When you work with a company in the same country, you have a common legal framework that links you and its a relatively simple process to track down errant debtors if payment problems occur. Dealing with clients overseas is more hazardous, and the risks can catch out many small businesses. Here are some practical tips that can prevent significant problems when dealing with overseas clients.
Do some research!
Connect with them via social media and check their LinkedIn profile. Do the details add up? It is not uncommon for fraudsters to use names almost identical to the names of legitimate and long standing companies in the hope of catching out the unwary.
Due diligence is key. Check the website, pull a credit report and make sure you are 100% satisfied that the potential client is a genuine company.
Get contact info!
Your customer isn’t going to volunteer their phone number once an invoice goes unpaid so you need to make sure that you have all the pertinent information in advance.
Have a policy of collecting an office number, cell/mobile phone number and a contact number for their accounts department before any work begins.
Be cautious with credit!
Be more cautious when extending credit to overseas clients; draw up stricter terms, ask for payment upfront at least the first time you work with them, or collect a deposit of 50% and agree staged payments tied to key points in order to minimise your risk.
If the client is genuine they will understand and respect the request. If they aren’t, then it is better to find out long before you complete the work and raise the invoice!
Get a contract!
Your overseas client is subject to different laws in a different jurisdiction, but sending them a contract is always a smart move. Not only does it show the client that you take your business seriously, but it will help you enforce any rights you hold in the event of non-payment.
If you don’t issue a contract then your client can not be held to your terms and you lose any leverage you may have over the goods or services supplied.
Invoice in the agreed currency!
Where possible, invoice in the client’s local currency and offer as many options to make payment as are practical. Invoicing in the local currency means less hassle for your client and no fluctuations in exchange rate to worry about.
Paypal is recognised worldwide and generally has lower fees than an international bank transfer; alternatively look at requesting funds via Tranferwise or similar payment services.
Invoice accurately & on time!
Accurate and timely invoicing is crucial when dealing with overseas customers. If you wait to invoice or issue an invoice riddled with discrepancies you are giving the client a ready made reason to delay or withhold payment.
Also make sure to include your IBAN and BIC or your PayPal, transferwise or card payment details. Make all details and instructions explicit and clear from the outset – don’t wait for them to ask.
Set a minimum credit limit (as well as a maximum)!
This might seem counterintuitive, but setting a minimum credit limit can save you from the pain of chasing small or low value invoices overseas that are uneconomical to pursue.
If your export client owes you a very small amount of money, chances are you’ll write it off rather than chase it via a foreign court. Your client knows this so don’t give them the chance to make you work for free.
Take prompt recovery action!
With our network of international debt collection agents we can chase unpaid invoices anywhere in the world, but don’t wait to take action. Statistically the sooner an unpaid invoice is escalated to collection, the better the chance you have of a successful recovery. This is especially true if your invoice is of a moderate to low value.
If international debt recovery action is impractical, you may want to look at industry specific legislation such as copyright law, or the US DMCA legislation to have digital or otherwise copyrighted content removed from the web.
Safe Collections works with debt collection companies all over the world and has more than three decades of experience in recovering unpaid invoices from export clients. If you’ve got a problem debtor overseas and you’re not sure how to chase it we can help. With no upfront fees and no fees if the invoice is unpaid our international debt collection service is a risk free option for creditors. Contact us today to find out how we can help you recover what is owed.