Billing and getting paid... right and wrong

first I searched for this topic but didn’t see anything specific to my question.

here’s my story…
I recently did my first job as a company.
the lady that hired me needed her gutters cleaned and a few missing shingles replaced.

I went to the house to have a look and to get a good idea of what it was I was getting into before I gave her a price.

the house has a for sale sign in the front yard and the house is empty. at this point I’m already getting a bad feeling about this lady. she didn’t tell me it was empty and she didn’t live there.
I called the customer from her driveway, she’s at work…but did answer the phone.
she tells me they are about to move in, in another few days or week. and the home inspector told her about the gutters and shingles.

ok, sounds legit. I told her I can send her a bill since she said no one will be there on the day I will be doing the work.

ok, here’s one mistake I guess I made, I mailed the invoice before I even went to the job. and didn’t bring one with me thinking no one is going to be there.

well I get to the job and of course her husband IS home. I talk to him and go on with the work. when I was done, I asked if he could pay me. of course he said, “you have to get it from my wife this is her project”.
Of course I knew deep inside my gut this isn’t the last “run around” i’m going to get from these people.

so I leave a hand written invoice with the customer and call the “mrs” to let her know etc. she’s fine with that and asks about getting her basement window replaced too.
I get a good vibe from her but a really bad one from the husband.

now my deal is here it is sunday I did the work on monday. still didn’t get a check etc. which I know isn’t a long time but I just have this gut feeling I’ll have to keep after this person to pay me.

my buddy thinks (of course he has never owned a company etc) I should have gotten paid before I did the work. and thinks I’m stupid and will never get paid since I didn’t get anything signed for aproval for the work etc.
of course this is constantly flashing through my mind now and leads me to making this post.

my question to you pro’s, Did I make any mistake in the way I handled this situation?
anything you guys do different?

do you guys put something to the extent of 30 days to pay on your invoices?
how much time do you give and is there a legal amount of time I have to give?

This is one reason why I ot set up to accept credit cards. You can either get a deposit when you get a gut feeling. Or you can discuss payment options when you get the go ahead to do the work. "would you like to leave a check or shall I bill your credit card?”

She still will probably pay you. I’ve been in this situation myself a couple of times in the past.

Don’t freak out/call her after just a week. We start calling our customers after 1 month. Most send a check within 2 weeks.

Whether we should or not, we let customers mail us checks if they’re not home. Of course, if a new cust. doesn’t tell us they’re not going to be home and we can’t get them on the phone, we reschedule.

Over the years, we’ve only had a couple(literally two) of our “clients” not pay. I think you should be fine.

Each state has laws regarding how much a home improvement contractor can demand prior to work completion – in order to protect the consumer.

Communicating clear and concise expectations prior to starting work is key for both parties.

I give most the benefit of the doubt, and do alot of work for folks I’ll probably never meet since their primary residence is out of the area. Their checks still arrive in a reasonable length of time.

I would give it another week. If its true they are moving in(and not moving out)…they got a lot going on. You already decided to do the job when no one was going to be there. Dont stress over this one…give it another full week

[I]If [/I]you made a mistake, it was sending the invoice before the work was done…and that’s no big deal. It’s best to wait though in case you end up having to do something differently or change the invoice for any reason.

People take FOREVER to pay. I think with gutter cleaning, a big reason is because people don’t see you or get to talk with you…and therefore there isn’t as much guilt when they take their time to pay. Don’t sweat it; after 30 days I’d start sending notices and after 60 I’d threaten (respectfully, and professionally) to send the bill to collections. As said above though, they’ve got a lot going on. A week is not a long wait at all, I’m sure they’ll pay.

I agree, give it a little more time. I will send a duplicate invoice if its been over a month with a small handwritten notice “wanted to send you a dup in case the first was misplaced” usually get it in few days. I think some people just put it aside not thinking its urgent for them to pay right away. I have to say in 12 years ive only had a handful not pay me. Not to bad I think.

On my estimate and invoice it says payment due upon completion@!..If not or prior arangements they pay after the fact…after 2 weeks I mail a postcard telling them thank you for their business, and if i dont have a check after that then I cal 3 to 4 weeks to make sure they were happy with everything and then if they don’t pay 5 or 6 i start demanding payment more thatn 60 days i call and say something to the effect of a mechanical lien…with n a few days of that i will get a check.

I try not to bring up payment…if they volunteer to leave a check i will say that will be fine…

so I got a call from the MRS last night letting me know she mailed the check… kind of impressed by her. we’ll see if the check bounces or not lol

well here I am a whole month later and no payment. actually the 7th will be 30 days.
I guess I’ll call her to see what might have happened to the payment.

what are my legal options at this point?
is it legal to add late fees? if not, what are the limits? I’m thinking of adding a $10 late fee.

Why don’t you just call her? I don’t understand all the psychologizing instead of communicating. Call her and say, “You said you mailed a check on such and such a date and I haven’t received one. I just want to make sure it isn’t lost in the mail. You may want to send me another and place a stop payment on that last one 'cause it’s floating around out there!” And be nice about it.

Put all the debris back in their gutters.

Then, take your shingles back.

That would be awesome.

You can not add a late payment after the fact. If you want to add late fees you need to put it on the original estimate or invoice.

we were clear on the phone. well at least she acted like she understood me anyway. I think she just tells me what I want to hear. lol I have had things lost in the mail so it happens. my first house payment never made it to the bank. talk about a good first impression haha.

I’ll be callin today. I’ll see if she will pay me on my website with a credit card.

customer sent check. must be lost in the mail. oh well, paid via credit card. she was very nice and apologized. very satisfied customer. as am i lol
I would have called sooner but I didn’t want to be pushy. I wanted to give her ample time.

I would chalk it up as a good lesson.

Now moving forward, What is your payment system so this doesn’t happen again. Whether it’s credit cards or payment up front you need to have a documented system that you can use. This is all about training your customers on how you do business. If you let someone take advantage of you unfortunately this most likely will.

Pushy? I don’t think that’s being pushy, It’s your money. How do you think a store would react if you walked out without paying? Do you think they would be pushy?

Since she paid you by credit card, if her check actually does show up, write void on it with a sharpie and mail it back to her, will make you look good in her eyes. When she calls you to come back, get the payment arrangements set, up front

yeah all newbie mistakes. thanks for all the advise guys/gals.
from now on the work order will be signed before work begins.
and I think I’ll get them to sign off on the job being done to their liking when finished. this way they can’t say I didn’t do the work good. especially since I want to guarantee my work.

she wasn’t worried about the check. but I will def write void on it if I do get it.

well to be fair, I put payment due within 30 days. so, technically it’s more my fault than anything.

ive come to realize many people lead very disorganized lives, maybe they are/were on drugs and i need to carefully weigh them up. the gamble of whether theyre a true nut who wont pay or just late payers who can be turned into regular customers who pay normally