— May 29, 2019
Having a client dispute an invoice is often an uncomfortable situation. You’re billing for how much you believe you agreed upon, but the client isn’t so sure. You’re waiting for payment and growing impatient because you want the money. The goal is to come to an understanding so you can get the cash. Here’s how to handle invoice disputes tactfully:
Be careful not to escalate the situation. Calmly remind them that the invoice is due and ask why they’re not paying. Hop on the phone if necessary. Sometimes context can be lost through email. Acknowledge their complaint and take a moment to gather yourself before responding. Don’t respond through email quickly because the response may be one that you regret. Misunderstandings can be cleared up respectfully so you can keep the client.
Make It Right
If they have valid complaints, make any edits or changes (within reason) to the work product. Make sure, however, that you’re not getting taken advantage of. Client expectations and the scope of the project should be clear. If it’s not, you may have to jump through a lot of hoops to keep the client happy. At some point, you may have to stand your ground and let the client know that you’ve done what they’ve asked you to do.
Maybe the invoice dispute has to do with the price and not the quality of the work. Pull out your backup. Show the signed contract and explain your pricing. Go into detail about how many hours you worked and the value you provided. The problem may just be that the client doesn’t remember the contract and price they agreed on. Explain the contract and explain how they benefited from working with you. The client wants to feel good about the exchange and happy that their money was well spent. You may need to do a little bit of explaining to handle invoice disputes amicably.
Come to an Agreement
Be wary of reducing your invoices at any sign of disagreement. This is a surefire way to send yourself to the poorhouse. But if there’s a circumstance where your client is truly dissatisfied or the contract was unclear, you may decide to reduce the price a bit to appease the client. An invoice paid at a lower amount may be better than being not paid at all. With that said, reduce your invoices sparingly because you’re not running a charity.
Invoice disputes don’t have to mean the end of the relationship with you and your client. Find out why they aren’t paying the invoice. Address their concerns with a review of the work and a review of the contract. Make billing changes if you have made a billing error. Fix work that they’re not happy with to a point (don’t go overboard). As a last resort, consider reducing the price by a percentage if that’s what it’ll take to get them to pay. If none of these options work, your last action may have to be pursuing legal action.