If you have been working as a freelancer for quite some time, there’s every chance that you have dealt with a client who is always late in making payments, and even worse, a client who disappeared without paying anything at all.
Getting paid in full and in time is one of the biggest challenges for a freelancer.
Ideally, it should be as simple as, complete the task, create and send an invoice, and get paid, but while most of the clients are exceptionally considerate and prompt as far as payments are concerned, there are some who will turn this seemingly simple process in a nuisance. If you are a seasoned freelancer, and you’ve had some bad experiences as far as payments and invoicing is concerned, then probably you’ve learnt your lessons. But in case you are just starting, you should go through the following guidelines to avoid late, or no payments.
Things to Check in Advance
Ideally, you should do the due diligence even before you start working on a project. You cannot really do a history check, since you are just a freelancer and most of your clients will be living in a faraway region, but following are some tips that will help you come to a decision:
The Business: Look at the age, size, and online presence of the business that you are going to deal with. Most of the times you will be getting the work from small businesses or start ups, and while there’s nothing bad about a newly launched business, except that your client might be short on funds. For these clients, it’s better to work on short term basis, instead of waiting for an entire month or a big order to be completed before getting paid, because you never know when they will run out of funds. A simple search at Google or a detailed look at their website will give you some indicators about the size, age, and online presence of the business in question.
The Middle man: Working as a freelancer for a middleman is risky for more than one reason. To start with, they will eat up a big part of your profits without doing anything at all, and then they will have to wait for the payment before they can pay you. In case, their contract with the client is terminated, most of these clients will not bother paying you from their pocket.
Response time: Usually it will take a lot of back and forth emails and messages before a project get underway. If your client is late in responding to your queries or emails, then it’s not a good sign. True that they might be busy, but if they are taking days in sending a short reply, they might take weeks in responding to your payment request.
Professionalism: Last but not the least, look at the level of professionalism in their emails or any other mode of communication. If you are getting short emails with poor English and typos, sent from a free email account, the client is most likely a middleman and you should stay away.
Just because you are a small freelancer, and you are desperate for work, that doesn’t mean you should be shy of discussing and finalizing the important details like mode of payment or time limit. It’s better to let a client go instead of doing the work and getting stuck with the payment.
At times, talking in advance about a simple thing like mode of payment will save you from quite some disappointment later on (especially if you cannot accept payments via PayPal). You can use the services of a lawyer for drafting a short and simple contract, or you can search for a free sample on the web.
- To start with, invoice the clients straight away, as soon as you’ve reached a milestone or completed a project.
- You can use an online invoicing service or application for creating professional invoices. The invoice should clearly mention the services rendered and their respective charges, not to forget the due date and preferred mode of payment.
- Being a freelancer, you might be working for many different clients, meaning you will have to create many invoices on regular basis, so you must add a serial number for tracking or record keeping.
- If your invoicing service allows, you should personalize the invoice or checkout page according to your website or brand. You can also add some late fee clause to discourage late payments.