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How to Get Your Freelance Clients to Pay on Time

It’s estimated that by 2028, freelancers will make up more than half of the U.S. workforce. Thanks to advancements in technology, the need for specialized skills, and even the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, contractors are becoming more prevalent than ever. The gig economy is growing, and it’s no surprise as to why.

There are so many benefits to being a full-time freelancer. Essentially, you get to be your own boss! You choose how much work you want to take on and the type of work you want to do.

But, there are a few risks. Because there are so many people in the gig economy, you have to find ways to stand out from your competition. Most freelancers have to be great at marketing themselves and developing their own personal brand.

Once you start building up a client base, you can find a lot of success as a freelancer. But, after you have delivered your work, there is one more issue that will always need to be resolved — getting your clients to pay.

Remember, as a freelancer, you’re running your own business. It’s important to have a system in place that allows you to send out professional invoices and ensure that your clients pay on time for the services they received.

So, if you’re done dealing with difficult clients who drag their feet to pay you, what can you do? Let’s go over a few helpful tips so you can enjoy the rewards for the work that you do.

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Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Send a Contract with Payment Terms

It’s important to protect yourself in all aspects of your freelancing business. Before you start working with a client, have them sign a contract that explains everything they should expect from your services.

Obviously, your contract can include as many legalities and details as you see fit. When it comes to the rules of payment, though, you should set terms from the start, so your client isn’t left in the dark or surprised when they receive your invoice.

Your payment terms are entirely up to you, so decide what you feel most comfortable with. But, they should be clearly laid out in your contract in as much detail as possible, including dates. You could use language like:

  • Payment due 30 days after invoice date
  • Payment due on January 1st, 2021

You can even create terms that allow your client to pay you in stages. For example, you might list that you won’t begin your work without a certain percentage paid up front. This ensures that you will receive some of your money, no matter what, and it can give you the confidence to trust that the client will pay the rest when the job is done.

Establishing late fees within your contract also isn’t unheard of. The late fee you charge could either be a flat fee, or a percentage of the total cost of the project. If you are going to include late fees as part of your agreement, it’s a good idea to remind your client about them when you send out the invoice. Your late fee terms should be on both the contract and invoice so there is no confusion and your client understands the consequences of not paying on time.

There are plenty of different ways to word your payment terms. Just make sure they are clear and not confusing. When you set out your terms from the beginning, your client can’t argue with you about them later on. If they don’t pay within the agreed time limit, they have broken the contract, and you may be entitled to take action against them to get your money.

Make Sure Your Invoice Is Easy to Understand

If you’re going to take the time to have crystal-clear payment terms in your contract, then it’s just as important to make sure the actual invoice is easy to read and understand. Keep in mind that the clients you’re working for are likely very busy, with other things on their plate.

If your invoice is overly-complicated or hard to understand, they may push it aside for the time being until they have more time to focus on it. Unfortunately, that can lead to them forgetting about it, which can result in a late payment.

Your goal should never be to confuse your client. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to pay their invoice and give you the right amount.

So, focus on everything from the template and designs you use on your invoices, to the words you choose to say. Keep your language clear and concise, and make the numbers easy to read.

It can often be worth it to use a service or app to help you send invoice statements to your client. They usually have pre-made templates that are designed to look clean and concise, and they will get your clients’ attention.

Build a Relationship with Your Client

The average person sees anywhere from 4,000-10,000 advertisements each day. The clients you work for are no exception. While they might be hiring you for a service, they don’t necessarily want to feel like they are working with a walking advertisement.

That’s why it’s so important to form professional relationships with your clients. Just like everyday customers, they don’t want to feel as though they are being marketed something.

This should be a part of your strategy to gain more clients, in the first place — have a personal touch. Show the humanistic side of your freelance brand. Once you’ve been hired, continue that casual and conversational tone. When you build relationships with your clients, it will be easier to follow up with them regarding their invoice. Because you have that connection with them, they will also be more likely to pay on time.

So, don’t be afraid to drop the curtain a bit, and let your clients get to know you. Get to know them. If they are close by, meet for coffee at some point to discuss future projects. The closer you can get to a strong professional relationship, the easier it will be to get paid on time without having to constantly remind them.

Person Working
Photo by bongkarn thanyakij from Pexels

Remind Your Clients — Gently

Speaking of constantly reminding — it does happen, sometimes. Again, you’re doing a job and a service. This is your livelihood, so of course, you want to get paid in a timely manner.

Most clients have the best of intentions when it comes to paying for the job you did. But, as stated above, many of them are probably busy with other things. Whether it just slipped their mind or they have been avoiding the payment on purpose, there is nothing wrong with sending friendly reminders once you have given your client their initial invoice.

Obviously, you don’t want to hound anyone for money, so spacing out your reminders is a good idea and won’t cause your client to feel overwhelmed.

Send them a friendly email a week before their invoice is due, and if they don’t pay, follow that up with another email, or even a phone call a few days later. If you send your reminders the right way and use the appropriate language, your clients won’t be offended. In fact, they will likely appreciate the gesture if they simply forgot about the payment.

Offer Your Clients Early-Payment Rewards

Everyone loves an incentive! No matter who you’re working for, that fact remains. So, you can increase your chances of getting paid on time by offering your clients incentives for paying early. Typically, that means something like offering a percentage off if the invoice is paid in full a week before the due date. But, don’t be afraid to get creative and develop incentives that fit your needs.

Even a small incentive can go a long way. If your client feels as though they are getting something at a discounted price or receiving some kind of special treatment, they will be much more likely to pay early and save money.

Always Be Professional

The average freelancer makes just under $40,000 each year, but that number varies greatly depending on the type of work you do and how many clients you’re working with. In order to be as successful as possible, you have to carry yourself as though you were a brand. Everything you do needs to have a sense of professionalism to it, including sending out invoices and reminding clients when they are due.

Once you master the art of sending invoices and the gentle reminders that follow, you won’t have to worry about not getting paid. You will be taken more seriously as your own personal ‘business’ when you put in the effort to look and act like one.

Remember, this is your career, and you need to get compensated for everything you do. So, set clear ground rules with your clients, don’t be afraid to get close to them, and be expected to get paid a fair amount for the work you do in a time frame that is agreed upon.

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