Getting paid on time is perhaps one of the biggest issues that freelancers encounter during their career (and one of the most irritating too!).
We’ve all experienced clients taking weeks or even months to provide the payment for the services you’ve rendered to them, and this can cause some serious cash flow issues. So, how the hell do you deal with these ‘late payers’?
3 Effective methods to getting paid
1. The Downpayment
First things first, the downpayment. Yes, the word strikes horror into the hearts and minds of some. Paying for a service that’s not even been started yet, what? Its standard industry practice to ask for a percentage downpayment before beginning any work as a form of security for both the client and freeloader (uh, I meant freelancer).
You need to make sure it’s clearly stipulated in any contract/agreement you get your client to sign before going ahead with the project, and you need to make sure the client needs to pay this before you begin. Remember, never ever start work without taking this payment first, it’ll save you a lot of hassle in the future. The only case you may make an exception is with reliable clients you’ve dealt with in the past.
If the client starts delaying the downpayment, it’s a sign that things could get real ugly later on, so be vigilant. The best way to ensure you get the payment on time so you can start the project in a timely manner is to remind them through multiple avenues (phone calls, emails, snail mail, PayPal request). If the client doesn’t make the payment within a good time-frame without real cause, then it might be a good idea to reconsider whether or not you wish to take on the work.
2. Retain Deliverables
It’s always good practice to retain the deliverables from the client until the final payment is made. There should be no real problem here as you’re probably showing the client previews of the work throughout the duration of the project.
This will ensure that you get paid promptly, and is a very simple procedure to implement. Again, make sure this is stipulated in the contract your client signs at the start of the project.
3. Getting Paid Online
Here’s the tricky one. If you’re taking clients online, then there’s a little more you need to consider. For example, you’re probably taking payments through PayPal, then you need to think about chargebacks which can be initiated after any form of payment is made to you. There are a lot of people online who scam freelancers regularly for some cheap work, so beware.
You could consider taking payments online in different methods, such as wire transfers, or maybe using escrow. It’s always a little more tricky freelancing for clients online, so just ensure you get a contract sign and try to do some due diligence before initiating a project.
If things turn bad
So, you started a project with a client, he/she paid the downpayment without hesitation and the project went along pretty smoothly. The project comes to an end, and you post a final invoice to the client for the remaining amount. The client doesn’t respond for a few days, so you decide to send a few emails out and try to call. Nothing. So what do you do now?
Well, first off be a little patient. People are forgetful and lazy, so it could just well be that your client hasn’t got to paying off your invoice yet. Wait it out a little, and send over a few reminders his/her way. Usually, the client gets around to paying after a few days/weeks, and is just busy with other things.
2. Taking it Further
If it’s been long enough and the client has refused to get in touch with you, and has not paid off your invoice, then you could consider taking things a little further. I know of one freelancer who went down and visited her client’s offices – she was paid the same day. It’s sometimes necessary to go to extra lengths – after all, your livelihood depends on getting paid.
3. Taking it Even Further
Lets say your client is too far away for you to visit them, or the visits didn’t work out and payment was still not made, then you have a few other options left. One of those options is to go to a small claims court and try to get the client to pay like that. You’ll obviously need to supply any contract or agreement you and your client had, along with details of the project etc.
It’s very rare to go this far to get paid, and to be honest, most freelancers would give up after the visit and decide it’s not worth their time. It’s important to make sure that traditional businesses understand that freelancers value their own time, and it’s just as important as their own – and the way of reinforcing this ideal is to always make sure you’re paid on time, every time.
Conclusion: getting paid on time
Remember, it’s critical to have persistence and patience when it comes to not getting paid, sooner or later it’ll pay off. Getting what you’re entitled to late can be annoying, however not getting it at all is worse, so keep at it.