Clickbaity and boastful sounding title aside, I genuinely haven't ever been paid late by any of my clients and today I want to share why I think that is with you in the hope that we can all go forth and live happy, late fee-free lives.
I choose who I work with carefully
We've all been there; someone gets in touch about working together, you're super excited and let them know about the process and then...crickets. Sometimes you'll never hear from said person again, but sometimes they'll casually slide back into your inbox weeks later with an "OMG I'm soooo sorry for the late reply!" I don't work with those people.
Not because I'm offended, or think that they're a bad person for having the audacity to not reply to me (my ego ain't that big). But simply because it gives the impression that they're disorganised, don't respect my time and if they don't answer emails in a timely fashion they probably won't pay my invoices on time, either.
I've been extremely fortunate in that I've already been aware of most of my clients before they've approached me, so I've known that they're a good egg and aren't going to pull a fast one. I'd always suggest doing a bit of research on any potential clients who you aren't familiar with prior to working to them, not only to make sure they're legit and match your values, but also to gain some insight on how best you can help them.
I ask for payment upfront
Obviously, this isn't always possible, particularly in the creative industries. However, where possible I always get paid prior to carrying out any extensive work. At the moment this is the case for my courses and products, but I'm also working on incorporating this into my coaching services from next week.
It's far too common for projects to mysteriously go under after you've already done the work, clients refusing to pay you because they've decided that your work isn't in line with what they wanted (often after providing a very vague brief) or for your invoice to simply get lost in the system. So where possible, get paid upfront. If you work directly with clients this can be done easily using handy tools like PayPal Business and Stripe.
It's slightly more difficult in areas such as writing and social media management, which are traditionally invoice-based, so in this kind of situation I suggest asking for a deposit or half the fee upfront on large projects. Don't feel nervous about asking - we all need to be paid!
I work with other small businesses
I'd say 90% of my work is with other small business owners and freelancers. This is down to personal preference because I'm super passionate about helping small businesses to grow, but I also have an inkling that it's part of the reason why I always get paid promptly.
Small businesses understand the struggle of not being paid on time, so we're careful not to pass that struggle on to anyone else where possible. So if you can, work with other small businesses! Not only will you be paid within your invoice deadlines, but you'll be helping independent businesses to grow.
I know my stuff
Okay so I have a slightly unfair advantage here - I've worked as an accountant and business project manager, so I know my shiz when it comes to all things invoicing and payment legalities. I know that I need to use a contract to protect myself and what needs to be included on my invoices. Failure to get those two things in particular right is a dead giveaway that you're inexperienced or don't know what you're doing.
I like to use my knowledge for good, so here are some posts that you might find helpful when it comes to getting paid:
I also know my clients inside out. I know which prices make them comfortable - not so cheap that they assume I'm not a professional and not so expensive that they hesitate when it comes to payment. If you aren't setting the right prices for the clients you work with, there's a good chance that one of the above situations will arise and cause issues.
Some of my clients struggle massively to ask for money, despite the fact that they've done an amazing job of the work requested and then some. Why? Well, it's traditionally seen as a bit crass to ask for money. But if you want your business to be successful, you need to get comfortable with it.
When I quote my prices, send an invoice or even ask whether there's a budget, because I've somehow fulfilled my lifelong dream of being paid to write articles, I do so with a smile and without hedging or apology. I work hard, I'm an expert in my field and I'm good at what I do. I'm not a confident person in my personal life, but I am in my work. I have to be. So do you, and I bet that you too are incredibly hard-working, have a wealth of expert knowledge and do a bloody good job of whatever it is that you do. So act like it.
And that's it! There's no secret, really. Do you have any advice about getting paid on time? If so, please leave a comment and share your magic with us!
I'm a financial coach helping female business owners to to manage their money and grow fulfilling, financially sustainable businesses. If you're ready to build a business that allows you to focus on your passions and work on your own terms, click the button below to find out how I can help you.
I also create courses and resources to help female entrepreneurs to manage their business finances.