It’s a freelancer’s worst nightmare! Thirty days had come and gone since I sent theÂ invoice for my workÂ and still I had received no payment.
Even though this particular dollar amount wasn’t the bulk of my receivables for the previous month, it was still significant enough (several hundred dollars)Â to cause concern.
All kinds of paranoid thoughts flitted through my head. Perhaps they were unhappy with my work and this was their way of telling me. Perhaps they wanted me to redo the project (for free)Â and hadn’t gotten around to asking. What if, through some e-mail glitch,Â they hadn’t even received theÂ completed project and its accompanying bill?Â
After taking a deep breath, I composed the politest e-mail to my contact at the company and settled down to wait for a response. Immediately, I heard … nothing. There was no response to my inquiry.
At this point I could have fired off an angry rant, but I decided not to. This particular company had been a regular client of mine. They had a history of paying me.Â Instead, I looked for another contact name in my file. Again I composed the politest inquiry that I could muster and settled down to wait.
This time I heard back from my second contact the very next day. She had researched the matter and found out that my invoice had “slipped through the cracks” as the company modified their accounting process. She also told me something that was music to my ears — my check was being cut and mailed that very day.
Sure enough, within a week, I had my payment. Yes, it wasÂ two weeks past the 30-day mark, but I had been paid. I hadÂ not had to resort to expensiveÂ collection measures orÂ writeÂ off any bad debt. MostÂ importantly, I had preserved a client relationship. All around, it was a happy ending for everyone concerned.
(By the way, I did eventually hear back from my initial contact. It turns out she had been on vacation when I sent my first e-mail.)
(I have to confess that this is a scenario that I don’t face very often.)
What are some things that you can do to ensure that you receive your payments in a timely fashion?
- Be picky about your clients. I think that this is the number one way to protect yourself from deadbeats. This particular client came from a colleague referral and I had done work for them before. Whenever a new company approaches me, I research them on the Internet and on writer’s forums. You can learn a lot about a company’s reputation this way.
- Demand partial payment up front. If you are dealing with a new client it is acceptable to ask for a portion of the payment up front. An alternative is to do a small portion of the work (perhaps a tenth) as a paid sample. When you turn in your paid sample, payment for that portion is immediately due.
- Payments Held in Escrow. If you are fortunate enough to find a lucrative job through one of the bidding sites, make sure that the client is using their escrow service (this requires the amount of the payment to be held until the work is complete). You can also sign up for the bidding site’s arbitration process.
- Clear Invoices. Make sure that your invoice includes the work that you completed, the amount that you are charging, and how the payment should be made. If they are to mail the payment to you, make sure to include your mailing address. It is a good idea to also include the words “payment is due upon receipt.”
Hopefully,Â by using a few of these tips, you can avoid having your own “case of the missing payment” experience.Â If a payment does turn out to be late, don’t panic! It doesn’t always mean that you won’t be paid.
Contents (c) Copyright 2007, Laura Spencer. All rights reserved.