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How to Ensure You Get Paid as a Freelancer

Being your own boss can be liberating, but it’s important to remember that you’re just that: the boss. You’re responsible for your business’ incoming cashflow, which means you have to be assertive over when and how you’re paid. 

Sometimes this means being discerning over the clients you choose. Other times this means striking a diplomatic tone when seeking compensation for the work you’ve done. 

As a new freelancer, it can be hard to get that tone right. 

This article will cover 4 easy steps to set expectations about payment, and how to make sure clients observe them in a professional way. 

woman using credit cards
Managing payments as a freelancer is essential to a steady income!

Read Now: Count’s Guide to Becoming Self-Employed 

1. Request Payment Upfront 

Upfront means you should:  

  • Make this boundary clear to the client 
  • Make sure they agree to it and make the payment before you accept the job.  

Clients who respect you and intend to pay you in the first place should consider this a reasonable demand.  

You may be refused this request if you’re new to freelancing. However, if a client uses this excuse to avoid paying you upfront, it may not be worth taking the client on. Requesting and receiving payment upfront is the best way to ensure your time isn’t wasted on a job and you remain solvent. 

Regardless of your experience level, if a client has come to you, they believe that you’re capable of performing the job to their standards in a timely fashion. Some good faith, in the form of upfront payment, should come with that belief. 

But perhaps you’re starting to get offers from larger companies, who have their own policy about not paying freelancers upfront. Not ideal, but understandable. 

There are still things you can do to ensure you come off jobs like these with payment and respect for your work! 

2. Screen Them 

Do your research before accepting any job from a new corporate client that you’re unfamiliar with.  

Sites like Glassdoor are aimed at people looking for salaried employment, but you can still use them to deduce if a company respects the employees that keep it afloat. 

searching clients online
Search a potential client online to check if they’re reliable!

After all, in the modern freelancing landscape, centred around sites like Upwork and Fiverr, there is likely some metric of how you treat clients. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t work the other way around. 

If what you find out about your client unsettles you, consider rejecting the work. This is about your personal and financial wellbeing. 

But if you do the right checks and the company seems reputable in its treatment of employees, you might decide to take the job. 

In this case, you should continue to be assertive until the end of the process, without moving any goalposts.  

3. Invoice Them 

An invoice is a document personalised for the company you have provided goods or services for. It breaks down the work you’ve done and lists the amount you’re charging for each element in an itemised list. 

Invoice templates are available for free online and on cloud services such as Google Docs.  

It’s important to make the invoice as personal to both you and the client as possible. Put contact details for yourself and the client you’re working with on the invoice, and keep a personal record, so you can follow up if the client misses a payment deadline. 

person making payments
Don’t feel bad about putting your expectations for payment in writing. 

Payment deadlines, any penalties for missing these, and exactly how you want to be paid should be in a separate section of the invoice outlining your terms.  

Be clear and specific within these. The aim is to be paid fast, so don’t introduce uncertainty into the process by being ambiguous. 

Setting clear terms for payment will improve your confidence in dealing with clients over time, and will also appear professional. Trustworthy clients will know that you’re serious about your craft, while those looking to take advantage of an inexperienced freelancer will be warded off. 

Read Now: How To Calculate Your Hourly Rate When Self-Employed 

4. Press Them 

Ideally, receipt of payment arrives soon after an invoice is filed, and you can put that job out of mind. However, this isn’t always the case. 

You could be unfortunate enough to be dealing with a slippery client, or a company big enough to have external client invoices legitimately slip through the cracks. 

It’s important not to forget about a job as soon as you send over the invoice, as follow-ups by e-mail are often necessary. 

When following up, always remember to be personable and grateful for the work. You want to ensure that clients keep coming back after they pay you.  

woman with heart balloons
Treat trustworthy clients well to secure repeat business!

When securing payment, it’s important that you remain composed, patient, and professional when dealing with the client. Assert your boundaries, but don’t be petty. You’re not just the boss, but the customer service representative, too. 

Read Now: How to Better Manage Cash Flow as a Freelancer 

The Bottom Line 

The expectation of work and payment that comes with freelancing is a two-way street. Regardless of where you are in your freelancing career, the expectations you have for your clients matter, and you shouldn’t just take any work for work’s sake.  

While you might initially be reluctant to discuss payment with clients, be sure to set firm deadlines and expectations.  

You have an equal balance of power in your client relationships. Just as they can fire you, you can fire them. Never work for a client who has treated you, or other freelancers, with contempt. 

If you go unpaid, consider whether you’re willing to work with that client again in the future. This is your livelihood. You need repeat clients on your side, but if they aren’t paying you on time, or at all, they’re not clients. Look elsewhere. 

It’s no wonder that being an effective freelancer requires confidence, assertiveness, and patience. 

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