how an invoice works

One of the difficulties many freelancers deal with is the fact that many clients only pay after the work is complete.

When doing a large freelance project, waiting until the project is complete can be nerve-wracking. You might wait months to get paid. Perhaps you worry that you will do a lot of work and then not be paid as agreed.

These are very real concerns when it comes to getting paid. One way to protect against the risks that come with completing a large freelance project is to make sure you use the right invoicing process and policy.

Invoice Part of the Total Upfront

When you estimate your fee for the freelance project, talk to the client about paying a portion upfront. Tell the client your policy on large projects is to require an upfront deposit or payment.

Consider the size of the job as you decide how to figure out how much to charge upfront. If it’s a job that can be completed in four to six weeks, consider charging half up front. Invoice for the other half when the project is completed.

However, longer-term projects might need you to break it up more. When I ghostwrite books, I usually break it up into three or four payments. It depends on how long the book is. Often, I charge 1/3 up front, another 1/3 when the book is half completed, and the final 1/3 when I finish.

Invoicing part of the total up front for a large freelance project can ensure that you get at least some of your money quickly. That way, you aren’t struggling financially while you devote time to this large project. Plus, it provides some protection for you if the client bounces.

Set Expectations for the Invoicing Schedule

Make sure you set expectations for the invoicing schedule as you negotiate the terms related to your large freelance project.

As you create the statement of work, you want to set out the probable schedule so that your client knows approximately when they will have to pay you. It can also help you plan your own work out so that you have deadlines to meet.

Too often, when planning a large freelance project, we don’t break it down in a way that allows us to see the timeline mapped out. Know you will invoice at regular intervals as you progress through the work. You are more likely to stick to the deadlines you set for yourself. Plus, you know when you will be paid next.

Stop Work if the Payment Doesn’t Come

Finally, if the client isn’t paying at the agreed-upon intervals, it’s ok to quit work. Let the client know that the timeline will be off when they fall behind in payment. This encourages the client to stay on top of things as well.

I like to have the client approve the work at various stages related to payment. That way, each stage of the large freelance project receives approval from the client so that by the time we get to the end, the whole work has been accepted along the way. It makes it easier to get the final piece (and the final payment) taken care of at the end of the project.

In the end, invoicing these large freelance projects takes a little experience to get a handle on. As you become more used to these projects, how to estimate their length and fees, and as you work through the process, you will be better able to manage these projects in the future.

I'm Miranda and I'm a freelance financial journalist and money expert. My specialties are investing, small business/entrepreneurship and personal finance. The journey to business success and financial freedom is best undertaken with fellow travelers.

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