Getting paid as a freelancer can be a stressful experience, especially when a client is delaying payment on a large invoice that you need desperately.
While getting paid is the top of your list, all too frequently paying you falls to the bottom of your list.
Here’s how to get paid as a freelancer and avoid the issues that come with constantly chasing clients for payment.
In this article:
Ask for payment in advance
Try to get paid immediately (for example, by using Paypal or Stripe), use a proforma invoice or ask for payment on delivery.
With clients who you don’t know very well, issue a proforma invoice or ask for payment on delivery for the first 12 months at least.
It is strongly recommended that you do this with new (online) retailers and overseas clients.
Ask for a deposit
If asking for the whole fe upfront isn’t appropriate or if you are working on a large project or commission, it is normal to split the payments and get a deposit upfront.
This will help you with your own cash flow and will also ensure that you have some control over the situation if your client does not want to pay.
Check out the finances of your client
You might want to do a credit check on any new clients, or check their accounts with Companies House if they are a limited company (though these might be out of date).
If you need help clarifying whether a client is with working with, take a look at the relevant lesson in our find freelance work course.
Agree the payment period
To avoid running into payment problems with your clients, always clarify the agreed credit period before accepting the work. Terms and conditions on an invoice only serve as a reminder and can’t be legally enforced .
Keep in regular content with the client
If your clients order from you and it will be a while before you deliver your products or finish your commission, then stay in regular contact.
Give them a timeline of each stage of your design process, and let them know when you will be sending your invoice.
Keep on top of invoices
Invoice prior to or very close to the delivery of your products or the end of your project or commission.
Include on your invoice the statement:
"Payment to be received within 30 days of date of invoice. If we are not paid in line with the agreed credit term, we will implement our right to add interest for late payments and add additional fees as compensation for debt recovery under the Late Payment Legislation."
Discount early client payments
Give a discount for early payment, for example, 3% if they pay within 30 days. It often works better if you entice them to pay early rather than punishing them if they pay late.
Get professional support
You might consider becoming a member of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). You can add their logo to your invoice, which is a good deterrent to late payers.
They also offer very good legal resources, and a "late payer service" to help you to chase late or non-payers.
Keep fantastic freelance finances
Create a financial management routine for your business, and allocate a specific time each week or fortnight to do your accounts.
At that time, send out your invoices, pay bills, check your cash flow, and chase any late payments.
If you come across as a professionally run business, you will be taken more seriously.
Negotiate for better payment terms
Some larger clients will impose their own payment terms, which are often 90 days or longer.
You can negotiate better payment terms before accepting their orders – don’t wait till you have delivered your goods.
Be aware of the potentially disastrous impact this can have on your cash flow. Sometimes it’s better to say no to a large order from a retailer, as you might run out of money and go bankrupt.