get paid on time

Getting paid late is the bane of the freelancer. While it rarely comes from a place of malice or of trying to rip you off, late payments happen all the time. Clients are merely human- they can forget as they run their own businesses.

It’s important to get paid on time. That’s how freelancers keep the work flowing as well as you know, pay their bills and stay out of debt. If invoicing and on-time payments are something you struggle with month to month, you can do three things to help ensure that your checks come in a more timely manner.

Before you implement these three strategies, remind yourself that being a freelancer is a real job. Too often we associate ‘real jobs’ with working for someone else in an office somewhere from 9-5. The job market has drastically changed in the last eight years, and it’s only going to continue to shift. Freelancing is a real job, and one that deserves the same respect when it comes to payment as a 9-5 job.

Create Clear Invoices

Your invoices should be clear, easy to read, and include all the pertinent information your client needs to pay you. There’s nothing more frustrating than an invoice or a payment system that adds more work to your clients life.

On your invoice make it clear HOW clients should pay you, WHEN clients should pay you, ANY LATE FEES, HOW MUCH the invoice is for, and HOW clients can get in touch with you.

Keeping invoices short and sweet will make it easier to deal with them. You don’t want your client to see your invoice as a chore. Then they’ll push it off, which could result in you getting paid late.

Invoice as Soon as the Work is Done

While this does create more work on your behalf, invoicing when you finish a project is a great way to get paid on time.

Lots of freelancers invoice once a month, and it’s usually at the end of the month. It makes sense- easier to invoice all your clients in one go when you’ve finished all the work.

However, invoicing as you complete the work means that you get paid more frequently. Invoicing in one fell swoop usually leads to one big pay day. That’s fine if your clients pay on time. If you want to have a more consistent cash flow then invoice as soon as you complete a project.

Always Send a Halfway Reminder

Sending a reminder halfway through your net pay term is a great idea. It’s a gentle way to remind your client that your invoice is still there, and they only have so many days left before it’s due. If you have a late fee attached to your work, this is also a good way for clients to save themselves money.

Write a short, friendly reminder note and set it up in your invoicing system to go out automatically. This creates less work for you since you don’t have to create a reminder email for each client every month, and it also means your client gets a helpful little push to pay on time.

As a bonus, you can also implement a late payment fee. Some people are uncomfortable doing this, and it does create one more step in your invoicing system. You will need to actually collect the late fee, otherwise, it’s just empty words. Late fees can be a great way to get paid on time, as well as standing your ground as a freelancer. You did the work, you are a real business, and you deserve to get paid.

These three simple practices will accomplish two major things: create an invoice system that you can stick with long term, and help cut down on late payments. It’s especially important if you’re a new freelancer, or you are making small amounts of money from it each month.

You need to get paid on time to live your best life. You shouldn’t have to go into debt to work as a freelancer. These three things will keep you in the black.

Kara Perez is the founder of Bravely, a company that connects women and money. She freelances in the areas of personal finance and travel, and she eats peanut butter straight out of the jar.

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