At the start When you sign a contract on a new project, find out where to send invoices as this may not be to the client's main address. If you are concerned, request a small payment up front to test the payment system. Schedule invoices on a monthly basis to spread risk. If payment is too slow, you then have the option to stop work.

Invoicing Send the invoice as soon as possible to ensure the work is fresh in the mind of the person who receives it. Make sure you provide all the necessary information, as a missed purchase order or other detail can cause delay.

Overcoming bureaucracy Large companies can be slow to pay. Find out when their cheque run is and call in good time to make sure you are on it. If you miss it, you may have to wait until the next one.

Persistence The best way to keep your business profitable is to make sure that you are paid for the work that you complete. Do not give up. Befriend the person responsible for payment. Write letters. Send statements with copies of invoices attached. Ask for reasons why there is a delay and deal with these immediately if it is within your power to do so.

Final efforts Interest can be charged on overdue accounts from the date that the invoice was due under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act. A solicitor's letter may stimulate payment or you could go to the small claims court as a final resort. Most importantly, monitor cash flow regularly and take action to ensure you get paid.