Posted by Stacey on Mon, 01/26/2015 – 17:29
And both of these things are very true and should certainly be taken into consideration before diving into any sort of freelance work. But what’s missing here is possibly the most important aspect of freelance work – the part that really will determine whether you’re a success at it or not. That aspect is collecting on your invoices. Put simply, if you can’t get paid for the work you do, your freelance business won’t last very long, or be very much fun to work on.
Business is pretty straightforward in most ways: You negotiate a rate for the work, a deadline for delivery, you do the work, and you submit an invoice. Your invoice usually has a date parameter to it – thirty days net is a pretty typical metric, meaning you expect to be paid within one month, barring a dispute.
All pretty clear – except when a client fails to pay. Most of the time, an unpaid invoice is a mistake – a mistyped address, a lost invoice – and it’s rectified shortly after you let the client know. Every now and then, however, invoices are unpaid because of less noble motives, and you have to have a plan in place to handle these situations before they come up.
Your plan for unpaid invoices involves a few components working together. If you’re a one-person shop, it’s essential that you have this set up ahead of your first freelance job.
- Tracking. If you’re busy, it’s crucial to have a way of tracking your invoices and their payment. The longer an unpaid invoice remains unnoticed, the more difficult it is to successfully collect on it – not to mention the longer you operate without a portion of your funds.
- Communication. Your first step should be to simply alert the client and assume it’s an honest mistake. However, keep track of when you alert them, and track your communications after that – records will be your friend.
- Consequences. The biggest mistake freelancers make regarding unpaid invoices is to continue to accept jobs from clients that haven’t paid previous invoices. It’s easy to believe excuses and hard to turn down work, but if you haven’t been paid for previous work, why would you believe you’ll be paid for future jobs?
Ultimately, you’ll have to decide if the amount owed if worth further efforts – sometimes you just have to let it go, and think of it as a lesson.