Why Freelancers Might Want to Invoice Clients Upfront
Get paid before you do the work? That sounds like everyone’s dream. For freelancers, that practice is becoming more of a reality.
I recently hired two freelancers in completely different niches to do some services for me and it was interesting to see that both of them billed me prior to completing the work.
In the traditional working world, it’s pretty much unheard of to get a pay advance but it’s becoming more and more common with freelancers.
Here are a few reasons why you might want to consider invoicing clients upfront.
Your Work Already Meets Standards
If you’ve been working with a client for a while, or even if you land a new client but already have lots of experience, you can ask if you can bill them before completing your services.
In order for this to work out comfortably for both sides, your work has to meet the client’s standards consistently. No one wants to pay somebody upfront and receive low-quality work in return.
If you know you do good work and can deliver on-time with no issues, the client should trust that they’ll get the results they want when working with you regardless of when you are paid.
Eliminates Issues With Unpaid Invoices
Dealing with unpaid invoices can be a freelancer’s worst nightmare. Some see freelancing as less secure than traditional jobs because there’s a great chance of getting paid late or not getting paid at all. In all honesty, freelancing isn’t much less secure than any other job.
When it comes to getting paid, you just need to be clear, communicate, and implement a strategy. For some people, their strategy is asking for payment upfront.
If you tend to have clients you love who don’t pay as quickly as you’d want them to, you can try billing them ahead of time to prevent any issues. That way, you won’t have to worry about hunting them down to pay your invoice later.
Simplifies Your Schedule at the End of the Month
I’m someone who doesn’t necessarily look forward to invoicing. While it’s always nice to get paid, it’s a task I do at the end of the month that can be quite time-consuming depending on how many projects I completed.
Sometimes, the end of the month can be a hectic time depending on what type of services you offer and how your deadlines are set up.
Invoicing upfront can help simplify your schedule so that you don’t have to spend lots of time sorting everything out and sending follow-ups after your work is completed.
You can use your extra time to market your services to new clients, meet upcoming deadlines, tie up any loose ends, or to simply relax and recharge before you start back up again at the beginning of a new month.
Avoid Forgetting to Invoice
I know it sounds weird, but there may be times when you forget to send an invoice as a freelancer. I’ve had a few contractors I work with forgot to invoice me before and it can become a bigger issue if no one catches it early on.
If you tend to get super busy and forget to do some tasks along the way, you definitely don’t ever want to forget to send an invoice so you can get paid. It doesn’t matter if it’s only a small amount either. You deserve to get paid for every minute you spend/task you complete for your client(s).
Plus, if you forget to invoice at times, it can make tax season even more hectic for you because you may have to pay on income you never received.
To avoid all that stress and confusion, consider invoicing upfront.
Separates Leads From Actual Clients
Freelancers know that their time is extremely valuable. If you’re not working, you’re not earning money. Thus, it can be a waste of time when you’re stuck emailing back and forth with a potential client or setting up trial work.
If you’re in a situation like that, it may be smarter to tell the prospect that they need to submit an invoice prior to completing any services or consulting. That way, you can get paid accurately for your time and it someone doesn’t want to actually pay you for your services, you can get rid of them quicker that way.
Given these 5 good reasons to invoice clients prior to completing your work, I want to point out that this won’t always be the best practice for everyone.
Here are a few reasons why you might NOT want to bill client ahead of time.
You Have a Contract in Place That Favors Other Terms
If your client has clearly stated how they wish to pay you, you may not be able to invoice prior to completing your work. Sometimes, it just works better for the client to pay you on a particular schedule.
If this is the case however, you can still add your own terms into the contract to ensure you get paid on-time when you invoice.
Your Workload Fluctuates A Lot
If the projects you receive vary and you’re not doing consistent work for clients each week, it may be hard to bill in advance because you won’t know which services you’re billing for.
You might be able to bill when you get the assignment, but then again, you’ll have to predict the amount of time and effort it takes to complete the work. Which leads me to my next reason.
You’re Not Sure How Long The Work Will Take
Underestimating the amount of time and effort it takes to complete a project is not uncommon. If you bill someone in advance, then get around to doing the work and realize it took you twice as long as you expected, you could be selling yourself short or you’ll have to deal with the awkward conversation of going back to the client and asking for more money.
You may also have unexpected edits to complete afterward which could also increase the rate you had in mind. By billing after you complete the work, you’ll know exactly what you need to charge.
There’s a Chance You Might Not Be Able to Meet the Deadline
If there’s any chance you might not be able to meet your deadline – even if it’s a small chance – you should think twice about invoicing in advance.
If you are traveling, or get sick, it could affect the timeliness or quality of your work and when you’ve already received payment, it could cause you to stress out about catching up and getting the work done.
There’s no wrong way to invoice. At the end of the day, you just want to make sure you get paid on time. If that means you need to invoice upfront, make that decision for the right reason.
If you’ve seen no issue with invoicing after you’ve completed the work, keep doing things the way you’ve been doing them or consider trying the upfront method with one or two clients to see if it works better for the both of you.