Freelancer? 4 Tips for Getting Paid on Time, Every Time

Freelancers made up 35 percent of U.S. workers last year; if the recent year-over-year trends continue, that number will only keep rising. This group earned $1 trillion last year. It’s an impressive figure, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

As a freelancer, you know how sometimes reality doesn’t match up with what’s on paper. For instance, projected income can differ wildly from what your bank account says. When clients pay late—or, worst case scenario, not at all—it threatens your livelihood. Even if you love the freedom you have as a photographer, writer, graphic designer, consultant, translator or other type of freelancer, you still have bills to pay and mouths to feed. Plus, you’re good at your job, and you want your income to reflect that.

Here are four tips to help freelancers like you get paid on time, every time.

Get the Terms in Writing

Contracts are key. A good contract protects both parties. By spelling out the terms and conditions of your payment, you’ll be locking your clients into a binding agreement that ensures you get your fair share. Likewise, your client will gain peace of mind knowing that all the important project deadlines are in writing, holding you to high standards of delivery.

As Entrepreneur points out, you can either meet with an attorney to come up with your freelancing contracts, or you can use an online template.

Pick a Payment Model

You wrap up a big project, deliver it and receive a polite thank you from your client. And then…nothing. Each time you refresh your email or online bank account, you’re filled with hope. And each time nothing has changed, you get more and more frustrated. It’s time to put an end to this type of miscommunication, both for your financial and mental health.

Consider writing milestone payments into your contract so you don’t get underpaid. For example, you could ask for a quarter of the total payment up front, another quarter halfway through the project (after you’ve submitted a draft as proof of progress) and the last half upon completion. This protects you throughout and helps you weed out clients who didn’t intend to pay in the first place. Plus, you’ll have more regular deposits into your account, which can help with ongoing operational costs.

Simplify the Payment Process

Next, it pays to look at how you’re asking for payment. When you’re sending invoices, you want each one to count, and you want to be able to easily track multiple outstanding invoices. Utilizing a cloud-based platform like Due will help you take the guesswork out of payment. Rather than emailing out individual invoices and hoping for the best, you can manage all your transactions in one place. Think about all the time you’ll be able to repurpose from tracking down random IOUs to actually working on projects.

Send a Firm Follow-Up

You’ve sent out your invoice, but your client still hasn’t paid. What now? You need a firm follow-up system that tells them in no uncertain terms that you’re expecting your payment ASAP. You should also ask your clients to contact you to discuss the issue, as you don’t want it to become a pattern.

Even though missed or delayed payments are a serious matter, you don’t want to come off as threatening in your message. As Fortune writes, “Keep your tone professional, factual, and solution-oriented.” After all, your end goal is simply to get paid with the least hassle possible.

You love what you do, but that’s not enough. You need to get paid for your time and hard work! Incorporate these four tips into your freelancing workflow so you can get paid on time.