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.
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.
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?