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No more unpaid invoices: How to negotiate a pay schedule and protect your cash flow

It’s time to put an end to chasing after unpaid invoices.

Working on a project that flexes all your creative abilities and speaks to your passions feels great. But getting paid on time (and consistently!) is a whole other story. Too often, creative independents have to spend their already precious time chasing unpaid invoices when they could be putting energy toward reeling in new clients and growing their businesses. Especially once you’ve won a client and are starting to kick off the project, establishing an invoicing schedule is critical to making sure you’re paid consistently.

We’ve focused our insights down to the 3 most helpful tips for managing an invoicing schedule so you’re not left in the dark about that next paycheck.

1. Include a clear payment schedule in your contract so you’re not left with unpaid invoices.

First things first: Before kicking off any project, make sure payment terms are explained in your contract. This way, expectations are set at the very beginning and all parties know what the guidelines are for the duration of the project. Our new Payments Stack makes invoicing easy and clear! Freelancer Kaitlyn Arford recommends you make sure to include these items:

  • A net 30 payment term so the client knows that payment in full is due 30 days from receipt of invoice. You may decide to invoice monthly, bi-weekly, or once halfway through the project and once at the end. Consider the cash flow that you need to meet your profit goals and go from there!
  • Indication of whether or not you’ll invoice the client for payment. Should they expect an invoice every X amount of days? Or should they pay you based on a pre-set schedule?

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2. Big project? Consider building a deposit into your contract.

As another way to protect yourself as you enter a new client relationship, you can include a deposit in your contract to make sure your client is committed to the process. Some independents charge half up front, 10%, or another amount that feels good to them. This is also a good time to get clear on how you’ll get paid. State your preferred way of receiving payments, whether that’s through PayPal, via check, or something else.

3. Include terms for delayed payments.

Having terms for late fees makes it so that you’re protected in the case that your client has missed a payment deadline. We’ve found that a general ballpark for late fees would be 1.5% interest for every unpaid month after the due date. Sometimes clients require some hand-holding, which creative Ally Spiroff solves for by including an invoice with the final deliverable. This way, you get your invoice into the client’s hands right away.