When you’re finally finished with a project, you’re ready to collect the final payment.
But some clients never want to pay their invoices on time.
While that may not be a big deal for someone working at a giant company with an accounts receivable department, as a freelancer, getting late payments can be crippling.
Fighting with clients month after month on end can be exhausting. It might even contribute to burnout as a freelancer.
Today, I’d like to share with you some of my best advice to ensure your clients pay on time—almost every time. My advice comes from years working for myself and years of coaching and helping freelancers around the world.
If you’re ready to get your invoices paid on time regularly, here are a few ways to increase your chances of success:
Be clear in setting payment expectations in your contract and conversations
First and foremost, you need to be extremely clear with your clients about when, how, and how much you expect to be paid.
This should be outlined when you first draft a contract; your clients will still need to be reminded regularly, but if you set expectations from the start, your clients will not be surprised when the bill comes.
Ensure your invoices have accurate “due by” dates and you clearly communicate your expectations when you deliver your invoice via email or in-person.
Let technology help
There’s no reason to depend on your memory to remember and manage every single payment that comes through your business. That’s why there are freelance invoicing apps like Freshbooks or Bonsai.
Many invoicing apps not only send the original invoice, but they also automatically email your clients if they forget to pay. The automated follow-up can save you hours of work and lots of stress.
Make it extremely easy to pay
You’re more likely to get a timely payment if you make it very easy to pay your invoices.
Using invoice software is a natural way to achieve this since most technology not only sends the invoice, but also allows your client to pay directly, via whatever portal you use to send your invoices.
If you’d still rather send your invoices by hand (or manually via email), there are lots of tools for receiving payments as a freelancer. I recommend always including a link or instructions directly on your invoice.
Hold on to final deliverables
Another way to ensure timely payment is to withhold final deliverables from your client until they submit their final payment.
The more rushed they are as they feel pressure from their clients, the more likely they are to settle the final financials quickly.
By making it clear in the beginning of your relationship that final deliverables will be sent only when final payment is received, you can ensure payments are almost always expedited.
Get on the telephone
Let’s face it: asking for money can be awkward. It may be tempting to send an email or a text message to your client asking for the payment you’re owed. Even letting your invoicing software do the dirty work is definitely less awkward than bringing up the payment issue yourself.
However, most payment disputes can be resolved quickly if you just jump on a quick telephone call.
Why? Because people are less able to ignore a phone call, and when they hear your voice, they remember they’re dealing with a real-life human being who has needs—personal and financial.
The best way to appeal to someone (aside from asking in person, face-to-face) is to call them on the phone.
Offer incentives for early payment
Many freelancers offer special incentives to their clients for paying their bills on time. These incentives can include anything from a discount on current or future projects to gift cards or merchandise.
If you’re freelancing through a marketplace, emphasize you’ll leave positive reviews and feedback if they pay their invoices on time and in full.
Warn against late-payment penalties
Not only can you offer incentives for early payments but, if it’s your style, you can also warn against penalties for late payments.
This isn’t my favorite tactic, but it can be used in situations where you feel it’s necessary. Some freelancers choose to add a 15% late fee to their invoice when sending it to their client. Of course, the more difficult part of this strategy is actually enforcing the late fee itself.
There you have it – follow these steps and you’re more likely to see your invoices paid more quickly, with less hassle for either you or your client.
Preston Lee is the founder of Millo—where he and his team help people start side-businesses, quit their day job, and build a business they care about. To start your journey as a freelance entrepreneur, download their free one-page business plan template.