Getting paid is pretty much the most important part of freelancing or remote working. When you don’t see your clients face-to-face on a regular basis it gets more difficult to make sure the money keeps flowing in.
Charge what you’re worth. Don’t be afraid to lose a job because a client can’t afford you
Charging what you’re worth is incredibly important. If you place a low value on your services, clients will treat you in the same manner. You’re not a teenager working out of your parent’s basement and you shouldn’t be charging like you are. If you do want to cut your rate to get a client who just can’t afford you, make sure they know that you are doing so.
Early in my career I met with a client who instantly give me bad vibes and I decided I didn’t want to work with them. Instead of saying no I submitted an estimate that was double my standard rate, hoping they would just go away. Instead they accepted the estimate and hired me. It was a big mistake, they were the client from hell, but thankfully I had the extra padding and ended up needing it.
Do some homework on prospective clients. Trust your instincts
Always trust your instincts. If a client is too good to be true, or gives you bad vibes, you’re probably right. Don’t be afraid to ask other designers if they have had any experience with the client, and do a web search to see if red flags come up. If you know that the client could become a potential headache, then why take a chance with them?
Last year I received an email from a prospective client eager to pay me a huge deposit by credit card, but they also wanted me to add an extra $5,000 to their payment to cover the services of their copy writer. They wanted me to transfer the $5,000 directly to him once I got paid. Immediate red flag! I insisted that I could not do that, and asked for copies of their drivers license to prove their identity. I didn’t hear back from them again. Always, ALWAYS trust your instincts.
Bill up front. Get a deposit
Don’t EVER think it’s rude or unprofessional to ask for a deposit, especially for a new client. It’s not only common practice, it ensures that you get paid for your services and keeps the cash flowing in. Especially when some projects drag on for months, having a deposit helps make sure they get completed and not abandoned.
How much you should ask for before starting on a job depends on your industry and how you’ve setup your rates. When you’re charging for bigger projects 30 to 50 per cent up front is common.
If a client is unwilling to give a deposit for your work, that’s a pretty big red flag.
Instead of waiting every month to send an invoice, you should probably be billing weekly or immediately following the completion of a job. This not only keeps a positive cash flow, it also prevents you forgetting to send out an invoice.
If you use invoicing software, and there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be, you can also setup recurring invoices for clients that pay monthly, which not only makes your life easier, it also makes sure that your invoice gets to the client in a timely manner.
Don’t work if you don’t get paid
You’re not a debt collector. Instead of spending time tracking down clients and asking why their invoice is overdue, you should be working on other projects for the clients who are paying you. If you send out an invoice and it hasn’t been paid on the agreed upon date, then stop working for that client until the invoice is paid.
Always follow up with clients after sending an invoice. If you have a client who always pays on time and suddenly you don’t receive a payment, reach out to them politely and make sure they received the invoice.
Use professional invoicing software and time tracking software
Invoices are a great way to remind a client that payment is due. ALWAYS itemize what the invoice covers and specify the due date for payment. A professional invoicing system not only helps with collecting payment, it also lends you credibility.
When you send a new client a contract to sign, include an invoice for a down payment. And once the project is complete, when you send the client their final artwork or proof, attach an invoice.
Freshbooks lets you access your contacts and paperwork remotely, sends invoices by email or post, supports most currencies, and can schedule repeating invoices. The service will even send out late payment reminders and process payments all online.
Billings Pro is similar to FresbBooks in many ways and it’s the software that I use – mainly because I don’t like having to use a web browser to track my time and invoices. There’s a native Mac OS X and iOS app that make it much more convenient for how I work. The monthly fee is also cheaper than FreshBooks.
Fresh books: https://www.freshbooks.com
Billings Pro: https://www.marketcircle.com/billingspro/
Make it easy for clients to pay you
Working remotely it’s really important to accept payment in electronic form. You can easily set-up a PayPal account and accept payments online. Your bank can help you get set-up to take credit card payments through an online terminal or payment gateway on your website. Stripe is a great alternative too and its very easy to set-up and super simple for client’s to use. You can also insist on electronic money transfers straight into your bank account.
Unfortunately some clients still insist on paying by cheque and there’s no easy way to deal with that.
Working through an outsourcing websites like Upwork or Elance invoicing and payments are handled automatically.
Always Get it in writing
A good contract protects both you and your client, plus it makes you look more professional. Contracts also specify the terms and conditions of the project which include everything from client expectations to payment terms. If you don’t have the budget for an lawyer to draft a contract, there are plenty of websites that can provide you a good contract template. Having a good contract is on one of the most important ways to ensure that you get paid.
Smashing Magazine: https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2013/04/legal-guide-contract-samples-for-designers/
Rocket Lawyer: https://www.rocketlawyer.com
If all else fails, Call in the calvary
What happens when a client still hasn’t paid an invoice after countless emails and phone calls? Nothing works better than having a friend, spouse or partner give them a call. Hearing a different voice on the phone is often enough of a jolt to get a stubborn client to pay.
I have used a collection agency in the past but it is often not worth the hassle or expense as they typically charge a percentage of the outstanding invoice as their fee. One of my designer friends went so far as to invent a fake collection agency, complete with custom letterhead, to send a collection letter to a stubborn client. He saved the fee charged by the collection agency and ended up getting paid.
F*ck You, Pay Me
This presentation by Mike Monteiro of Mule Design has become somewhat legendary since it was first released in 2011. Beware that it’s not exactly safe for work.