3 Ways to Ensure Your B2B Freelance Business Gets Paid

Smiling merchant accepting credit card payment from customer at counter

When you’re first starting out as a copywriter, one of the biggest fears many freelancers face is the possibility of not getting paid for work that is done.

I’d like to assure you this is a rare occurrence, at least with reputable clients and companies. It’s never happened to me — although I did have one close call, and I’ll explain below how I handled it and did end up eventually receiving my payment.

Even though client non-payment is uncommon, it’s still a good idea to take some basic measures to protect yourself as much as possible.

Here are some tips that have worked for me …

Think about the best way to schedule your payments

Many copywriting experts recommend a down payment, which commonly means getting 50% payment up front, then billing for the remaining 50% upon completion of the project.

This is a good strategy. In fact, it’s the one I use most often. That immediate 50% payment is a good show of faith that the client respects you and is serious about working with you.

However, over time, I’ve added some additional payment strategies to my toolbelt. In particular, for larger projects that happen over an extended period of time, I may request more frequent payments.

A good example is doing weekly blog posts for a new client for a whole year. Receiving 50% of a year’s worth of blog posts up front would probably feel great at the time.

However, once I pass the halfway point in the work, I may feel a little nervous. I would need to continue working the remaining six months while totally trusting that the rest of the payment will come at the end.

So, if it’s a new working relationship, I may request payment for every two blog posts, or bill on a monthly basis instead of doing just two large payments.

As I get to know the client better, I feel more relaxed and flexible about payment schedules. But in the beginning, I put a lot of thought into the best payment schedule for that particular client and project.

Important: Even if I’m billing for every two blog posts, I still ALWAYS request some sort of down payment with new clients. To me, that helps ensure the client is serious about working together and paying me for my work.

Even better, I incorporate into the contract that the down payment is non-refundable if we need to put the project on hold.

In some cases, it might even make sense to get 100% of the payment up front. I haven’t felt the need to do this yet — but it’s another tool for client screening and guaranteed payment that you have at your disposal.

Don’t Be Shy

It can be intimidating to talk about payments and follow up with a client who hasn’t paid your invoice yet, especially when you’re a new copywriter.

I struggled with the awkwardness of that situation, too. However, over time, I’ve become more and more confident about discussing financial matters with clients.

Communicating about financial matters is a skill that comes with time — but it will come faster if you practice rather than waiting too long to ask about your payments.

Here’s a situation that taught me to be less shy about asking for payments …

A little over a year ago, I did a modest project for a new client, writing a short web page. They paid my 50% down payment and seemed to appreciate my work. The revisions communication was slow, but otherwise all was fine.

Then, when I finished revisions and turned in the final version, it was silence on the other end …

I figured it was because of the holidays, but several emails and voice mail messages into the New Year, I had still received no response.

It turned out the person I was working with had left the company. I followed up with someone else, and initially had no luck there either.

Then, I stopped worrying about being annoying or pestering anybody. I wanted the payment I was due! So, I continued to check in regularly.

I remained polite and professional in my communications. But I was persistent — and it paid off.

I had to wait many months — but I finally received a payment I feared I might never see.

So, I recommend never being shy about politely following up when you have a payment due.

How often you check in depends on your current working relationship. Use your best judgment based on the client’s communication style and frequency.

For example, if you and the client communicate every other week, I would wait about the same amount of time initially but check in more often after that.

On the other hand, if you communicate almost every day and the client is starting to assign you new projects, it may be best to ask about your payment sooner, before beginning any new work.

Sometimes busy clients just forget and actually appreciate a polite reminder.

Keep It Simple

If you help your client out, it will be easier for them to help you in return.

What I mean is, don’t make it difficult or complicated for a client to pay you. Make it as simple as possible.

Here are a few ways to do that …

  • Discuss payment methods.

    I specify my preferred payment method in my contract and sometimes in my initial conversations with a client.

    Some clients have a method such as ACH transfer where they can pay me faster through their own payroll system. In those cases, I’ll go with what’s easiest for them.

  • Make your invoices easy to track.

    If you are emailing a PDF or other attachment, give the document a unique title (include the invoice number in the title, too) so it won’t be confused with other invoices from you or from any other freelancers.

    Also, ask to whom you should send your invoices (it might be someone other than the person you’re working with).

  • Include all necessary information on your invoices, such as your name (and your company, if relevant), address where a check should be mailed, or PayPal email address.

    Also, include information that reminds the client exactly what the invoice is for, for their own records. This may include the name of the project or article/blog post, the word count or hours worked, and any other information that explains exactly what the client is paying you for.

    This is especially helpful for companies where the invoice will be passed from the person you work with and given to someone else in payroll or accounting.

All of these tips can help you avoid client non-payment.

As a reminder, non-payment is not common at all, especially if you follow your gut about which clients you work with and use some of these practices along the way.

So, don’t let fear of missing payments hold you back. Instead, focus on all the paychecks you could be receiving once you get started!

Follow the best process you can for payment scheduling, and always communicate respectfully but clearly — and more than likely, you’ll be working with amazing clients who value your work and pay you accordingly.

This article, 3 Ways to Ensure Your B2B Freelance Business Gets Paid, was originally published by B2B Writing Success.

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Published: October 22, 2020

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