One of the biggest hassles in a freelancers life is getting your client to pay you on time. You may be blessed with awesome clients who are very prompt in paying you, however once in a while you will come across a client straight from the bowels of Satan. This client will fail to realize that Freelancing is a two way street and he is expected to pay you on time as you are expected to deliver the work on time. Getting people to pay their dues is one of the most annoying aspects of freelancing and some people learn it the hard way.
When you start freelancing, you need to accept the fact that coming across a client who doesn’t pay is inevitable. They do not come with warnings on a banner so you cannot really avoid them. What you can really do is this:
1. Learn to Talk about Money:
When you first start out, it will be a little difficult. It took me a long time to learn how to talk to clients too. It is very different when I talk about it to my friends or family and it is extremely different when I talk about it with a Client. But you need to remember one thing- Money is not taboo. You need to talk about it. And the sooner you get it sorted, the better it will be for you. Because once you start talking money, you will start understanding your clients body language too. The Good clients are aware that they need to pay the freelancer and they will be open about it.
Also remember, we are not here to make friends and family, we are here to work with clients and network. Don’t go too ‘friendly’ on a client, it will be easy to overlook a slow payment when the client is too ‘friendly’.
So once the client tells you about the project, always tell them your estimate budget and ask whether it works for them. An estimate is a price/ ballpark that can increase/ decrease as the brief develops. After the brief has been established, give them your Quote, which needs to be the precise amount of the project.
2. Ask for an Advance/ Down Payment
This is the easiest way to establish a bond of trust between the freelancer and the Client. Always ask for a 25%-50% upfront before starting any project. However if the project is of a smaller budget increase the amount of deposit to 70% or sometimes 100% and if the project is of a bigger budget, start the down payment from 30% and set certain milestones which validates incremental payments at different portions of a project. This assures that the freelancer is paid either every week or after the completion of a certain task in the project. For example: you can set a milestone for getting paid XYZ amount after the completion of creating line works for a story board. The remaining amount will be paid after you complete the coloring. But make sure that you get the work reviewed by the client on time and set the payment dates so as to not get caught in the client review cycle which will delay the payment. Send an Invoice for Down Payments.
3. Get a Contract
This the first rule of Freelancing. Get a Contract. EVERYTHING SHOULD BE IN WRITING. From the specs of the project to the deadlines to the payment scale. Everything that has been agreed upon over the phone, in person or even in mail needs to be addressed in this contract. This is your shield. This is your first step towards protecting yourself from non paying clients. Mail them the digital copy and let them know that they need to abide by this contract. This not only ensures safety for the freelancers but also for the clients. Sometimes companies/ clients already have a contract of their own which state their terms and conditions. Always read them thoroughly before signing them and when in doubt, Always ask. Do not sign anything before clearing out your doubts.
4. Always work with Invoices
Always bill your clients with invoices, whether its for an advance or asking for the final payment. Get the invoice details before starting the project. Find out who you are working for- their full name/ company name, address, Pin Code etc. Always mention the payment date clearly on your invoice (XYZ days from date of invoice) and add a late payment fee. Invoices with an added amount are more likely to get paid. For Example “Overdue invoices will be subject to statutory interest charged at X% plus the ABC Bank base rate“.
I am not saying that adding these on an invoice will make you scary and will ensure 100% timely payment, but it will definitely make you look more professional. Be very prompt with it as companies generally have a monthly pay cycle and receiving an invoice for a project completed a month back will not help your case. Furthermore, try to communicate with the accounts department directly if possible.
5. Start Chasing and DO NOT apologize for it
Be prompt while chasing a client for payment after a stipulated amount of time after sending in the invoice. The more you wait, the more they will avoid paying. For example after a week of sending in the invoice mail them: “Hey! Just wanted to remind you, my invoice no. XYZ (attached) was due for payment last Wednesday 6th and I’ve not received payment yet. Could you check at your end and confirm a payment date? Thanks!”
And while you are at it, Do not apologize for asking for your dues. Always remember, IT IS YOUR MONEY, NOT THEIRS. When a client refuses to pay, they refuse to honor their end of the contract and there is no need for you to apologize for it.
Do not say ” Hey! I’m really really sorry to do this but is there any chance you might be able to pay my invoice? It’s been a hard month and I really need some cash. “
Instead say “Hey! Just wanted to remind you, my invoice no. XYZ (attached) was due for payment last Wednesday 6th and I’ve not received payment yet. Could you check at your end and confirm a payment date? Thanks!“
Whatever the scenario, Never ever EVER work for free. If they do not have a budget. Do not entertain them.
So that’s it. These are some things that will help you stay protected and get paid. I have had my share of bad clients and I hope this helped someone struggling out there. Is there any other way that can assure payment to freelancers? Let me know:)
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