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How to get paid if you are a freelancer

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We are being constantly sold the freelance dream, right? Work when you like, do what you love and carve out a living on your own terms.

But even successful freelancers know that living the dream doesn’t come without compromise – uncertainty and freedom are next-door neighbours.

The freelance lifestyle is inherently uncertain and one universal bugbear of freelancers is getting paid, preferably on time.
However, there are a few key steps that all freelancers can take to make sure they don’t drown in a sea of late and unpaid invoices or end up as unwilling volunteers for businesses that simply decide not to pay them.

1. Trade on your reputation
This means doing an excellent job for your clients, repeatedly, which makes it much harder for clients to avoid paying you – especially if they need you for future projects.
If your clients see the value of what you do they are less likely to delay in paying your invoice.

2. Consider discounts
Nobody likes to get paid less, but would you suck up 5% to be paid in two weeks by the person who usually takes nine? In a world where it’s hard to say no to business coming in the door, offering a small discount can be a motivator to tardy payers.
It also allows you swat away any attempts by a late payer to get you to settle the bill for less than 100% – you can tell them such an offer was previously available but they didn’t avail of it.

3. Get paid up front
Maybe not the entire amount, but you should ask for at least 33% of the cost of the piece of work up front. This is especially true for new clients or somebody you haven’t worked with in a while.
It can be a difficult conversation to have sometimes, but if you adopt this as your ‘policy’ you will soon find a good chunk of cash being paid to you up front.

4. Do some homework
When a prospective new client walks into your life, do a bit of research. What does the client do? How long have they been in business? Do you have any mutual connections?
Knowing who you’re getting into bed with allows you to make smarter decisions in deciding on how to manage that particular client.

5. Make life easy for your clients
Don’t simply ask a client to post you a cheque or meet you with cash. There are multiple ways of getting paid electronically quickly and cheaply. You can handle the finances yourself or have a professional do the work for you.
Also, encourage clients to put the money directly into your account via electronic funds transfer – it will always be the cheapest for you to be paid this way.

6. Invoice quickly and properly
It is critical that when you send a client an invoice that is it crystal clear exactly how much you are invoicing for, what piece of work the invoice relates to, how the client can pay you and when you expect to be paid.
Some clients will use a badly prepared invoice as an excuse to raise queries and delay paying you.

7. Call a halt
If you agree a fee for a client and they are late paying you or don’t pay you at all, it puts you in a tricky position. However, with some thought and careful management you can get paid and not sever a relationship with a client that may be fruitful in the future.
Your client needs to know that until the money is paid you won’t carry out any more work for them – this may mean stopping dead in your tracks with a project, but it is often the way to focus minds.
People are frequently afraid of simply stopping on the basis that they might lose future work, but any client who refuses to pay you is not a client that you want in the long-term.

8. Get help
There is help out there. From billing and invoice management, credit control or, in circumstances when a relationship has completely broken down, a debt-collection service may help you.
Don’t be afraid of reaching out to a third party – expert help can solve today’s problems and stop future ones occurring.

Getting paid is why we’re all in business so having a robust and effective plan to manage this is vital to any freelancer looking to build a portfolio of clients.