The beginners guide to getting paid on time

Remember the Rihanna song ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’? Well, rumour has it she wrote the lyrics in honour of a freelance friend tired of chasing overdue invoices. Probably. Okay, this might not be entirely true but RiRi does know as well as we do that money makes the world go round. Love it or hate it, it’s a fact as old as time that we’d all love more moolah in our back pockets and that is especially true for freelancers fighting a fierce battle against the enemy that is the overdue invoice.

Few things keep a self-employed entrepreneur up at night like money. Clients pay late, some don’t pay at all, and in the meantime the world keeps turning and the bills keep a’coming. You’ll always have one eye on cash flow but there are ways and means of minimising the pain. Here’s how…

Manage expectations from the outset

If this is your first time working with a new client, be clear on the money side of things from the very beginning. By managing expectations from the start, there’ll be less niggly problems once that first invoice goes in. Be clear before commencing the project on things like your standard payment terms being 30 days and that you don’t accept cheques if that’s the case.

Exercise your right to request payment upfront

If there’s one thing guaranteed to make a Brit uncomfortable, aside from putting the milk in first, it’s talking about money. While Americans will talk numbers until the cows come home, we’re taught that it’s just not very classy to talk about cashflow. And asking for payment before you’ve even started a job? Well, that’s just crass isn’t it? No, actually. Requesting part of your fee upfront won’t phase most clients and it’ll actually go a long way towards proving your professionalism. If they really want to work with you, they won’t bat an eyelid. Similarly, don’t be afraid to request staged payments if a big project will take months to complete.

Work towards a retainer

Retainers are the Holy Grail for the self-employed. That commitment to regular monthly work, not to mention the regular BACS payment that comes with it, is the sweet spot and it is worth putting the idea to clients if you’ve been working with them a while. It’s a win-win situation; you know how much time to set aside for the client’s work and they can incorporate you in their budgets.

Make it easy to get paid

This one is a no-brainer; take away any barricades to getting paid before they even happen. Invoice on time and make sure invoices have purchase order numbers on if the client has stipulated such. Make sure your invoice goes straight to the right person too; nothing delays payment like a stray invoice that just never quite made it to the right department for processing and it can cause delays of weeks, if not months. And last but not least, don’t wait for them to ask for your bank details! Get them on there loud and proud from the outset.

Getting paid doesn’t need to be painful. Our mentors at Helm are on hand to help you negotiate the ups and downs of growing your business, including those finance fiascos. Pop in for a chat and a brew today; let us help you love what you do.

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