This has led to a MASSIVE reduction in stress, workload and anxiety for me and for my business was the right route to go down with my invoicing. That’s not to say it'll be the best for you and your business as there are several factors to take into account, however as a self employed Personal Trainer, regular income on a set day of each and every month is the holy grail!
Be sure to follow this blog as I’ll be comparing Invoicing strategies and the pros and cons of accepting cash, bank transfers and direct debits so you can see what will work best in your business to tackle the dreaded late payer!
Keep working out on your business,