Billing almost a year after the fact.
December 1, 2013 1:00 PM   Subscribe

I neglected to bill a client for a project I completed in January 2013. Once I realized I was late in billing, my failure to do so in a timely way has felt dreadful and embarrassing and worse and worse in my mind. So, yeah. I've continued to avoid it.

The bill totals about $1200. This is for a regular client of several years standing, although I haven't done a project for her since the one in question. The project was not a stunning success for various reasons. Still, I bill by the hour, and she would have paid it without question if I had submitted it when I should have. How do I submit the bill to her now? What do I say? She's a solo practitioner, so this won't be going to an anonymous accounting department.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Send her an e-mail now explaining you're sorry, you got behind on your paperwork and you're catching up, that you'll be sending her a bill for the project soon, and apologizing for inconveniencing for her. Then send her the bill.

As a freelancer, and someone who has worked with other freelancers, let me reassure you that this isn't all that unusual.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:11 PM on December 1, 2013 [8 favorites]

Yeah, it just slipped through the cracks, let them know that you're sorry for the trouble and if she makes noise about not having the cash right now I think it'd be polite to be a little easier on the terms if she's slow paying, but this is not the weirdest thing to ever happen. Take a deep breath, just do it, promise yourself something like a nice cocktail or a dinner out or a box of chocolates afterwards, don't borrow problems with getting paid that don't exist yet.
posted by Sequence at 1:15 PM on December 1, 2013

The corpse in the library has it. It's the end of the year, many people look over their finances/receipts/etc. now to make sure everything is in order. Bill her soon.
posted by travelwithcats at 1:40 PM on December 1, 2013

This happens all the time and is the PERFECT time of year to address it!

Hi Jane --

In closing out my end of year accounting, I realised I neglected to bill you for the X Project completed in January. I am attaching an invoice now with my apologies. If you need to discuss this, just let me know.


posted by DarlingBri at 1:42 PM on December 1, 2013 [22 favorites]

I agree that you can't just forward along a bill with no explanation, but I'd be careful to not make your tone too apologetic. You don't want to inadvertently give her a reason to refuse or delay payment. I'd make it as matter-of-fact as possible -- definitely don't say anything negative about the project ("I know that the project wasn't that stellar and it's been so long and yada yada."). Just something quick about how you are catching up on your end of the year billing before the holidays.
posted by snarfles at 3:08 PM on December 1, 2013

Just to offer a view counter to those above, if this happened to me, regardless of the reasons given, I might pay the bill if you were persuasive enough, but I would never use--or recommend--you again.

Failing to bill in a timely manner is unprofessional and therefore a red flag.

So there's that to consider.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:25 PM on December 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I disagree with Short Attention Sp. If someone forgets to bill me, and apologises, that's fine. I know what bills I am expecting, and will judge somebody on their work, not on a one-off mistake billing for that work.
posted by devnull at 3:33 AM on December 2, 2013

Failing to bill promptly inconveniences the client, but it's not uncommon. To DarlingBri's draft, I would add, I'm sorry for the inconvenience.
posted by theora55 at 8:44 AM on December 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

This happened to us on a small (<10k) contract last year. We simply sent the bill with the explanation that our accountants had picked up on it at year-end (which was the truth). Nobody argued that we were owed the money and we received payment a few weeks later. This has also happened the other way and we have never hesitated to pay because the bill came late. DarlingBri's script will serve you well.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:55 AM on December 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have certain payment terms that you normally expect, you will want to relax them for this client. It took you 11 months to bill them, so allowing them a few extra months to pay would be appropriate.
posted by soelo at 1:45 PM on December 3, 2013

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