Missed and late payments are a frustrating problem that many freelancers experience. In fact, a recent report from the Independent Economy Council found that a staggering 74% of freelancers are not getting paid on time. That’s a hugely significant number.
As the freelance workforce grows ever larger, problems like this are not likely to disappear. But fortunately, there are ways to avoid this vexing issue.
To ensure you don’t fall into the 74% category, we’re going to take a look at some simple yet effective ways to fix common invoicing issues. Ready to manage your finances and get paid on time, every time? Let’s dive in.
Always Start With A Contract
Before you agree to take on work from a client, provide and sign a contract. This is an important aspect of freelancing for a number of reasons.
- Legally binds the client to pay you
- Protects your rights
- Offers an opportunity to highlight any potential issues or unclear expectations
- Provides proof of past due debts
- Clarifies terms and conditions
Creating a standard contract for your profession as a freelancer will help to prevent miscommunications from occurring while protecting you from getting taken advantage of. It also holds the client legally responsible for paying you by a certain date.
Request A Deposit
It is perfectly within your right as a freelancer to request an up-front deposit for any jobs you take on. The average deposit percentage falls between 30% and 50% of the total amount owed per project.
This tactic not only ensures you get a portion of what’s owed to you before any work begins, but it also adds incentive for clients to continue working with you.
Say, for example, a client hires you for a job, and you start putting hours into it. Halfway through, they pull out of the deal, and you’ve now wasted resources—whether these are time, money, or materials, one, two, or all three. In instances like this, requesting an up-front deposit prevents unnecessary time and money wastage.
Send Invoices Punctually
Sending your invoices out as soon as the work is done is getting paid on time 101. In doing this, you can ensure you keep your records straight and your cash flow consistent. Plus, you demonstrate your preference for punctuality and show clients that you take professional commitment seriously.
The longer you wait to send out your invoices, the more likely your client is to make a delayed payment. Instead of assuming that your client will pay you on time, stay one step ahead by making sure your end of the deal is always being upheld to a high standard.
Provide Numerous Payment Method Options
Sometimes, the reason why a client pays you later than they should is because of technical payment issues—and these may not be all their fault. To avoid this situation, make sure you provide clients with a wide variety of different payment options, such as:
- Google Pay
- EFT/Wire Transfer
- Apple Pay
This is just a small list of some of the most popular payment methods in the freelance marketplace. By providing multiple payment method options, you automatically make it much easier for clients to pay you without needing to scramble for last-minute downloads and processing.
Add A Late Payment Fee Clause
It’s completely acceptable to add a late payment fee clause on your contracts and invoices. This adds an extra incentive for clients to pay you within your agreed-upon time frame and drastically reduces the chance of them paying late. And even if they do, you’ll still get compensated.
If you’ve never had a late payment fee attached to your invoices, it might feel awkward or uncomfortable to do so. However, the business world is a bit like a jungle sometimes—you have to eat or be eaten. Getting used to setting professional boundaries like this can only boost your career.
The amount you choose to set is up to you, but most people opt for a 1% increase of the total amount owed for everyday past the payment due date. Just be aware that you must include the penalty clause on your original invoice. You can’t spring it on the client after the fact. For this reason (and many others), it’s a great idea to use a self-employed invoice template to ensure the clause doesn’t get left out accidentally.
Send A Friendly Reminder
If a client owes you money and it’s causing you concern, send them a friendly reminder. People’s lives get busy, and if they’re distracted with other tasks, paying you might not be at the top of their priority list. Chances are, they’ll pay you as soon as they realize they owe you. Here’s an example:
I hope you’re doing well. This is just a reminder that a payment of $XXX is due by X date in order to settle your balance. I accept payments via X, X, X, and X. For your convenience, I have re-attached your invoice.
Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
An email like this shows your client that while being friendly and flexible, you’re keeping tabs on their activity and will hold them accountable should the need arise.
Do A Background Check On New Clients
Unfortunately, there just are some people out there who may try to exploit you. But on the bright side, there are also some telltale scam signs you can identify and tactically avoid. For example:
- Insist on unusual payment methods
- Do not have verified online profiles (if you use a freelance platform it should regulate this)
- Ask for a “test” project before agreeing to hire you
- Request to make contact outside of legitimate channels
Clients who seem overly enthusiastic about hiring you, have a suspicious resume, or offer you an exorbitant amount of money are not likely to be trustworthy. Always do a thorough sweep of new clients’ profiles and backgrounds before going anywhere near an official contract.
Both companies and freelancers report frequent unpaid or missed payments from clients. But unlike larger businesses, freelancers are often less protected from difficulties like this.
As a freelancer, it’s vitally important to put proper measures in place to protect yourself from potentially shady clients and make sure you get paid what you’re owed. With these simple tips, getting paid on time may become an easier and more consistent experience.
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