Marketing manager, story writer
Whether you run a small business or are working as an independent freelancer, being extra careful when it comes to planning your budget is paramount.
It’s not easy to tackle your budget if you don’t receive work in steady intervals, but it’s certainly even more frustrating if any of your clients refuse to pay for the work you’ve done for them. Besides struggling with the feeling of being unappreciated and tricked out of your well-earned fee, you’ll also feel a hole in your pocket, and this is something your business can never afford.
If you’ve had a problem with clients who refuse to pay you, or want to learn how to prevent something like that from happening in the first place, here is a guide that will help you stay on top of the situation.
Discuss the workload and your fees before taking on any task
It doesn’t matter what type of work you do: a graphic designer, a developer, an assignment writer, and a marketing specialist can (and should) take pride in their work and be adequately compensated for it.
As communication with clients is usually a stumbling block for many entrepreneurs, before any other work is done, make sure to discuss everything both sides need to know about the job in question. The fee you plan to charge for a given workload should be stated clearly, as well as the deadline for payment.
If you feel uncomfortable talking about money, the shortest and best advice anyone can give you is: don’t. Your skills, experience, and a product or service you deliver are worthy of payment—otherwise, nobody would look for someone like you to do this work for them.
Charge a percentage of your fee in advance
If you’ve just started as an entrepreneur and/or a freelancer and have no portfolio to showcase the previous work you’ve done, this advice might not be easy to implement. However, if you have some experience and can prove it to the client, consider this step as additional security your money will be paid in the end.
If a client respects your work and you set a reasonable deposit, it shouldn’t be a problem to make an arrangement that will work for you and the client as well. If the client turns out to be reliable and always paying on time, you can slowly phase the deposit out as you keep working together (or keep this way of handling payments anyway—it’s totally up to you).
Charge in milestones, rather than in bulk
If you’re a new entrepreneur, don’t have a lot of previous work to show, and your potential client doesn’t trust your work ethic yet and won’t pay a deposit, there is still a solution that can keep you both safe.
You can charge your fee in milestones for a job that can be done in a few phases: this way, you’re sure to have done just a small portion of the job in case the client won’t pay, and the client can see how you operate and what results you can bring before having to go “all in”.
This type of payment is often resorted to on different freelancing sites, as it’s proven to be a practice that best protects the interests of both parties in the exchange.
Don’t be ashamed to follow up (and do so regularly)
If the work has already been done, and the client still hasn’t fulfilled their end of the bargain, the worst thing you can do is sit and wait. In case your payment just slipped their mind, you risk them forgetting about it altogether. If they purposely avoid paying you, the absence of any effort to get your fee will only suit them beautifully.
Never feel ashamed to ask for the money you earned: it is a business transaction, so if you’ve provided a product or a service, it’s only normal to be able to earn from it.
Define and charge additional fees for late payments
Some entrepreneurs and freelancers, besides asking for additional payment for excess adjustment requests, also state their fees for late payments and you can do this as well.
Remember that, if you want to do this, any additional fees should be discussed and clearly stated before you take on any work. If you swindle a client into hidden, unexpected expenses, chances are you will ruin a relationship.
Take legal action to get what you’re owed
Even if you do everything by the book, a probability that you can run into a dishonest client who simply won’t budge and pay what you’re owed still exists. If this ever happens to you, know that you have every right to take legal action to resolve the matter in your favor.
Respect yourself and your work, and clients will do the same.
Susanna Balashova is a creative magician in a world of (mostly) boring Marketing. She turns dreary work tasks into interesting and effective activities and likes creating her own world within fanfic sketches. Reach out to her on Twitter or LinkedIn.