How to Get Paid on Time
Late payments can create real chaos in your accounting, especially if you’re managing multiple aspects of your business and counting on the payment to keep the lights on. Most clients want to pay you on time – but it’s possible for a payment to fall between the cracks and suddenly you’re facing cashflow problems. Knowing how to get paid on time can help you avoid common pitfalls and get back to developing sites instead of chasing down money owed to you.
Proceed Cautiously with New Clients
When you’ve just landed a new client, it’s an exciting time. You want to show them your best stuff – and it’s tempting to take on a large project if they ask. But slow down. Either do a small project to start or ask for some of the money up front. Unfortunately, there are people in the world who aren’t trustworthy – they’ll let you design a site and then disappear without paying once it’s live. Until you have established a relationship with someone and received a few regular payments, be wary of how much you’re willing to do without compensation in the bank.
Whatever you do, always have a contract with a new client. There are sample contracts available online if you don’t have one already.
Always Get the Details
When you’re working with someone for the first time, make sure you know their geographical information. It’s essential that you can contact them with more than an email address. You need a business name, an address, or at the very least, a phone number. That makes it much harder for the person to disappear when they don’t want to pay your invoice – and gives you some assurance up front that they’re the real deal. If you’re making a site from scratch, you can get the information for the registration of the site.
Consider Up Front Payments
Don’t take on $5,000 worth of work, finish it, and then wait to get paid. Large projects with any client may be a risk simply because a lot of time passes – and then the project isn’t at the front of their mind and your invoice isn’t a priority. Discuss receiving a percentage of the money up front, especially if you have to lay out significant time on a project. Many clients will be amenable to the idea.
You can also keep control of the site you’re developing until you’ve been paid. If you have access to the site you’ve designed and don’t allow them full access until you’ve been paid, there’s more motivation to pay you. That combined with early payments should help reduce the number of clients who make late payments or try to avoid paying altogether.
Avoid Last Minute Complaints
Sometimes a client will say they’re delaying payment because of a complaint about your work. Include a clause in your contract that any dispute over the work should be relayed within seven days of the end of the project, which is the day you send it to the client. That way, you can avoid having to chase a client who is using unclear complaints to avoid paying what you’re owed.
Having a written explanation of what your client wants from the site you’re developing can also be helpful. That way if complaints arise, you have something to point to that shows your reasoning for your decisions.
The more ways there are to pay you, the easier it is. The easier and faster it is, the more likely a busy client is to pay you promptly. Filling out a check and taking it to the post office can eat up a large part of the day. Clicking a few buttons to pay you on an e-payment service can be done without leaving their browser. If you aren’t accepting easy payment methods, consider signing up for a few. You may find that the money you’re expecting arrives a bit faster.
Don’t be afraid to make contact with a client who’s late making your payment. They’re only people and will understand that you’re only giving them a gentle reminder. Of course, it’s important not to charge in with an attitude when they’re a few hours past the deadline. Always have that first contact be friendly. It’s a reminder or a little note because you know they’re a busy person. You always catch more flies with honey than vinegar and you’re more likely to walk away having made a positive impression. One of the most important things about working as a freelance web developer is keeping a professional image in front of your clients – don’t break that just because they’ve missed a payment.
Invoice on Time
Create Clear Penalties
It’s important to have clear penalties for late or missed payments in your contract. If a payment is a week late, consider levying a penalty of $50 or 5 percent of the total, whatever you consider is fair.
In addition to penalties, make yourself heard when a payment is late. Don’t be rude, but do contact your client to find out what’s happening. Chances are they just forgot to pay you – and will soon rectify the mistake. But if that’s not the case, being a thorn in their side can help you get paid without having to take them to court. Though, of course, it may keep you from getting additional web development work from them if they take issue with your approach.
Late payments can be a real problem for people who run their own businesses. Without a significant financial cushion, a missing payment can mean your own bills aren’t paid when due. Making sure you’re paid on time is an important skill to learn as you take on new clients and negotiate with them. Keep track of your invoicing, establish clear boundaries, and keep control of your work until you’ve been paid.