[tweetmeme]Getting paid is the single most important aspect of being a freelancer, the money we receive for our services is what enables us to keep doing what we do, so make sure that you take your time to do things right. Sooner or later, many of us are faced with a client who doesn’t pay us on time.  There are many precautionary measures that you should take when initiating a relationship with your client.

Here are a 10 tips and tricks to help make sure you get paid for your freelancing work:

1. Investigate

If you haven’t worked with the client before you should do a research of their business. How long have they been established? What do their customers think of them? Look at their website. Google their company name. Check the Better Business Bureau for complaints if this company treats their customers poorly, they will probably also treat their vendors poorly.

2. Always Get a Contract Signed

This one is a must.  Having a contract may give you a little legal edge later on if there is trouble later on. A contract has many advantages:

a) Serves as a record of your agreement

b) Tells the client that you’re running a serious business.

c) Establish your terms, payment terms, and delivery terms.

3. DOWN PAYMENT / RETAINER

Perhaps this one is pretty obvious but in the real world not every designer asks for a down payment.  The ideal scenario is to charge 50% up front (sometimes less on very large projects)

Getting a deposit is beneficial not only because it will help with your monthly cash flow and financial planning but it also helps filter out time wasting clients who have no intention of paying for your services.

4. Invoice promptly

In the ‘real’ world, many businesses that invoice clients have payment terms of 30 or 60 days. If you work on the web, avoid lengthy payment terms to make sure people don’t forget you need to be paid.

If you are asking for a down payment, probably you will have to break the total in two invoices, very few clients will pay you before they receive an invoice, so you can give the first one with your contract for receiving the down payment.

Then It’s very important to send an invoice as soon as a project is done. The longer the time period between when you turn in your work and when you invoice the client, the more likely it is that you will have trouble getting paid.

5. Offer a discount for early payment

You can offer a discount to customers who pay early encouraging your clients to pay you promptly. On your invoice offer a 2% to 5% discount for payment within seven days.

You could even use a payment table:

2 to 4 days 5%

5 to 7 days 3%

6. Develop on your site or server

Always develop a website on your server. This way you are sure that only you can access the files so the client can’t run off with your work. If you are making a piece for printed advertisement you can upload the comps also in your site.

You can even have a section for clients so they can see the work in progress.

7. Don’t Release Files Until You Are Paid

Maybe this is also pretty obvious but It is easy to upload or launch a website as soon as the client tells you they are happy and have told you the payment is in the post.

Make sure you include this in your original terms and conditions or contract so the client understands  that the work must be paid for in full before the files are released.

8. Follow Up Before It’s Too Late

Follow up before payment comes due and a it turns in a really big problem.

At first with a polite reminder within the first seven days. When you do follow up with a customer who hasn’t paid, always assume the best, there may be an innocent explanation. As long as you’ve stuck to the key points of this post. Sometimes all it takes to be paid is just being friendly.

9. SCHEDULED Payments

This have work wonders for me, it is easier for a client to remember to pay if you have a schedule for his payments and signed it if possible. If you break up the payments into smaller invoices, it’s easier for your client to pay and you can always refuse to continue if you aren’t receiving the payments.

10. Always thank a paying Client!

This is basic, if you have a client who is a pleasure to work with and pays up promptly you want to hold that client.  When you receive the final payment make sure you thank the client for choosing you and for paying promptly.

Even if you have a client with a delay but you know they made a real effort in paying you should thank.

There are different ways to do it: by e-mail, sending a simple thank you card or a letter.

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Javier Cantero

Javier Cantero