A Word

Column: Single in SOHO
I can't be bothered by Jacqueline Alexander
First published in the Evening Post newspaper

If you are working SOHO-style, vulnerability and you will already be close pals, well, reluctant acquaintances at least, but there is nothing that brings out the hives like the distinct lack of activity in the letterbox department during February.

February is an unusual month. For a start, it's a short month and, strangely, some years it's shorter than others but more importantly, it's the month when those working SOHO-style actually start to look forward to the postman arriving as money flows out of your bank account whilst nothing flows, or even, drips in!

So what can you do to get your customers to pay up on time?

You've already sent the invoice with clearly stated payment terms. You have asked for payment via the phone. You've written to them but nothing is happening. What next?

Many companies sit up and take notice of a written reminder in the form of a statement and accompanying letter, especially when you make it clear that you intend to pursue the matter through legal channels if payment is not forthcoming.

If you do not hear back within 7 days, then you will need to enlist the help of a solicitor. This is not as expensive as it sounds as long as you make it clear that you do not require any other follow-up or ancillary services. Ask the solicitor to send your customer a letter warning that if payment is not received immediately you will have no choice but to pursue the matter through the courts.

And don't forget to include the interest! The Late Payment of Commercial Debts Act came to the rescue of the small business owner in 1998 to allow claims of interest on overdue payments. You are entitled to claim interest at 8% above the Bank of England base rate. It's worth knowing and the interest is worth having!

Still no joy? Then it is a matter for the Small Claims Court. This procedure deals with claims of up to 5000 and can be initiated via an excellent online service at http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/onlineservices/index.htm.

Most often you will find once the court papers arrive, the payment is forthcoming along with an apology. If not, you will have to proceed to court so make sure you have all the paperwork in order - proof of the debt and copies of letters sent in an attempt to be paid. The Small Claims Courts want to see that you have tried various avenues to get paid before making a judgement on the debtor.

Most importantly, don't be scared of demanding payment. You have done the job. You deserve to be paid. So be strong, be bold and don't be afraid!

Single in SOHO became an advice column offering help and guidance to people embarking on a home business for the first time. It ran for two years.

by Jacqueline Alexander
Copyright 2012