Is there anything worse for a freelancer than waiting for a client to pay their invoice? It’s one of the most stressful moments that freelancers and business owners must endure. Besides not being able to pay your bills, that feeling of getting short-changed is probably the worst feeling possible.
But, that can be prevented if you take certain measures like making invoicing a priority and never offering your services for free. And, most importantly, getting your clients to pay for your services upfront.
Benefits of upfront payments
If you’re fortunate enough, you may never have to ask for a deposit or upfront payment during your freelancing career. But, there will be circumstances when a deposit is in your best interest. This is particularly true if:
- There isn’t a contract between you and the client.
- It’s a long-term project.
- It’s a new client who you don’t trust yet.
Besides the situations listed above where upfront payments should be accepted, deposits also present the following benefits:
1. Keeps cash flowing
This is the number one reason why upfront payments are so beneficial. It ensures that you have the money coming in to pay all of your expenses and overhead. This is particularly important when you have a long-term project that may take weeks or months to complete. Instead of scrambling to pay your bills until the invoice has been paid, you already have the funds to handle your expenses.
2. Covers out-of-pocket expenses
Most projects come with those additional expenses, such as the cost of materials, supplies or software. While you’ll most likely be reimbursed for these out-of-pocket expenses, you could pay for them with the money received from a deposit.
3. Prevents you from getting played
As mentioned earlier, there’s no worse feeling than completing a project and not getting paid from the client. An upfront payment, even if it’s a partial payment, ensures that you won’t get played by a client and that at least some of your time and hard work will be compensated.
Additionally, asking clients for an upfront payment can illustrate that you’re a professional and that you can be trusted to deliver the project on-time.
How to get clients to pay you upfront
Now that you’re aware of the benefits of receiving upfront payments, here are the best ways to get your clients onboard.
1. Know your worth
Believe it or not, there are many clients who aren’t opposed to paying freelancers upfront. Not only because it proves to them that you’re a professional, but also because it gives them the cost of a project upfront. Some clients would rather pay the cost upfront instead of receiving an invoice that is higher than initially imagined.
That’s why it’s important for you to know how much your services are worth before submitting your proposal. You don’t want to get short-changed or lose out on a gig because your services are too expensive.
If you haven’t already figured out how much to charge for your services, there are plenty of helpful guides to assist you. In most cases, you can figure out your rates by researching industry rates and what your competitors are charging. Don’t forget to also take into account your budget so that you know the minimum amount of money you need to make each month.
2. Build trust
If you’re working with a new client, there’s a good chance that both parties are doing their due diligence and are researching each other. It’s a simple way to build trust so that when you ask for that upfront payment, the client won’t hesitate.
On your end, you want to make sure that you have a professional website with samples of your work, testimonials and contact information. It also wouldn’t hurt to have a page dedicated to your rates or an FAQ that outlines your payment policies. Also, have some sort of social media presence to validate who you are.
3. Be transparent
Another way to build trust is simply by being honest. For example, when you’re first contacted about a potential project, be honest about your availability. If you’re too busy, then relay that information to the client. Why would they pay you upfront on a project that you won’t be able to start right away?
When discussing the project with the client, make sure that both parties clearly understand everything from the rate to the deadline. When you’re both on the same page, have everything in writing so that everyone is protected.
4. Be flexible
During the negotiation process you also want to provide some flexibility. For example, you may want 100 percent upfront, but the client may not be comfortable with that. You could have to settle for a 50 percent upfront and 50 percent paid at the end.
Besides the amount of the deposit, being flexible means accepting multiple types of payment methods. Let’s say that you have an ongoing relationship with a client, you could create a recurring payment option that charges their credit card at the beginning of the month.
5. Offer reassurances
Even with a legitimate website, testimonials, portfolio and the willingness to negotiate, clients still need to be reassured that you’re not going to take their money and run. You can relieve their anxiety by simply providing the following:
- Guaranteeing that the project will be completed by the agreed upon deadline in writing.
- Offering money back guarantees or refunds.
- Frequently communicating with the client and providing status updates.
- Maintaining a professional relationship with the client.
While this information could be included in your contract, you could provide a proposal layout on your website that outlines your processes, deliverables, time frame and cost of projects so that the client has an understanding of your process before hiring you.
(By Max Palmer)