Last month, one of my regular clients emailed me that he’d be late paying his current invoices, but gave his word that his company would get caught up in short order. I was grateful, because the fact that my client kept me informed is an uncommon courtesy, but I was also pretty worried. It wasn’t so much about the money itself because I have safety net that means an unpaid invoice isn’t the end of the world. It’s the fact that I consider invoices a key indicator in how a client is doing.
If a client who has always been on time in paying invoices is suddenly unable to pay, I generally think that it’s time to start looking for another regular client. The fact of the matter is that companies with money problems often consider freelancers a good place to cut costs. It’s a fact of doing business, and having that advance warning is actually a good thing.
While it didn’t make me happy, I wasn’t actually surprised when my client discontinued the project I had been working on. I also wasn’t up a certain creek — I’d tentatively lined up a couple of smaller projects.
Of course, invoices can be indicators of other factors. I’ve found that clients that I have problems getting to acknowledge (and pay) invoices are guaranteed to be problems in other problems. It’s just another reason to keep a close eye on your invoices.