Freelance Writers – How To Get Paid On Time Every Time
A Guide to Prompt Payment for Freelance Writers
You've hated the small stuff, managed to write sublime copy and get it in on time, thrilled the client and even submitted an invoice. And then the payment date arrives and passes without the longed for cheque in the mail and you wait and wait and then wait some more while your client enjoys longer credit terms than most developing countries. Meanwhile, your creditors set up camp on your doorstep and your credit card company looks to have your phone number on speed-dial. What can you do?
Strong-arm tactics and threatening emails are seldom a good idea if you want to maintain an on-going relationship with your client (that is, get more work) so how can you get paid on time without resorting to unpleasantness?
For a start, you could avoid the following mistakes:
Forgetting to send the invoice promptly
This is a common mistake for new freelancers to make and the surest way to go broke very quickly. Your invoice should be sent at the same time as your completed article. Do not whatever you do wait for a reminder from your client – it may be a very long and fruitless wait. Be professional and invoice promptly.
Delaying collection calls
If you have not received your payment by the due date on your invoice, telephone your client immediately. If your client (or the accounts department, depending on the size of the operation) claims not to have received your invoice, send another. Wait a few days and then call back to ensure it has arrived and is being processed. Ask for the expected payment date. Follow it up closely until you get paid.
Beating about the bush
Do not be afraid to ask directly for payment. You've already earned it and you deserve to get paid. Too often, freelance writers shy away from being direct about money for fear of seeming greedy. Get real – only amateurs do not expect to get paid. Ask for a specific amount to be paid by a specific date.
Do not tell your client (or the accounts department) that if they do not pay, you will not be able to feed yourself or your family (even if this is the case). Not only does this reflect badly on your business acumen, it allows your client to push for better terms of payment. You do not have to explain why you want the money. The invoiced payment is late and your client owes it to you. It's as simple as that.
Talking tough is almost always interpreted as rudeness or disrespect. Remain polite and professional even if your client is apparently avoiding your calls. Be exceptionally polite but relentless until you receive your payment.
Try to discover the reasons for the late payment
Do not ask why they have not paid you on time. You will only get embroiled in your client's accounting procedures. Just ask for your payment politely.
Ask how much they can afford to pay
If you ask your client how much of the full amount he or she can afford to pay, you are at his or her mercy. This may come as an awful shock but they are not always going to be absolutely honest with you. Instead, take charge of the negotiations from the beginning. If you can not get the full payment straight away, set a new deadline. Only offer a payment plan as the very last resort. If you do, ask that a specific amount be paid immediately and then set the remaining payments.
Pushing after you've got a promise
Once your client has agreed to make the payment, do not keep pushing them for reasons or explanations. It will ruin the relationship and the prospect of future work. Get the specifics of the payment, thank your client and finish the conversation on a positive note.
Calling customers without being positive which invoice they have not paid only makes you look inefficient. It also means you have to call them back again. Before you make the first call, have all of the details in front of you. Review them. Be prepared for any objection.
Keeping no records
Do not rely on your memory alone to keep track of everything. Write down a record of every conversation and all actions that are taken. Keep a record of what time you spoke to your client. If you spoke to someone in the accounts department, make a note of the person's name and title. It does not really matter whether you jot down the record on the invoice or whether you add it to your computer record. The important point is to remember to date the record and the output of the conversation and to keep it somewhere accessible.
Allowed your computer to manage your credit
Sending computer-generated reminder notices might make you feel efficient but sadly those anonymous looking forms will not motivate anyone to take action on your payment. Instead, get to know the people who are in charge of paying your invoices. Send thankyou notes to the secretary and accounts staff who pushed your invoice payment through.