As a skillful freelancer you will be well acquainted with the constant barrage of requests from clients, leads and fellow freelancers that you work in tandem with. 

It’s overwhelming and takes precious hours or days out of your week that could be better used for other, more rewarding activities – like family, friends, wine or getting ahead on other projects that you have happening concurrently.

On top of all of that, often you’ll be worrying about getting paid and chasing clients for money. Deliverables on their side of the table are often left as an afterthought and this can leave you with nothing but hope, dreams and lint in your pockets rather than the money that you diligently worked for.

This problem is made exponentially worse when you take on clients from overseas – time zones, currencies, language barriers and holding them accountable to Australian and International laws can become too much of a financial burden to even bother pursuing debt collection or more traditional legal channels.

The power balance in a working relationship between clients and their service providers often leans very heavily in the direction of the client but this shouldn’t be the case in mutually beneficial relationships. It’s important to identify clients that continuously push your mental and financial limits and put structure in place so that you can turn that relationship from a liability to an asset.

But isn’t every client relationship different? 

Absolutely! As freelancers the reason our clients choose us to work with us is because they value the relationship, feel that we resonate well with their business and they’re confident that we can deliver the service that they have asked for.

It’s important to recognise that just because a relationship or personality difference is apparent between clients that your structure, professionalism and earnings should remain consistent.This will help you to build your brand and save you hours per week by systematising the way you operate.

What does great structure and process look like?

The answer for this question rests entirely on what is best for your business and the types of services you provide. Digging deeply into your current engagements and turning them into a repeatable, reliable business process can be daunting if you haven’t gone down that road before and are more accustomed to adhoc relationships with clients.

Structure far outshines ad hoc agreements as you begin to take on larger projects from higher end clients. An example of a great structure for building a companies new e-commerce website could look something like the following:

Initial engagement and winning the work

  1. Initial meeting 
  2. Requirements gathering phase
  3. Writing and sending a high level proposal of works to be completed

Doing the work 

  1. Design Phase (50% paid up front, 50% paid when designs are delivered)
    1. Design discovery and branding workshop
    2. Mood boards and sketching
    3. Wireframing and UX design
    4. High fidelity designs that will be implemented
    5. 8 included revisions
    6. Getting paid
  2. Development Phase (50% paid up front, 40% paid when website is delivered, 10% after bug fixing is complete)
    1. Base website functionality
    2. Product reviews
    3. Payment integrations and checkout customisations
    4. Live chat integration
    5. First year of hosting
    6. Getting paid
  3. Deployment Phase (100% up front)
    1. Launch the website
    2. Launch the social media accounts
    3. Turn on live chat
    4. Getting paid
  4. User Acceptance Testing (100% paid up front)
    1. 2 day workshop ensuring everything works as intended
    2. Limited scope of fixes or alterations
    3. Getting paid
  5. Warranty Period (100% paid up front)
    1. 60 hours of revisions and bug fixing included
    2. Explain the charges for additional ad hoc work
    3. Getting paid

Follow ups and getting more work

  1. Follow up
    1. Are they happy in 1 month?
    2. Are they happy in 3 months?
    3. Are they happy in 6 months?
    4. Are they happy in 12 months?
  2. Asking for reviews and referrals
    1. Google Review
    2. Testimonial
    3. Introductions / Referrals

As you can see it is a very in depth process and most likely similar to what you already do with your clients (obviously geared towards your own services) but taking a high level structure like this and then tweaking it internally will allow you to charge more money, charge more often and get client feedback sooner to reduce issues that may arise in the future. 

Building follow ups and referrals into your business model is an incredible way to double or even triple your income throughout the year.

How can it be done?

Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that the level of professionalism you show when you interact with and bill your clients usually parallels how quickly they pay you. Along with this, billing your clients early and often in smaller chunks will derisk your project and also promote buy in from the client. Who hasn’t had a client go silent or missing in action at critical times during a project? If their money is on the line they are more likely to be receptive to discussions.

Basic tools you need to systematise your business:

  1. A CRM – Somewhere to store your clients details and your last contact with them
  2. A way to build a proposal
  3. A way to build a contract
  4. A way to get paid for your work (pre-paid, post-paid or other methods)
  5. A way to track client requirements and feedback
  6. A change request process to prevent scope creep

Many businesses start with basic spreadsheets, email and document editors like Word / PowerPoint and Google Docs to get this tooling sorted out but quickly outgrow them and begin looking for more specialised tooling that can do the job.
One such tool is MilestonePay ( that lets you manage all of your business operations from start to finish. Although I am a little biased as I currently work there, I sincerely believe it is the best tool to run a freelance or small agency business. Better yet, the Starter version comes with no monthly subscription!

Is it time for you to start systematising your freelance business and get paid faster? 

Ryan Handby
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