When I first started freelancing, my #1 bugbear was that client invoices were often late – or even worse, didn’t show up at all until I threatened to take legal action.
Typically, clients who did this were super happy to pile work on, request multiple (and minor) revisions and make the finish line of the project. However, when the end-date arrives, they ghost and are nowhere to be seen; with invoices being sent yet remaining unpaid.
Over the duration of my freelancing career, I’ve gotten to grips with handling these types of client, and come up with a few of my own tips on how to ensure that clients pay on time. After all, if you’re working for somebody and the fee was agreed beforehand, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be paid for it!
1. Clarify your contracts
When I did my first few freelance writing projects, I didn’t have a contract to back-up the fact that I’d done the work and that I should be paid for it. This meant that I didn’t have a safety net to fall back on, making the argument for my fees to be paid weaker.Make sure that your #freelance contracts clearly state your payment terms! Click To Tweet
Now, I have a separate section within the contracts that I send to new clients that explains my invoicing schedule, including the days in which:
- The deposit should be paid (if any)
- The invoice will be sent
- The payment will be completed
I also explain my late fee policy, along with a signature section for the client to sign. This gives us both protection if something was to happen on both ends.
2. Invoice jobs separately
If you’re a kick-ass freelancer and the client falls in love with your work, a) well done! and b) don’t let your income affect it. Although it may be good to receive a bulk-sum at the end of multiple projects, it has the potential to leave you seriously in the red if it comes to the client doing a disappearing act.
In order to prevent this, invoice jobs separately. Set a limit on how many articles you’ll write before stopping until invoices are paid.
Usually, I don’t do more than five articles without sending an invoice for a new client. If the previous one hasn’t been paid for, I won’t complete any more work until it has been paid.
This helps with getting clients to pay, as well as protects myself against clients that don’t want to hand over their money for the work that I’ve done.
(Obviously, this is different for clients that have been with me for a long time and always pay their invoices on-time!)
3. Change your due dates
As a freelancer, payment terms, commonly referred to as “due dates”, are decided by yourself. It is the deadline in which the payment should be completed after you’ve sent the invoice.
When you’re creating invoices in software apps like PayPal, the automatic payment terms are “on receipt”. However, you should change this in order to reflect the terms outlined in your initial contract.
Here are the two most common payment terms for freelancers:
For bigger clients with more managerial roles in the business, you may want to opt for 30-day payment terms. This means that the client has 30 days from receiving the invoice to paying it; allowing them plenty of time to get sign-off from your contact’s boss if needed.
The accounts team of a larger company may also qualify for 30-day due dates as they may not physically be able to make the payment within a shorter period.
However, the downside of 30-day payment terms is that obviously, you may be working a month in-hand.
Ideal for smaller businesses or invoicing other freelancers, 15-day payment terms is another popular option.
Personally, I prefer this option as it works well for both parties. It gives the client enough time to get the money together in order to pay the invoice, and it means that I’m not working too far in advance if the worst-case scenario does happen and I don’t get paid.#TopTip: Use late fees as a backup for non-paying freelance clients: Click To Tweet
4. Charge late fees
It’s not nice to include additional fees onto the agreed price for a project, but late fees cover you against the missed-cash you’ll experience in the period that the client doesn’t pay.
Charging late fees gives your client an incentive to pay – a difficult thing to create when you’ve already sent the final piece over (hence why you may need to start including deposits!), and should only be charged once the invoice deadline has passed.
Late fees can be a percentage of the project or a fixed-fee, and it’s essential to outline your late fee procedure in your initial contract. This gives the client no reason to dispute the additional fees and gives you additional protection against non-payers.
In your own freelancing career, you’ll come across clients that don’t pay. And it sucks. However, these four tips should set you up for a hiccup-free freelancing life and make sure that you get paid what you deserve.
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