Simple tips for freelancers on avoiding late payments.

In collaboration with our friends at www.digitalrisks.co.uk.

If you’re one of the 4.5 million self-employed in the UK, you are able to enjoy the number of benefits that come with working alone. No big boss breathing down the back of your neck (Yes that’s right you are the boss). More flexibility so you can catch up on your favourite series on Netflix first thing in the morning. And better pay… well if you want. No need to grovel for a pay-rise anymore, want to charge more? Do it. Remember you’re the boss!

However, working as an individual professional can unfortunately have its downfalls – late payments being one of the biggest. If the situation isn’t dealt with appropriately it can have a major impact on the client relationship and even your personal life, potentially resulting in you being unable to pay for basic expenses. That means no more Netflix.

Whether you’re at the beginning of your career as a freelancer or currently experiencing issues with clients not paying you on time, these tips should help you avoid the risk of late payments and give you the confidence to be able to deal with them effectively.

Before you agree to work.

Know what you’re doing – Re-examine the given contract until you have a strong understanding of what the client expects from you. Ensure you are fully aware of what is required and if you have any concerns, always ask for verification.

Agree on terms & conditions – Ensure you send a copy of your terms and conditions for approval before starting any work. This document should outline the following expectations:

  • Notice period.
  • Your preferred method of payment i.e. by bank transfer or PayPal etc.
  • When and how you will invoice
  • Your payment period
  • Any late payment fees /Part-payment terms *
  • Keep record – It’s always best to keep track of the correspondence between your client and yourself. Ask for confirmation via email or in letter form stating everything is agreed upon – this means you’ll have credible evidence to refer to if legal action needs to be taken later on.

*All companies have the right to charge interest in a late payment under the Late Payment Debts (Interest) Act 1998 and more recently the EU Late Payment Directive 2013. It could be important to consider this option as a means of covering your costs if a client pays late, however if worried about upsetting your client, it is probably best to implement this where late payment is persistently occurring.

Moreover, part-payment is also a possible means of assuring your costs are at least partly covered, as you may want to ask for some of the payment upfront.

Invoicing tips.

You should aim to be consistent with invoicing, sending them at the same time every month will help reduce the risk of receiving late payment. You may even feel more comfortable invoicing on a more regular basis for those costumers you’re concerned about. To save time doing so, consider using an invoicing app such as Albert – the free easy-to-use iPhone app that lets you send beautiful invoices to your clients immediately after you have completed the work. The quicker you send them the quicker you’ll get paid, this way you spend less time doing the boring stuff and more time doing what you love!

Dealing with late payments.

Now although you may be able to reduce the amount of late payments you’ll receive, it remains inevitable that it will most likely happen once or twice. Therefore, it’s crucial you manage these situations in the correct manner to prevent damaging any working relationships you have. After 30 days of non payment, here are some simple steps you may take:

  • Stay visible – Don’t be afraid to send a friendly email reminding them that there is an outstanding fee that needs to be paid.
  • Pick up the phone – If the client is still not responding, call them. It’s much harder to say “no” on the phone and you’re more likely to get an answer as to why they haven’t paid yet.
  • Stop working – Put all further work on hold until you receive payment.
  • Consider a payment scheme – This may be a helpful option if your client is struggling to pay because they simply cannot afford it.
  • Take legal action – This should be the last possible resort. If the client continues refusal of payment you can take the dispute to a small claims court.

There could be a number of reasons why your client is not paying you on time, from simply not having the money to not being happy with your service. They may feel as though you didn’t fulfil their brief or are dissatisfied with the quality you produced, even if you haven’t done anything wrong.

Consider taking insurance.

Digital Risks can provide tailored insurance cover for freelancers including Professional Indemnity insurance – which covers the costs of defending your business if your client is withholding payment because of their dissatisfaction of your service.  If you come to realise that you are at fault, PI insurance may be able to cover the costs of damage caused to your client as a result of your work, possibly saving what’s left of the working relationship.

As a freelancer, keeping healthy working relationships is vital for your business and you will want to focus on prevention rather than resulting in legal action. Being proactive, trusting your instincts and following these simple tips should help reduce the likelihood of late payments as well as give you more time enjoy the fun stuff.

For more information on cover for freelancers call 0333 772 0759 or send an email to support@digitalrisks.co.uk.


A massive thank you to our friends at www.DigitalRisks.co.uk for writing this article.