How to get paid on time as a freelancer

By Avery Baxter

As a new freelancer, the tough part is finding and securing client contracts. If you’ve been following us at Write Money Inc., you know that MediaBistro, Journalism Jobs, Upwork, Simply Hired, Craigslist, Freelance Writing Gigs, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Twitter (yes, Twitter!) and professional associations are great places to find freelance work. Set up job alerts to avoid having to search through hundreds of jobs a day.

Those steps help you secure client contracts. Except for Upwork, the freelance job sites don’t help you to get paid. That’s up to you.

Good habits let you get paid on time as a freelancer

Getting paid on time as a freelancer may easily also be the second toughest part about being a freelancer. There are no automatic payroll deposits coming your way as a freelancer. What won’t stop are your bills. You need to get paid on time.

A first step to get paid on time as a freelancer is to write specific terms into client contracts that outline your pay rate and when payment is due from the client. For example, you could state that payment is due on the 5th day of the month. Set competitive rates. Organizations like the Editorial Freelancers Association, Contently and Writers Digest and NJ Creatives publish freelancer job rates.

Factor in your freelancing work experience and relevant training and certifications when setting rates. Don’t low ball yourself. You deserve to be paid according to your skill level comparative to average and competitive market rates.

Work with clients who have a reputation for paying freelancers on time. If a client falls behind in payments, contact them and ask when you can expect payment. There may be instances when clients don’t have the money to pay you on time, especially if clients haven’t received payment from their customers or if sales have dropped off.

Make getting paid on time a team effort

Make contact with clients in writing so you will have a paper trail. Pay attention to your gut. If you get the feeling that a client is having cash flow problems, consider reducing the amount of work that you complete for that client. The last thing that you want is to spend time on work that you may never get paid for.

Another way to get paid on time as a freelancer is to reach out to other freelancers who work for the client who’s been late in sending out payments. Ask these peers if they’ve been paid. If they’ve been working with the client longer than you have, ask them if the client has a habit of paying freelancers late.

Band together and reach out to the client as a team. You could also copy other freelancers on emails that you send the client requesting payment. As a last resort, be prepared to go to small claims court to receive payment.

You could also ask the client to return all work that he has not paid you for. Make it clear to the client that she is not to use the material in any form now or in the future.

To avoid having your freelance gigs shut down because a client hasn’t paid you yet, keep a roster of 10 or more clients who you work for. Search for freelance jobs daily. Again, remember to set up job alerts to save time. Continue to learn and expand your skill set, as this can help you to attract new clients.

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