Tired of dealing with awful clients who disappear as soon as “where is my money” crosses your lips? Deadbeat clients are every freelancer’s nightmare, and it seems like we all run into one or more over our careers.

However, you don’t have to just sit idly by and hope for the best! You can take steps to protect your business and your pocketbook with just a few simple tips. Lower the chance someone will try to get one over you with the following ideas.

Contract Up

Many new freelancers are wary of using contracts when they’re first starting out. They think it will scare off potential customers or perhaps complicate things too much. They may even have had a bad experience with a friend getting mad at them for offering a contract.

Here’s the thing: anyone who gets upset you’re trying to protect yourself is not worth your time as a freelancer! You have a service to offer and a contract is a way to protect it. Also, contracts legitimize your business like not much else can. And don’t think you’re not involved in a business – no matter how much – or how little – money you make, if you’re freelancing, you’re in business.

Be as detailed as possible with your contracts, especially if it’s a complicated assignment. You don’t want your client trying to wiggle out of paying you because you didn’t meet her requirements.

The Buddy System

Freelancing can be a rather lonely business, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be, especially in this digital age. There are plenty of other freelancers out there looking for someone to talk to, even seasoned vets. Many of these people have loads of advice to dish out, especially when it comes to dealing with deadbeat clients.

Wouldn’t it help to know the skinny on questionable clients before you set to work? A network of freelancers in the same industry goes a long way to do just that. Word spreads quickly with the Internet. Be the first to know when a potential client is on the naughty list.

Down Payments

While it seems like you should only get paid after you do the work, that’s just not the reality of the situation. Remember, this is a business, and you’re investing a lot of your time and care in each assignment.

This is why it’s important to get a deposit on the work. This does two things instantly: it chases away people who want something for totally free, and makes anyone thinking of taking off think twice since they’ve already shelled out some bucks.

Even better, you can set the deposit amount depending on your level of trust with the client. For someone you heard from out of the blue, you might want to ask for half up front. For clients you’ve worked with before and know are trustworthy, you might ask for 25% or even waive the deposit entirely. It’s all up to you.

Sadly, we almost all have a deadbeat client story. Share yours in the comments!

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