Jessie J might tell the world “it’s not about the money, money, money” but that’s easier to say when you have a net worth that’s in the millions. Being a creative doesn’t change the fact you need to eat. If you’re a freelancer, you probably know the rush you get when you bring a new client on board. Suddenly, your budget doesn’t seem as tight – you can afford that indulgent Starbucks coffee in the morning or that new equipment you’ve had your eye on for ages. But that high can quickly fade to disappointment when it comes to the issue of payment – whether you’re underpaid, paid late or simply not paid at all! Today we’re talking you through making that feeling a thing of the past; in other words, it’s time to get hustling. Before long, you’ll be rolling in it.
1. Always, always get a deposit.
Once a contract is signed, get a downpayment. This is not out of line and the majority of professional services will make a similar request. And you are offering a professional service. It reassures you that a) your client is serious about the project and b) they have the funds to pay you. This is especially important when you’re working with a new client, but you should make it a standard business practice.
2. Or even better – get paid upfront
Although a deposit is a start, it’s perhaps better to simply ask for the entire payment upfront (if this is an option). If your client is paying on a monthly basis, don’t be afraid to be harsh. If they don’t cough up, don’t work. World famous drag queen RuPaul has some helpful words on this very topic: “The only time you will ever see me in drag is when I am what? Getting paid.” You are not a debt collector, nor are you a charity.
3. Contracts are key
Like a deposit, this is essential. Get your payment expectations down in writing. And make it clear that until you are paid, you own the work.
4. When things go south
Although the above advice acts as a safeguard, we all know that life is unpredictable and the best laid plans of mice and men often end up one big mess. If you haven’t been paid, get in touch with your client. Start with a gentle reminder “Hi [name], I don’t know if you’ve realised…” Assume the best until proven otherwise – they might simply have forgotten. But if this doesn’t change anything, escalate your tone. Make it clear that you will not work if you are not paid. If this continues, follow through on that threat and stop working. This is more effective if you’ve not given them access to the product yet.
5. Build a reliable client base
If you’re frequently getting repeat business, maintain a strong relationship with clients who do pay on time – and sever ties with those who don’t. If you need to be brutal, be brutal. If you’re a pushover, it becomes easier for clients to fob you off.