5 Types of Client Payments

Throughout the time I’ve been freelancing, I’ve worked with several different clients. I’ve encountered all types of payment situations. While some clients have sent payments on time without a hassle, not all clients payments have been ideal. As you work with clients, you’ll notice their payment habits fall into one of several categories.

“The check’s in the mail."

This is the client who claims they’ve already paid you, but for some reason the payment never seems to arrive when it’s supposed to. You try to talk your client into using Paypal to send payments, but for some reason, they’re in favor of old-fashioned paychecks. Do you suffer through this prehistoric way of being paid or move on to clients who can pay you faster? (Note: if you accept checks from clients, it’s a good idea to require prepayment and make sure the check clears before you send the work).

“It’s our payment issuer’s fault.”

With this client, payments are never on time and it’s never the client’s fault. There’s something wrong with Paypal, or the wire transfer, or the bank, or the person who’s supposed to pay them. You might make an exception the first couple of times because you realize you need an exception sometimes. But after a few times of hearing the excuses, you realize it’s bull. Since payments eventually do arrive, you wonder if you should continue accepting these excuses or move on to better paying clients.

"The haggler"

Some clients and prospective clients will try to convince you to lower your rates. This wouldn’t be a huge problem if they rates these clients really wanted to pay weren’t akin to slave wages. Honestly, this is my least favorite client of all, if I can call them clients at all. Hagglers usually end up not hiring me because I won’t go low enough on my rates. Hagglers fail to realize that negotiations are only successful when the result is a win for both parties – giving a client a lower rate is seldom a win for the writer.

"Disappearing acts"

Hopefully you never have to deal with this client, but you need to know he exists. This is the client who doesn’t pay your for your work at all. They don’t give an excuse. They simply disappear after you send the articles. This client is the reason a lot of writers charge upfront. I’ve had this happen only a couple of times and once with a client who paid a 50% deposit upfront.

“Always on time.”

This is the client we wish all clients could be. This client’s payments are like clockwork – they show up in your Paypal account almost as soon as you click “Send” on the invoice. It’s too bad all clients don’t pay this way.

Develop a Payment Policy

You can eliminate many payment issues by coming up with a payment policy. In general, I require 50% deposit on projects payable via Paypal before I start work on a project. The remaining 50% is due within 5 business days after the articles are received. I may split the payments in thirds or quarters for larger projects.

I’ve heard of writers who require the remaining deposit before they actually send the completed articles. I’ve also heard of those who require 100% deposit upfront.

Payment policies usually work with clients who don’t work with a lot of freelancers. On the other hand, some clients have a set payment schedule for freelancers and contract workers and pay you when they pay everyone else.

If you don’t already have a payment policy, now is a good time to come up with one. Post it on your website and send it to new clients when they ask for a quote or submit a new order. It won’t eliminate all payment problems, but you’ll definitely have fewer problems with payments when you set some rules.

Which types of client payments and payment issues have you had to deal with?

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LaToya Irby is a full-time freelance writer and a graduate of the University of Alabama. She primarily writes about personal finance, freelancing, and other self-employment topics.

4 thoughts on “5 Types of Client Payments”

  1. It’s interesting to see the different categories clients may fall under. After thinking it through, I like your method of payment – 50% upfront and then the rest once the article has been submitted. That way, if a client decided to pull the disappearing act, at least I’ll be paid half.


  2. These kinds of issues are exactly why I started requiring full payments up front. If you have enough demand that you won’t mind losing the few who balk at the idea, go for it. 50-50 is certainly a good alternative. But I can’t think of a single good reason for a professional to put time into a project with nothing paid up front. Your time is your greatest asset, and you can only bill for so much of it. If you waste time on projects where you don’t get paid, you can’t get that time (or the income due for that time) back.

    As for the ones who have their own payment policies, I usually won’t take them on anymore. It would have to be a hell of a deal and a client I’d give a limb to work for before I let clients dictate rates and payment policies for my business. And even in that case I’d probably walk away most days. I’ve had some try. But I kindly remind them that they knew my business payment policies when they hired me, and they need to abide by them. And if they still insist on paying at a certain time, no problem. I just inform them that their work will also have to wait until that time instead of when they wanted it because I won’t start until the payment is cleared. I also usually point out that the opening in my schedule is for the time they originally negotiated, and that if other clients already have contracts theirs will either be dropped or postponed until my next opening that happens to suit their payment policy. Amazing how quickly they can decide to make an exception and pay you when they want the work done then.

  3. From a client’s point of view, being on time with your payment means you value your freelance workers and the more they will be motivated to excel in what they’re doing right now. There will always be trust issues on both sides but what’s important here is that both knows how to professionally deliver what was promised.. and those who haggle simply aren’t worth your time; move on.


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