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Freelancer? Here’s how to get clients to pay you on time

Working freelance and being your own boss is awesome – except that, unlike a salaried employee or wage worker, you can’t always rely on a regular paycheck.

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Workin’ on that hustle

Working freelance and being your own boss is awesome – except that, unlike a salaried employee or wage worker, you can’t always rely on a regular paycheck. For some reason, companies seem to find it all too easy to postpone your payment endlessly. If you freelance full time, it can be incredibly stressful to work from project to project, plan your budget accordingly, then wait around for a late paycheck when you have no other income coming in.

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What’s the answer when you aren’t getting paid on time?

Asking to get paid on time can be an emotional mine field. If you seem whiny, you could alienate your client and lose future contracts. But if you’re seen as a pushover, you’ll never get paid on time.

Behance’s 99U blog polled its readers (mostly freelance creatives) for ideas about how to deal with clients who are slow to pay up.

First and foremost, you need to be OK with asking to get paid.

Don’t feel guilty, and don’t talk yourself out of it. You are not being an aggressive jerk making pushy demands – you are a hired freelancer simply trying to get your end of the deal. Think about how your client would react if their monthly check was late. They wouldn’t tolerate it, and you shouldn’t either.

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It’s business, baby

If your payment is late, don’t be afraid to send a straightforward email pointing out that you haven’t received your check. Keep your message short, to the point, unemotional, and business-like. After all, this isn’t about feelings, it’s strictly business.

It’s a good idea to establish a late fee in your original negotiations.

When you send a message asking for payment, specify a particular date, and inform the client that you will have to charge a late fee if you do not receive payment by that date. You can also charge an interest fee that accumulates over time.

Jacqueline Lara, CEO of MPact PR, tried this once and the client was so dismayed at having to pay interest fees that they set up a direct deposit account for Lara, resulting in faster payments on all subsequent projects.

Leverage your assests

Mike Monteior, head of Mule Design Studio, points out that you should not give your client rights to your intellectual property until they’ve paid you for it. “This is the most leverage you have on the project — the work that you’ve done is yours until the client pays for it,” he says.

One strategy is to send a sample or preview of the original file, and only deliver the real goods after you’ve been paid.

Monteior points out that if a company uses your “work before they’ve submitted a final payment, you can sue the hell out of them,” which leads us to our final piece of advice – if necessary, don’t be afraid to ask a lawyer for help.

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It’s unlikely that you’ll have to go to court, but even a phone call from a lawyer lets your client know that you are serious.

Good luck, and get paid!

#GetPaid

Ellen Vessels, a Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for their wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Trent

    June 2, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    I design web sites and generate leads and have had a couple clients refuse to pay me. When a client refuses to pay me I send the account over to a commercial debt collection agency that has worked time and time again for me in the past… That is Tucker Albin & Associates… https://tuckeralbin.org Hope this helps.

  2. ITCrowdsource

    June 16, 2016 at 5:57 am

    It is totally time wasting to Sitting back waiting for your payment instead You could be working on other projects for the clients who are paying you. Your good luck if you getting up to half the project fee paid in advance.
    Ellen Vessels had given very good solution to charge a late fee if you do not receive payment on time.

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