We’re not really sure how we’ve made it 2.5 years of this podcast without recording this episode.
There’s not a whole lot that’s worse than expecting an invoice to be paid by a client only to hear crickets in your inbox. It’s a common struggle, but it’s so important that you’re getting paid when you expect to.
It can be difficult to handle this situation for most of us because we can be pretty laid back and sometimes a little more soft-spoken, which makes chasing someone down for a payment really uncomfortable.
Krista here! That’s why we’re both so excited to talk to you about how you can get paid on time every time. Our goal with this episode is that when you send an invoice to a client you never have a second thought about it getting paid, and yes, that’s possible.
1 | Require partial payment to book a project
The easiest way to remove the issue of getting clients to pay their invoice is to require at least some of the cost up front when they’re booking the project. Make them pay before they’re considered a client.
We typically do this in a few different ways depending on how far out we’re booked with clients, but it could look like this:
- 3 payments w/ 25% or 33% downpayment
- 2 payments w/ 50% downpayment
2 | Make a clear payment timeline
Along with getting the first payment out of the way immediately, you can make things go smoothly by outlining the schedule for future payments, and then make it clear everywhere. We’re talking: Intro packet, proposal, contract, Welcome packet, and your project management software.
Make your payment timeline based on dates rather than the progress of the project. This will protect you if you work with a client and the project seems to be getting drawn out longer than it should be.
If you set your invoice to be due after the project is complete, ask yourself what happens if it’s never complete or if you have a nitpicky client who insists on adding more and more revision rounds?
When your invoices are due based on a date (not progress), you get the money you’re owed on the date you expect it no matter what. If you don’t, then the project stops.
Date based invoicing also keeps clients more accountable and quicker to respond or give you what you’re waiting on since they’ll want to see progress on the project before paying you more money.
3 | Don’t deliver until the invoice has been paid
We have seen so. many. posts in Facebook groups where a designer finished a project, sent final files or website access, and then the final invoice is never paid. This is a terrible situation to be in, but it shouldn’t even be a possibility.
Never give your clients final deliverables until you’ve been paid in full. It doesn’t matter if you’re sending final logo files, template files, or installing a website on their hosting.
If you’re someone who delivers final branding files before starting the web design portion of the project, consider how you’d feel if the client ghosted you for the rest of the project, but started using the new logo everywhere. If you wouldn’t be okay with that, then it’s time to change your process.
When you’re doing this, don’t overthink it. If you haven’t done it up until now, it’s going to feel a little weird at first. However, as long as it’s built into your process and you don’t seem like you’re questioning it, your clients won’t either.
4 | Send automated payment reminders
Unfortunately, even if your payment timeline is outlined all over the place, the date could still be missed. It’s easy to get frustrated when this happens, but clients don’t always mean harm when they miss a payment deadline.
To avoid it, set up automated reminders for your invoices. I send one reminder 2 days before an invoice is due and another on the due date. My clients also get an extra reminder through Asana since “Pay invoice” is a task in our project together, and it’s assigned to them on the due date.
When you’re getting your automated reminders set up, write scripts for yourself ahead of time, and either schedule them at the beginning of the project or use a tool like Dubsado (affiliate link) and their workflows to have it all taken care of automatically.
In case you’re curious, my payment reminder script reads like this:
Hey (Client Name)!
This is a reminder that a payment of (Amount Due) is due on (Due Date) for our project together. Let me know if you have any questions!
If you’re ready to get it taken care of early, here’s a link to do so.
5 | Have late fees and stick to them
We talked about boundaries and how to stick to them in episode 34, but boundaries related specifically to payments are so important. Sometimes automated reminders and expectations set ahead of time might not do the trick, though, so it’s important to have an extra layer of protection.
In your contract and welcome material, have a fee that is put into effect if an invoice is late. You can make this fee whatever makes sense for you. Some people do a certain percentage every day a payment is late, some do a flat fee.
I charge $150 for a late fee and stop all work on the project if a payment is late. If the project is delayed by 3 days or more, I take it off my calendar and add a pretty hefty rescheduling fee.
This is another thing to have a script for created ahead of time. It’s so nice to have a pre-written email you can send when a payment is late rather than trying to write a nice email when you’re feeling anxious and frustrated.
As hard as it might be to enforce a policy like this, it’s so important that you do. You owe it to yourself for the hard work that you’re doing on the project.
Hopefully, if you’ve done everything we’ve talked about up until this point, there’s no reason a client should ever be late on an invoice.
- Figure out what your late payment consequences look like + add them to all of your onboarding materials that you send to your clients