Getting paid for doing work shouldn’t be difficult, but sometimes it is for a freelancer. Smaller businesses are particularly vulnerable to late payments because larger companies tend to consider them low-priority.

For freelancers the problem can be even more pronounced as you’re the sole earner and there’s no one else to fall back on. You can only take on so many clients at once and if one doesn’t pay up, this can end up affecting your ability to pay the bills that keep you going.

While some clients disappearing after receiving their bill is hard to avoid completely, there are some things you can do to decrease the likelihood of this happening to you.

Write up a contract

This is rule number one of any business dealing that involves money. No job is too small that it doesn’t need a contract. It doesn’t matter how much you trust the client, contracts are important to protect your interests.

It’s a good way to check that both the freelancer and the client are on the same page as you will both have to agree to the terms and sign the contract. You can then refer to this should any disagreements come up.

Ask for upfront payment

Many freelancers who have had people duck out of payments now ask for some of their fee up front. It’s up to you what percentage you want to ask for. Some ask for 25%, others 50%. Occasionally freelancers will ask for 100% but they’re usually well-established freelancers with a solid reputation.

Anyone looking for free work is unlikely to bother you further once you ask for upfront payment. Those who agree to pay upfront costs are likely to be more committed and will be less likely to jump ship as they’ve already invested in you.

Set late payment fees

Late payments are unfortunately common but why should you miss out? Having a late payment fee will compensate you for your wait at least or will hopefully act as a deterrent for clients. Make sure you discuss this with clients and also include it in your contract before you start working so they’re aware.

Send invoices promptly

Invoices are important because some clients will simply forget to pay unless they receive one. You might have to send out reminders to follow up for clients who are slow to pay too.

You can either create your own invoices or use a template. One step further is to get some accounting software that allows you to create and send invoices. You can then attach these invoices to bank transactions and manage your finances more efficiently.


Do you have any payment terms you insist on? Have you ever had a client pay late or not at all? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


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