The only difference between a freelancer and an employee is that a freelancer has to fight to get paid.

OK, perhaps there are a few more differences – a freelancer has more control over who his clients are going to be, the hours they work are more flexible, and they operate on different deadlines, but at the end of the day, when the project is complete – the employee can breathe a sigh of relief (because he can start getting home again at 6 pm, not midnight), and continue with his job. The freelancer can breathe a sigh of relief (because he was working from 9 pm to 2 in the morning), and then start working on sending an invoice, to start getting paid.

Don’t get me wrong – most people I’ve worked with as a freelancer are fantastic people, who appreciate the work that you do and are prompt about paying you – even those who are less enthusiastic about your work  will pay you, although they might not come back to you. It’s the 1% of the people that don’t pay you that take up all your time and energy.

Why don’t they pay you? Usually, it’s for one of three reasons.

  1. They forgot to pay you. Yes, it isn’t fun, but it happens! They deal with 5 other freelancers, or they aren’t the ones actually paying (there’s a whole department for that) and you just slipped their mind. It shouldn’t happen, but it does.
  2. They have other, more pressing matters. Many freelancers I’ve seen don’t like confronting their clients over money matters – putting it off as much as possible, making up excuses for late payments and in effect, working for nothing. The clients can sense this, and if they have to pay their hosting bill, or you, they’ll opt for the hosting bill. They don’t want their site to be down, but they know they can put you off a few more weeks.
  3. They don’t intend to pay you. They don’t have the funds, or they think they can get something for nothing, or they see your work and think that they could have done it themselves (and if they can do it themselves, then why pay you).

So how do you avoid these issues?

Well, there’s nothing much you can do about no 3. Make sure you have a contract in place before you start working, and get in touch with legal counsel if the client refuses to pay you.

No 1. is easy – use Traxmo (or another invoicing tool) to make sure that you send out the first invoice, and remind you to send it out again. Don’t forget, it’s not just the client’s business to make sure that invoices are paid on time, it’s yours too (and you have a vested interested in getting the invoice paid J).

As for the second reason – make sure you have the payment terms down in the contract, and stick to those terms. You worked hard to complete the project on time, you do fantastic work, and yes, you do expect to get paid. In cases like these, attitude is everything.

Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think in the comments!