As many of us are self-employed, freelancing and/or independent workers in some way or another, the requirement for getting paid in a timely manner is paramount to our very professional existence.
As such, getting paid properly is one of the most important things to get right as you navigate your way through the sometimes stormy seas of creative independence. Sometimes, if not fairly frequently, people do come across some snags, even nightmares, that revolve around clients taking a long time to pay up, or in some cases not paying at all.
Once you’ve completed a project for someone, it would seem that whether you get paid or not is completely down to your client. There are, however, several things that could be down to what you do that would have a significant bearing on this.
Here are 12 things you could be doing that resist the flow of money coming your way from your clients:
1. Forgetting to create your own contract, or ask to sign one made by the client
It’s best to create your own terms in your own contract, to be signed by both parties (even on top of a contract that might be provided by the client). Not using one will tempt less worthy clients to pay late, or not at all.
So make sure you build a contract into your policy with all projects, no matter how small.
2. Being indirect about getting paid
Many of us tend to get coy when it comes to discussing issues surrounding getting paid. If you’re doing a job for someone, this should be a mutual agreement in which a service is exchanged for money. This means money should be discussed openly as part of the deal.
Be clear early on exactly how much you intend to get paid, within what time-period, in how many intervals and payment method used.
3. Not including your terms on late payment
You should have a strict policy on late payments, included in your contract, or mentioned to the client early on, with a certain percentage of the project cost, to be paid by the late payer per day/week/month of payment received after an agreed grace period.
4. Offering too many payment options
Offering a large range of payment choices could be having an effect on your client’s ability to make a decision on how to pay you, thus leading to a delay in payment. Keep your options to a minimum, using the most popular methods.
5. Being impersonal surrounding payment
What I mean here is that you need to adopt a certain degree of grace, and politeness when it comes to asking to be paid, and sending out your invoice.
Even though it is your right to get paid after having done the work, being polite about it, will give a better, more grateful impression, leading to a better, and hopefully quicker response from the client.
6. Being too slow to send your invoice
The longer you leave sending over your invoice, the longer it will take for you to get paid, obviously. Secondly, if you leave it late, your client will be under the impression that you are not rushed to get paid, and maybe take a while on their side too, using your slowness as an excuse.
7. Being unclear about what you are charging for
It can be easy to write a quick, yet vague description of the project you worked on in your invoice and when asking for payment. The client needs to be totally clear on exactly what you worked on to know they are getting a fair deal and to know what they are paying for.
You wouldn’t pay for something you didn’t really understand at the mall would you?
8. Not dealing with the person in charge of payment
Be clear on who exactly in your client’s company is supposed to deal with payment and make sure your invoice gets to them, to avoid constant passing around and further confusion.
The larger the organisation, the more important this is.
9. Forgetting to chase up
Chasing up a late-paying client is perfectly reasonable if it’s been a while and need only be an email, at least to start. Consider calling up clients during work hours, to really amp up the pressure. If these don’t work, consider moving to formal letters, even the small claims court over it.
A useful article on how to chase up late payments in more depth is on the journalism.co.uk site here.
10. Being hesitant about what you charge
Changing your rates mid-project or being vague about what you charge can encourage some clients (often subconsciously) to feel they have the upper hand in terms of your professional relationship. With this, could come delayed payment.
11. Forgetting to ask for a deposit payment at the start
Particularly for larger projects, with larger fees, it’s a good idea to ask for a percentage fee of the overall charge, such as 30% paid, before starting.
If a client doesn’t agree to doing this, you’re probably better off without them, and would avoid payment issues with them after you’ve completed the work.
12. Not accepting payment when it is offered
You can really be missing an opportunity when someone asks whether it would be ok to pay there and then. They might say something like ‘can I pay you by bank transfer right now?’ and you say ‘no, no that’s fine, we can leave it till the work is done!’
Accept payment whenever the opportunity arises.
Any nightmare stories or further ideas are welcome in the comments section below!
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