Web hosting renewal for clients

I provide web hosting for clients as standard, which is paid annually in advance. To date I have always sent out an invoice by email that is generally settled via bank transfer in a day or two with no problems.

One or two are repeat late payers and require follow up emails. There is little doubt it is a deliberate delaying tactic on their part, creating some awkwardness while also taking up my time for relatively small amounts.

At the moment I have one who is has simply not responded to emails, text or calls and obviously not paid after a month either. On one occasion somebody did answer the phone and said they would have the client call me back, but then nothing. It’s a two man company, so it’s not like this call would be lost under a pile of notes.

It could well be that they have effectively stopped trading and I am aware this latest lockdown has been hard on a lot of businesses, but equally I don’t see why I should subsidise them forever if they don’t even respond.

I am wondering what steps others are taking to handle situations like this for smoother payments? The idea is to cut down on time lost chasing reluctant payers, reduce client tensions and if needed ensure the site is suspended in a way that doesn’t cause me potential issues.

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I’m not supplying hosting services but do have a company with a membership program. I’m offering 3 different payment methods:

  1. Annual payment within 30 days: 600 ( 50 per month)
  2. Annual payment with 7 days: 5% discount
  3. Monthly payments with recurring credit card payment only: $ 65 per month.

Previous years I’ve been accepting delays in payment up-to 60 days but in the current situation I simply can’t afford to subsidise.

I start well in advance with annual payment reminders but not accepting delays anymore. If you’re one day late your membership card will be deactivated and a small fee applies for re-activation.

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I also provide hosting for my clients and bill annually. I’ve went to totally electronic invoices and payments. I send my yearly invoices out 45 days before the due date with a cancellation date, if client want to cancel my services. After the cancellation date they are responsible for payment.

I always have a few that are tardy paying and after 30 days late I send them a second final notice that states if not paid your website will be canceled.

I had my first cancelation in many years this year, and yes they didn’t have the decency to let me know. In fact they asked me for help after the due date, and one month after late date I went to there site and someone else had re-done the site. They even used the graphics I made for their site. I just let it go, no need to create hard feelings, just a business decision.

I also do not make any business cards, brochures, signs, or anything for clients without payment before ordering. Once they approve a proof I send them a electronic invoice and when they pay I order the products. Just protecting my work.

Good Luck!
Casey

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Great subject, and one I am interested to see how others reply.

I am looking at brining this into my business plan moving forward and charging monthly on a direct debit into my company for a monthly package - or yearly upfront at a discount.

I would consider putting into the contracts that if payment is stopped or not paid up - then a 30 day reminder, 14 day reminder then 2 working day reminder. I would make contact with them on the phone if possible as sometimes it can be something out of their hands, new bank or not at work etc but if they still have not paid then I would simply take the website down.

On the company/ then asking to for the website to go live again, I would change an admin fee of £50-100 or something for the website to go live again.

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I do provide both annual services and hosting. Payment is done on an annual basis for my hosting services. Invoices are sent out 30 days prior to the renewal date, with a payment term of 30 days, so on the day of the renewal, payment should be received.

If the invoice expiry date is reached, I will send my customer a reminder at +5 days (to account for any delays due to wire transfers). Another reminder will be sent at +12 days. A final reminder is sent at +19 days informing them I will deactivate their hosting account within 5 days if no payment is received before day 24.

Usually I receive any outstanding payment rather quickly after they receive reminder 3. I also had one where I never got any response or payment, in which case I took their services offline. Never heard from that customer again.

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I was thinking I could ask clients to set up a standing order with the bank for hosting renewal when a site is created, though they could always cancel quietly in the background, so you would still need to stay on top of that. Perhaps annual payments through PayPal would be an option.

Clients seem to manage with bank transfers at a technical level, but at the moment I have to send each one a personal email with an attached invoice and then wait for payment. To keep on top of this I maintain a database of renewal dates and set up calendar reminders. Once a month I prepare the invoices in advance, so they are ready to send out on the day.

I suppose the professional option for web hosting would be https://www.whmcs.com though I don’t really have enough clients right now to make that choice a no brainer. It could be worth looking at though, as long as it doesn’t require too much maintenance to run.

When clients go silent though it’s a pretty good sign there is something wrong with the business and they figure their best chance of stringing it out is saying nothing. I guess they are banking on web designers being reluctant to upset them and therefore going softly, softly.

Money from web hosting is useful, but this has to be managed efficiently while hopefully avoiding situations that could sour the working relationship. I know they would all expect to be paid immediately for their services, so stringing it out for a month or more and only paying after 3-4 requests doesn’t foster much good will the next time they are looking for help.

I am thinking some kind of automatically debited payment is the answer, even if it includes advanced warning with opportunities to cancel.