Freelancers, how to ensure you ALWAYS get paid and ON TIME?

Posted on 03 Jul 2019 09:09 in Small Business Hacks
by Snehasish Powali

Cash flow is a lifeline for freelancers. Getting paid 100% every time and on time for the services you provide is so crucial. Here are some steps you can take to increase the possibility of getting paid on time.

Photo - Yoko, Freelaance Translator

One of the best thing about freelancing is not having to report to anyone. You are your own boss. But as an owner of a business, you are not getting guaranteed salary on first day of the next month. You will get paid, only if you complete the project on time and to client's satisfaction. It doesn't stop there; you must send an invoice in time.

If you work online, from home or do any type of contract work, it becomes vital to have a pre-plan in mind to make sure you are paid for the work you do and on time. 

Here are few simple but important things you should do to make sure you get paid on time for every work you do.


Take time to accept the work.

When you get an enquiry for a new project/assignment, it is your right not to respond right away. Carefully consider the time given to complete the project/assignment and pricing. You must fully feel comfortable with time and money. Any project with an overly negotiated deadline and pricing can lead to satisfactory results on both sides.  Know about the company online, who is offering you the project/assignment. Read review and ratings about the client. If possible, ask another freelancer who worked with them before. 


Taking time, in the beginning, will save time and efforts later on.


Sign a formal contract with your client.

If you begin a project/assignment without any formal contract signing, your client can leave you abruptly without specific reasons. If you start work without a contract and your employer is not respecting you well, then frankly you are not respecting yourself. Do remember that contracts are there to secure both parties and if somebody is not willing to sign one, it is because they are trying to pull off a fast one. 

Signing a contract serves a few important purposes that make it worth making one.

  • First of all, the formal contract establishes you in the client’s mind as a business professional and sets a pace for the rest of your working relationship. 
  • It also assists by outlining the expectations and parameters of the assignment, so neither party can argue later about being misunderstood.
  • A contract must specifically address the terms of payment that serves as proof of your agreement. The importance of being clear and detailed in your contract cannot be stressed enough. 
  • In addition to providing you with some legal help in the event of nonpayment, a well-worded contract assures that both you and the client are on the same boat. 

Use the contract as a shield to set up additional guidelines to protect you in case needed. If possible, specify that you will not be releasing a final product until you have been paid in full for a project. Another helpful phrase to include is that clients get their creative rights to the work once you have received payment. That means if payment is not received, you will still own the rights.


Set clear and acceptable payment terms

What you do at the outset of a business conversation depicts the tone of the entire transaction. Be clear about how and when the client has to make payment. It is vital to remove any possible misunderstandings about billing at the start. Before you sign a contract or start any project, get all the possible information about the person responsible for paying you. 


If you are working with a large company, ask for a dependable contact in accounts payable. This way, you and the client or company who has hired you both to have explicit knowledge of precisely what you have done and how you have done it. This is very important if you are charging by the hour and that will invariably help you know what your investment is actually worth.


Get advance payment before you start working.

Many freelancers need an advance payment before a project/assignment begins. While it can be challenging to start doing this if you are not doing it already, but it is worth the trouble. Sometimes it can be challenging to make your client agree to pay you in advance some money, but it is necessary for your security as well as cash flow, at the same time it is good for the client too as there is proof of transaction that binds both parties in commitment.


Make a list of things you’ll need, take the advance payment for it all. Don’t work unless you have got the payment.


Use project management software.

People change, project goals take a new turn, and contracts get bigger with that deadline change, and expectations on deliverable also change. You might have addressed these possibilities in the agreement, but how do you track them? Because all such changes cost time, efforts and ultimately money.  If you are using email emails and phone calls, you will quickly lose track of your work. Fail or delayed delivery, wrong of errors deliverable, loss of time and efforts are few definitive results you should expect.


Investing in a simple project management system will go a long way in tracking, completing and delivering the project on time and without delays, which will ultimately serve the purpose of getting paid every time and on time.


Time Tracking is essential.

If your project/assignment is billed on an hourly basis, then time tracking mechanism to be transparent and well accepted by both parties. Once both sides agreed on that, you must ensure to log time correctly and report them daily. Most of the time tracking apps have reporting features which will make it an easy task to time your hours, report regularly and invoice your clients at the end of the work period or the project.


Invoice correctly — invoice promptly.

Send the invoice for work done on time is must and every freelancer must adopt this best practice. Most of the freelancers do get paid on time is either because they don't send an invoice on time or some time they forget entirely under the pressure of completing the next project. 


Every freelancer must make a small investment on getting professional, simple to use invoicing softwaare. A polished and errors free invoicing system does not only help with payment collection; it also lends some credibility to your service.


When you send a new client a copy of the contract, attach an invoice for the down payment if possible. Once a project is fully complete, and you are notifying the buyer that they can view and have their final product, attach an invoice with it. In your initial conversations, when you are hammering out the details, you can let prospective customers know when to expect invoices to come and how they will pay them.


Make it easy for your client to pay. 

Do everything that is within your power to make it as simple as possible for the clients to pay you. Set yourself up in every way to accept credit/debit card payments – in addition to opening up to a broader spread of payment options within reach of customers, you will not have to wait for a check to arrive in the mailbox. All online payment gateways each website takes a small commission or fee from the total payment, but it is worth for your peace of mind.



Finally to summarise in one sentence, if you want to get paid every time and on time make sure to communicate as frequently as possible with your client, set clear expectations and invoice on time without fail. 


We would love to hear from you about your experience and the steps you took to get paid on every time and on time.


About the author

Snehasish Powali     
I see it as an opportunity to learn. This will be more like a challenge for me to test my limits. I am a self-motivated individual and I will do my best to submit work that is of the best quality. I take every problem as a challenge in order to imp

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