Not getting paid regularly can be some of the hardest parts of freelancing. But there are ways to you even out the dry spells to ensure you’re bank account isn’t sitting empty for most of the month.

State payment terms up front

About to land a new client? That’s awesome. But before that client signs the contract, make sure you state your payment terms up front. Bear in mind that a deposit of between 20 and 50 per cent up front is a completely reasonable ask, and that the remainder should be paid 7, 14 or 30 days after you’ve delivered the creative. Make sure your contract states that payment is on delivery, NOT approval.

Invoice straight away

So many freelancers try and race through the work, and invoice later. But honestly, it’s far better for you if you invoice the same day that you deliver the work. That way there’s less chance that you invoice gets lost, or isn’t processed right away. It also shows you mean business.

Follow up

So, your invoice hasn’t been paid within the agreed terms. It happens to the best of us. But don’t hide under a rock praying you’ll be paid, re-issue the invoice stating that the invoice is now due or overdue, and wait for a response. Crickets? You may need to email the accounts team, or the client who hired you. Either way, don’t leave it. Deal with it a couple of days after your invoice is overdue.

Keep it professional

Even if you’re feeling a little desperate about the non-payment, keep it professional. Don’t start banging on about not being able to pay your bills – it’s not a good look.

Instead, simple ask when the invoice will be paid, and make sure you nail them down to a date so you know when you can expect it.\

Suggest a plan

Still not been paid? Payment plans are a very last resort, but they can work. Offer for the person to pay off the debt weekly or fortnightly, in small amounts. A few of the freelancers in our community have had to do this after clients have struggled to pay – and it has worked.

Spread the risk

Bear in mind that it is a risk if you put all your eggs in one basket. You can spread the risk by working with a number of clients, rather than just two or three. If you lose one, it’s a far bigger loss, after all.

Know your rights

You’re operating a small business. As such, you have every right to expect the same rights as a small business. This means that you can rightly expect to be paid within 30 days. The Freelance Collective has been in talks with the Small Business Ombudsman about this, read more here.

Don’t be taken for a ride

Your business success as a freelancer shouldn’t even depend on the success of your clients. Just because they’re having issues, that doesn’t mean for a second that you should have to wait to be paid. Don’t ever let yourself get to the point where one client owes you thousands. Instead, be sure you introduce payment milestones throughout a project’s lifecycle.

Take a stand

If you need to, get legal. Some of the freelancers within our community have had good success with the CollectMore app, which steps you through recovering an unpaid debt – it’s a great resource.

Another great option is the Late Payer’s List, which will send your client a letter explaining that if they don’t pay, they will add their name to a list of late payers. The threat often works. Otherwise, have a lawyer on standby if you need to have a legal letter written.

Would you benefit from a little support? Join our amazing community of supportive, compassionate and experienced freelancers and pick their brands in our private community on how to deal with an unpaid debt. They’re always there to offer a bit of advice on how they’ve dealt with similar experiences behind closed doors.

Nina Hendy

Nina Hendy

Nina Hendy is a freelance business journalist and content creator
She writes for a range of leading newspaper and magazine groups, including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, INTHEBLACK and AFR. She also writes content for a range of brands and publishers, and works with spirited entrepreneurs to bring their story to life for the media.
Nina Hendy

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