As an online professional, there are occasionally clients who try to skate out of paying. This can arise from misunderstandings, lack of communication or someone looking for free work. These potential problems are easy to address to ensure payment as an online professional.
Obtain Client Contact Information
As an online professional, most clients are obtained through email or telephone communication. If push comes to shove in receiving payment, having only the client’s name and email address will not get you far in recovering money. Before agreeing to quote a project, obtain as much personal information as possible from your potential client. Ask for their full name, business name, billing and shipping addresses, Accounts Payable contact if applicable, website and email address. If you have a website, include these fields in your contact form.
Spell It All Out
Be as clear and concise as possible in setting expectations. Let the client know when work will commence and when the project will be completed. Quote the project, and relay how and when you expect to be paid. If you only accept PayPal payments, tell them upfront so they can get an account setup if they do not currently have one. Let them know when the project will be done and invoiced so they can plan ahead. This will help eliminate potential excuses and delays in payment.
Get a Deposit
It is customary these days for a freelancer to ask for partial payment upfront. This can be anywhere from 10% to 50%. Assess your individual needs and the project details and ask for a reasonable amount upfront before the project begins. This will ensure you receive something for your time in the event the client is a slow-payer or no-payer.
Offer a Discount
If you include a little wiggle room in your rates, offer a discount for fast payment. If your invoices are due within 30 days, offer a 10% discount if paid within 10 days. Give your client an incentive to put you at the front of their freelancer invoices.
Look for Red Flags
In the excitement of signing a new client it is easy to put blinders on. Always go into a new project with a little bit of skepticism. If your potential client is asking for special treatment in regards to rates or payment, you may be looking at an upcoming problem. Use the contact information you obtained to do a little online investigation. Do an online search for any complaints consumer- or contractor-wise.
Get a Signed Contract
Create a contract which includes the above information. Send it to your client to sign. Do not begin work until you receive the signed contract and any upfront deposit required. Have an attorney look over your contract. Local laws vary greatly and a contract is useless if it is unenforceable.
Be Professional and Persistent
Professional-looking invoices are readily available online. Use one to create and invoice your client according to the timeline you set forth in your contract. Remind the client at that time how and when payment is due. If that date passes without payment, immediately follow-up ensuring there are no problems or questions. If you receive no response to emails, move on to phone and mail. If you still receive no response, it may be time to contact an attorney or small claims court depending on the amount unpaid.
Depending on the type of project, you may choose to withhold the final product until payment is made in full. Send small portion of the final product via watermarked .pdf if the client would like to see it, but don’t release the entire usable file until payment is received. If you specialize in creative products, state in your contract that you control the creative rights until final payment is received.
The methods above may not guarantee payment, but they will give you leverage in the event a client tries to get free work.