When you’re self-employed, you’ll often be at your client’s mercy.
Some will be surlier than a cornered Bullmastiff. Some will be pleasant but hopelessly unorganized. Others will be forgetful or slow about signing a cheque for work you completed months ago.
Initially I felt betrayed when people paid me late. I assumed every editor realized I’m the special snowflake my mommy always said I was, and I’d be paid promptly after I submitted a brilliant article on deadline. But things happen. Sometimes invoices get lost or people forget (or worse! they try and rip you off).
Here are 6 ways to get paid on time and keep your cash flowing:
1. Never make verbal deals
Always request a signed work contract. Specify late payment charges, along with your pay rate in the document. If you don’t like their contract, create your own. Cite a $50 fee for bounced cheques and stipulate they must be replaced by a draft or electronic payment within two days.
2. Discuss overdue invoices with your client in person or by phone
A candid chat is more effective than an impersonal email war.
3. Banish retro cheques
Insist on being compensated via e-Transfer, electronic funds transfer (EFT) or wire transfer. The INTERAC e-Transfer Request Money feature is an easy way to ask for the money you’re owed from clients and have the money go right into your account. You’ll be paid faster and you’ll have immediate access to the funds because, unlike cheques, they can’t be held. That said, the payroll or accounts payable department at some companies will only pay by cheque (but it never hurts to ask).
4. Create financial wiggle room
A business line of credit will sustain you during cash trickles. If you qualify, you’ll get the best interest rate on a line of credit of $5,000 or more.
5. For longer-term projects, demand payment in installments
They like you! They really like you! If your client values you, you may secure a huge contract. It may take months to finish a project, so asking for progress payments every three weeks for prolonged jobs is a good habit that will keep money coming in a steady flow.
6. If you still haven’t been paid, dig for info
While you keep sounding like a squeaky wheel with your client, search for an online forum or union where people who do the same work you do can connect with others who may have had the same experience to find out why it happened or what they did about it. At the very worst, you can use this forum to share your experience or gain some inside knowledge about internal issues with the client.
Other things you can do to protect yourself include billing upfront, invoicing promptly and researching your clients. The more professional a reputation you have, the better.
And now something our lawyers want to say: