Freelance Guidelines for Getting Paid on Time

By / Mar 27, 2012 / Tips
shares

The lifestyle of a freelancer can be very hectic at times. You have to juggle multiple projects and meetings with clients all to make sure your bills are paid. And the only way you’re going to keep ahead is by managing your money properly!

featured image - earning cash payment via freelance work

Freelancers don’t often consider the payment process as something to analyze and work out. It is considered an afterthought that you’ll assume payment since the client is happy to work with you. But sadly this is not always the case, and project work can go south very quickly leaving you dry on next month’s rent. In this guide I want to share just a few tips for managing payments and getting your money on time.

Discuss Terms Upfront

This is obviously necessary if you want to appear as a professional in the eyes of your client. You shouldn’t be afraid to bring up the topic of money right away after discussing project details.

The only reason you’re working on such a project is to earn money in the first place. You need to make sure you are compensated properly for all your effort. Things can get hairy if you jump right into the work and start discussing funds at a later date. It’s all too easy for the client to lowball your estimate and with much of the work already done, you may feel inclined to just accept it.

old dial ringtone phone caller

Never sell yourself short and never start on any work before clarifying your payments. Even working on some of the most interesting project ideas will not be enough to keep you going. The initial motivation will pass and you’ll want to have an idea in the back of your mind for just how much you’re working.

Use Contracts

If you aren’t somebody who is familiar with legal jargon I recommend browsing through some older articles to familiarize yourself. The legal territory of drafting contracts can be confusing and stressful if you’re a newbie. But it’s also vital when you begin working on big-name projects which are paying well into four-or-five figure salaries.

Consider your best method of payment either hourly or set per project. Generally you can only choose one, unless you go back for additional work and switch between these two methods. But you should include either the total expected project compensation or your hourly wage and ensure this clause is clearly visible to both parties.

brown saddleback briefcase for business contracts

Don’t be afraid to work with your client so you both are signing a contract you can agree with. Always keep a local copy for yourself to look back on in case of issues down the road. Text in print is your best argument against a client who is unwilling to pay. Or even after payment is sent and they come back to you expecting free touch-up work you can refer them to the project contract.

Going Digital

No matter which payment method you agree upon there will be some delay. Wire transfers and cheques are solutions but will require a bit of faith on your end. I recommend holding onto digital platforms such as PayPal or Dwolla.

When a member of these online networks transfers money it can be in your account almost instantly. Granted it will still take some time to move the funds into your bank account, but this is the case with any payment method. Working with a trusted PayPal member means you are much less likely to be shafted on money – both now and in the future.

Keep Yourself on Schedule

It’s easy for us to sit around and discuss managing the client’s wallet. However you need to ensure that your skills are on par with the project work required. If you do write out a contract it may be wise to include a rough estimate for the allotted timeframe.

eBayLive in Germany - PayPal setup demo

Based on the amount of work needed you will have to adjust your schedule accordingly. If you think it’ll take 1-2 weeks for a project to be complete it is safer to write in 3 weeks. This gives you some padding just in case you get caught up in other drama. It also looks much better to finish a project early than underestimate the timing and fall behind.

Getting onto a schedule is imperative to keep you and your client on the same page. This may require weekly meetings or phone conversations to touch base on the progress so far. Keep a close professional relationship and be sure to respect your client’s opinion on project details. Ultimately you are in this for a paycheck and cannot get too invested.

Keep Emotions at Bay

It can be difficult removing yourself from a project. Especially if you pour hours and hours of hard work into a design idea. But when you are a freelancer you need to keep your emotions in check and try to limit yourself. I often find myself heavily invested in smaller projects where I’ll get caught up on smaller details.

pile stack of twenty dollar USD bills

This can result in re-designing areas of the template which are just fine to begin with. Logos, buttons, banners, marketing e-mails, and other seemingly important page elements are all included based on your project needs. Don’t let this turn into a huge waste of your time! Designers have to invest a bit of their emotional energy, but too much and you’ll find yourself burnt out with little-to-no motivation left.

Conclusion

I hope these brief ideas can get you thinking in terms of freelancing for hard-earned money. Being a freelancer is an extremely profitable position since you are basically working for yourself with no middleman. But you need to understand the foundation of running a business and managing contacts properly. If you have similar ideas or suggestions for getting paid on time please share with us in the post discussion area.

About the Author

Jake Rocheleau is a creative writer and UI designer. You can follow him on twitter @jakerocheleau or visit his personal website at JakeRocheleau.com.

5 Comments

  1. Design Turnpike
    March 27, 2012

    Good post! I learned about contracts the hard way. A boutique store in Arkansas sold a lot of my license plate artwork and then folded before paying me my portion of the proceeds. Never again! Everything in writing and signed by both parties.

    Reply
  2. saher
    March 27, 2012

    I’ll follow that, and I’ll ask you for any delayed payment :))

    Reply
  3. Web Design Wolverhampton
    March 28, 2012

    Thanks for the article. I’ve found that your point about keeping emotions at bay is very important.

    Reply
  4. Design Tickle
    March 28, 2012

    Yes great ideas and I have loved going through similar freelance guidelines in work schedules. It’s all about the bottom line of making a profit and creating beautiful designs.

    Reply
  5. DesignBuddy
    March 29, 2012

    I will have to look into Dwalla. Paypal just showed their true colors to me this week. They sent me an email stating that a 21 day hold will be put on all of my payments received!? Yep, the money that I pay 3% in fees on, will not become available to me for 21 days!

    Paypal’s explanation for this? They state the following in an email:

    “We reviewed your account and determined that there’s a relatively higher than average risk of future transaction issues (such as claims, or chargebacks, or payment reversals). We understand that it may be inconvenient to have your payments temporarily held but please know that we didn’t make this decision lightly.

    Before deciding to hold payments, we consider many factors. These factors include account and transaction activity, the rate of customer disputes, the type of business a seller runs, average delivery timeframes, customer satisfaction, performance and history.”

    My take on Paypal’s generic explanation:

    First off, I have never had a “claim, chargeback, or payment reversal” by ANYONE. In regards to transaction activity, I have had the same transaction activity as I always have throughout the years using Paypal. In regards to the other possible reasonings, none of them apply to me.

    Paypal has received a lot of money from me over the years, and for them to put a 21 day hold on MY money without a legitimate explanation is beyond ridiculous. I just wanted to warn others of the greedy and unprofessional tactics that this company plays. I am not alone with these arguments. Many others have received this 21 day payment hold on their Paypal accounts, with no apparent reasoning.

    Reply

Leave a Reply