Fighting late paying clients
Last Updated on 5 May 2021
Every few years there’s a new initiative to help freelancers get paid on time.
Maybe I’m getting old, but it seems to me that if these initiatives were effective, there wouldn’t need to be any new ones!
Nevertheless, it’s good to see that there’s now a Small Business Commissioner working to the BEISS (the business department).
It’s a common problem. Sometimes it’s a policy of the paying organisation to hang on to cash as much as possible. Sometimes it’s pure ineptitude and someone forgets to press a button to action your payment.
The member organisation IPSE, which represents freelancers, says more than half the people surveyed had experienced late payments at some point. I’m surprised it’s not a higher percentage.
How to get paid on time
Don’t forget that you can help yourself to get paid on time by following a few simple steps. This is how I do it:
- Agree ANY work in writing, including the agreed fee and the hours/days to be worked. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big contract. Just make sure that you confirm by email what you’ve agreed verbally. This goes for dailies just as much as longer fixed-term work.
If it’s a text conversation for a short piece of work, screenshot the conversation. That’s your agreement in writing.
- Ask the person who’s giving you the work to confirm your email is correct. If they’re not prepared to reply to your written message with written ‘yes’ you should be suspicious.
- Push to get set up on their payment system as soon as possible once the work has been agreed and certainly before you start the work.
- If invoicing, send in the invoice as soon as possible after the work. If you leave it you might forget!
- Chase the payment once the terms have run out. Phone the person who actions the payment. This may be different from the person who gave you the work. Check they received the invoice and that you hadn’t made a mistake on it.
- If you get shirty or evasive answers after a couple more chasing phone calls, send in an invoice for interest.
- Check out these sites that explain how to charge late payment interest and a compensation fee.
Don’t take it personally
Some people are nervous about chasing money they’re due for work they’ve done. My response is that it makes you look professional as long as you’re polite and matter of fact about it.
Chasing the money early on in the process with the accounts department will help you keep good relations with the person who actually gives you the work.
Also, if you chase early, you won’t be angry. You’re just ringing to check things are going through rather than to complain.
Ultimately, try to have a big enough pool of clients so that you don’t have to work again for the ones who don’t want to pay you.
Posted on 04 May 2021