We all know: freelancing blogging is great. You’ve got your freedom, you’re doing something you’re passionate about (most of the time) and you’re proud of your work (most of the time).
You put in the hours, a little bit of elbow grease, a whole lot of energy, and you send off your post to your client, along with your invoice.
And then you wait. And wait. And two weeks later you check your bank account, and then you wait some more. And then two weeks after that you get an email saying it will come in two more weeks.
Sound familiar? Even if you’ve got your invoice basics covered, late payment is unfortunately a part of life for freelance bloggers.
Luckily, there are ways to minimize the likelihood of that happening to you, and there are things you can do today to help you get your invoices paid faster.
1. Determine your policies beforehand
Sometimes, as a freelance blogger, your clients may consider you as less strict when it comes to what is or isn’t allowed for your work. They may push and pull and try to get more out of the deal than what was originally agreed to, or negotiate in other ways. There are important ways to help fight against this scope creep or, alternatively, the reverse scope creep.
You need to set general payment policies beforehand that apply to all of your freelance clients. What this does is it helps you to have a reference to point your clients to once they start getting relaxed in their payment. It’s also good to note that these general policies shouldn’t be just for your clients—they should help keep you accountable and professional when it comes to invoicing.
Your general policies should include:
- if you’ll take payment for your work upfront and what percentage (25%? 50%?)
- how much you charge for certain jobs and (to protect against scope creep) how much urgent or additional jobs will cost
- the conditions for a partial or full refund (i.e., work way overdue, inconsistent quality, etc.)
- how long you’ll allow your client to pay the invoice (although the standard is 30 days, it is better to shorten that to 14 days in order to get your payment faster)
- if you’ll charge late fees at either a flat rate or a percentage of the invoice total
By setting these general policies before you’ve even begun to get regular clients, you will help show your clients what can be expected of your work and what is expected from them as concerns payment. Clarifying these common payment issues will help you to avoid any problems later on.
2. Automate your invoicing
Although the classical image of a writer is fedora-wearing, typewriter-clanging introvert/rebel, most writers live in the 21st century and are very well adjusted to the times. Even then, very few freelance bloggers have brought their invoicing into the modern world.
Instead of finding systems to automate as much as they can about heir invoicing, they spend much longer doing menial tasks.
Although there are lots of great invoicing templates out there, none of them really hold a candle to using online invoicing software. This software is mostly designed for small businesses and freelancers, to help them get their invoices out as quickly and professionally as possible.
Of course, the online part is also important. What this means is that all the client contact information, sums, taxes, unique invoice number and more are saved online. It allows for freelancers to do their invoicing anywhere there is an internet connection.
It usually also comes with recurring invoicing (sending the same amount to the same client on a regular basis), expense tracking, tax summaries, and other things you’ll find useful, especially when tax season rolls around.
3. Be specific about the job in the quote
I mentioned above the general policies that you should have when it comes to the payment processes you’ll accept. However, that shouldn’t be all. You should also go ahead and get specific about the job you’re about to accept.
This is the space where you can clearly set your client’s expectations on this particular job. This quote or detailed agreement will help defend you against having to do much more work than you thought you’d agreed to (which may be your fault because you only had a general, quick-email idea of what was expected of you).
In your quote, you should be able to answer the following:
- What is the timeframe for when the work should be delivered, either as a one-time post or regular monthly posts?
- What is the expected word count?
- Are you only responsible for the text or also for sourcing the images?
- How many revisions will be required (up to 3, 5, or an infinite amount)?
- How many posts per week or month will you be guaranteed (for a longer agreement)?
These types of questions should be answered beforehand. That way you can not only protect you from scope creep but also help you to avoid delays and clients disappointed because your work didn’t match their expectations.
4. Send out your invoices ASAP
This is something that happens a lot to freelancers. They spend so much of their energy (sometimes at irregular hours) working to finish that post due the next day or after. So what happens? They finish it, luckily, but for whatever reason they’re so tired of looking at that work, or they have other work they need to do, that they forget to send their invoices on time.
While this may be understandable for a day or more, it becomes irresponsible after that. That turns into putting it off until tomorrow, and then another tomorrow as procrastination kicks in.
This is one of the biggest reasons that many freelancers don’t get paid on time—they just don’t send the invoices out on time. This means they miss the billing cycle and have to wait another 30 days.
One sure way to fight against that is to not view invoicing as something particularly difficult. Of course, with invoicing software this is usually the case. It’s even easier with the recurring invoicing, where you won’t need to send out any invoices manually as the software will do it for you.
However you do it, it needs to be done on time. It’s a good idea to create your invoices long before you need to send them to your client. Because you’ve probably agreed to a per-post fee, you’ll have a pretty good idea in advance what the final amount will be. Even if the amount changes, you can still prepare the invoice and update it when the job is done.
5. Send payment reminders out quickly
Okay, to be fair, the biggest reason that many freelancer bloggers don’t get paid on time is simply because the client doesn’t pay on time. This is a natural fact of business, something that many small businesses and freelancers put up with on a daily basis. In fact, small businesses and freelancers have to wait an average of 72 days for their payment.
There are two reasons for late payment: one, optimistically, is that they forgot or are busy; the second, more realistically, is that they just don’t want to pay right now (or their accounting department is moving slowly on approving the payment). It happens to everyone, and it happens quite a lot.
However, that doesn’t mean we should give into fatalism. It is now your job to remind them, and do so consistently.
If you’ve set your payment due date at 14 days, you should send out a payment reminder even before its due, for example, on the 12th. You’ll have to be polite, using words such as please and thank you which will incentivize your clients to pay faster. Also, remind them of the late fee (if you’ve got one in place).
If they are still late, send a second payment reminder. It should still be professional, but it should also be direct and get the message across that you are due payment. This should be enough to shake them from their payment procrastination.
It shouldn’t be so hard to get paid on time. After all, you’ve done the work, you’ve put in the hours. It’s your client’s obligation to pay you on time every single time. These steps will help you get much closer to that version of reality.