A freelancer’s guide to getting paid on time

A freelancer’s guide to getting paid on time

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Any freelancer with a steady stream of work will tell you they’d never go back to a staff job, if it weren’t for this one thing: Getting paid as a freelancer is often more challenging than the work itself. Unlike employees that benefit from bi-monthly direct deposits, freelancers often have to invoice for each project. In a perfect world, we’d receive payment upon invoicing or within the term stipulated in our contracts. But it’s not uncommon for freelance payments to mysteriously get lost in the shuffle for months (or in my case, years!), even after the establishment of the Freelance Isn’t Free Act protecting the rights of freelancers. Biding time to pay freelancers isn’t only disrespectful, but it can seriously hamper our ability to cover basic necessities. But just how bad is it? Bonsai , a freelancing payment software, conducted a study analyzing invoice trends sent over three years. They found that 29 percent of invoices are paid late. Unsurprisingly, but no less sickeningly, women are paid late more often than men, with marketing freelancers paid late more frequently than any other profession, according to the study. Since your time and your work are valuable, here’s how to make sure you get paid on time, and what to do when you’re not. Follow up How many iterations of “Hi, just wanted to quickly follow up on the status of my invoice” have you sent in the last year? It can feel redundant, but I promise you, it’s reminding your client of a pressing responsibility. Make sure they even received the invoice, and double check that you’ve sent it in the right format to the right address. If all checks out, give yourself a cut off of three weekly follow-ups before you move up the chain. After all, you want to retain some of your dignity, and devote your time to actual work. Go over their head Give your direct supervisor the benefit of the doubt when moving up the chain. That means under no circumstances should you badmouth them to their supervisor or finance department, since the late payment is often out of their control. Finance departments deal with thousands of invoices at a time, so provide as much information as you can in your initial email to mitigate too much back-and-forth — invoice number, date, project, and amount. If you don’t hear back, pick up the phone, transport yourself back to the ’90s, and leave a professional yet stern voicemail. People now use the phone so infrequently, they’ll realize you mean business. Charge interest Think about it: If you’re late to repay a bank loan, they’ll have no qualms about charging you interest. So why are freelancers afraid to charge interest? It’s simple. We’re afraid to burn bridges, to be too aggressive, to come on too strong. If the invoice is unreasonably late, charge a late fee. Here’s the catch, though: You can only do so if you’ve amended your initial contract to outline the terms of said […]

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