Being independent puts freelancers in a pretty fragile position. There’s no corporate shark lawyer to watch your back or an HR department to turn to with contractual disputes. The best (and cheapest) protection is to become pro-active and not leave sensitive issues like payments to clients’ whims. Here are 10 tips to help you cover your bases and get paid on time.
1. State Your Terms: Your invoice should also have a politely worded reminder about when it needs to be paid by: “Thank you for your business. Please send payment within 14 days of receiving this invoice.”
2. Make the Date Prominent: An invoice can easily be scanned and thrown to a finance department who will chuck your invoice into an unpaid pile. Make sure they can quickly tell when it needs to be paid by.
3. Manage Expectations: Give your clients a contract outlining your expectations and reach an agreement before starting the job. Go through key deliverables, payment dates, what the client can expect from you and what you expect from them. This starts you off with clear boundaries to work from.
4. Be Specific: Be very clear about what it is that you are doing for a client. If you are creating a website don’t just write “website design,” write “10 page Wix website including 10 pages of copy.” Make sure you charge for extras.
5. Build Up Your Client Relationship: Keep in constant communication with your client. You should keep them updated about how their project is coming along. This will help them feel involved and not have any surprises at the end.
6. Include All of Your Payment Details: Your client should know how you want to get paid. Make it as easy as possible for them. Bank, PayPal and even checks info should be on your invoice.
7. Itemize Your Invoice: An itemized invoice tells your client exactly what they are paying for. This means that there is less chance of queries.
8. Send a Reminder: If your invoice is overdue you should send a reminder. Make sure this is friendly and the tone is professional. Ask when payment will be made. It’s a good idea to send a reminder three days before the due date and then once a week after that.
9. Email Your Invoice: This might seem obvious but some clients still insist on being sent paper copies of invoices. Send an email as well. This means that they have received the invoice on the email date and the hard copy will serve as a reminder.
10. Find Out Who Pays You: If you are working with a small business this isn’t always necessary, but in a big organization it’s agood idea to find out who deals with invoices. This will let you direct any correspondence straight to them.