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How freelancers can get paid on time, every time.

I see a lot of posts from freelancers complaining about not being paid on time or celebrating the miracle of being paid quickly. Unfortunately, this is the reality, and it’s not acceptable. But I don’t always think these types of posts are helpful for the freelance narrative – us setting the tone for and shaping what we believe freelancing should look like. We can also do more to help ourselves.

A Message For Businesses Who Pay Freelancers…

Pay people on time. If this isn’t a value your business holds, then what is? Paying late is terrible for the overall economy, and it does not make commercial sense for your business.

I try and pay freelancers instantly, certainly within 48 hours and I’m happy to pay some or all upfront, depending on the service. I understand this process might get slightly longer as the business grows but blow me down if it will ever be more than 7 days.

It does not make sense to me to create unnecessary tension. You’re going to have to pay the same amount anyway and the success of a business is almost wholly down to creating great relationships with people. This is one of the easiest ways to do it. Pay people quickly or upfront and have happy, motivated people working with you, not people losing sleep at night wondering if they’re going to have to send another chase email tomorrow and if they’re going to be able to pay their bills.

If you’re part of a broken process, don’t leave it down to someone else in your company to fix it.

A Message For Freelancers…

Please put all of these things in place for your business to help yourself get paid on time, every time.

💵 Get part/all payments upfront. Contrary to turning clients off, this will make you look more professional and confident. It can also help the client to get the work planned and create a proper brief.

💵 Get business insurance. This will help take away any ‘what if’ anxiety.

💵 Send every client a contract. Don’t let them rush you. Set the tone and expectations for the project. Get it signed.

💵 Get a PO number.

💵 Send your invoices quickly – as soon as the work is completed.

💵 Before you start a project, ask what the process is for getting paid, confirm they can meet your payment terms, and find out exactly what info needs to be on the invoice and who you’ll be sending it to. Make contact with this person before you start to get a relationship forming, and confirm all of the above with them too.

💵 It sounds silly, but a lot of invoices I pay don’t have exactly the right bank account name (or any name) on them, which makes paying them harder if the name doesn’t match. Check that your invoice has your exact bank account name on it (which might not be your name or the business name).

💵 Please, no apologetic quoting or invoicing. Ever.

💵 If you can afford to, don’t work for businesses that won’t stick to your payment terms.

💵 Consider different payment terms for different clients.

“If you have 7-day terms for example, many big organisation's finance teams will only pay on 30 days terms, and rarely will they change their terms for a freelancer. If you can’t get a company to pay upfront, you could invoice up front, and then hopefully by the time you’ve done the work you won’t have to wait as long to get paid.”

💵 Charge for late payments. The Late Payments Act says you can do this even if it wasn’t stated on your original invoice. Use payontime.co.uk to calculate fees, and get letter templates and advice.

“Don’t forget, you can charge a late payment fee of £40, as well as interest at 8%. Don’t be afraid to charge for late invoices.”

💵 Pick up the phone and let the client know you mean business.

💵 Don’t waste your precious time chasing. Create a consistent process for it. If I’m not getting anywhere, I use Thomas Higgins lawyers, who will send a late payment demand for £25.

Written by Sophie Cross

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