How to Decide on a Payment Schedule as a Freelancer
One of the biggest issues that a freelancer faces is getting paid. We all want to make sure that we avoid deadbeat clients and that we manage to reach some sort of regular income.
While I do have a variable income, it nice to have at least some regularity with a few gigs. Being able to (mostly) count on some payment, and knowing when I’ll receive the money, helps a great deal when planning my finances.
This is why deciding on a payment schedule as a freelancer is so important. Here’s how to figure out what you need to do to smooth your cash flow:
How Often Do You Want to Be Paid?
One of the first things to do is decide how often you want to be paid. When you are working with some clients, you might be able to bill weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. For regular
For regular gigs that involve at least three articles per week, I like to invoice clients bi-weekly. This provides me with the ability to receive regular payments that help me smooth my bill pay transactions and ensure that my money is in the bank when automatic withdrawals are made.
If I only provide content one or two times a week (or one or two times a month), it’s easier if I invoice once a month. Too many invoices flying about can become a time suck. A good invoicing program can help you manage everything, but I find that it’s not worth it for me to invoice multiple times in a month with some clients.
In the beginning, though, it really is about how often you want to be paid. If you are doing a number of one-off projects, it makes sense to get paid as soon as you complete the work. If you are doing a large project, a good strategy is to break the payment down into three or four, so that you can get paid as you go along, evening out your cash flow.
For many freelancers, a somewhat smooth cash flow is desirable. Yes, there will always be uncertainty and you might struggle with lower income some months, but if you can figure out a payment schedule that smooths things out even a little bit, you will be in much better shape overall.
The Realities of Working with Big Clients
Sometimes, you don’t get to determine your payment schedule. When I work with big clients, sometimes I end up being paid on a Net 30 or Net 45 basis. Sometimes, rather than chunking it out, a client pays everything up front. This can be a little disconcerting when my bank holds part of the payment for 10 extra days, or when they are paying for two different campaigns. I have to remember, later in the year, that I’ve already been paid and that I’m not actually working for free.
While it’s nice to be paid immediately, it’s important to use that immediate payment as part of your overall cash flow and budgeting plan. In many ways, my payment schedule for regular, on-going gigs is about smoothing my monthly cash flow so that the rest of my payments don’t throw me off.