4 Ways to Ensure You Get Paid

Chasing your clients for payment is one of the worst things a designer has to do. You've had a great relationship, the project looks amazing, and then it feels like everything fell apart. NOTHING will take the wind out of your sails like having to constantly ask for your money. UGH. It's frustrating, embarrassing, and really makes you think differently about even a favorite client. So what can you do?? Try these 4 tips to be sure you ALWAYS get paid on time!

1. Invoice on Time!

Yeah, this one's on YOU. You can't get paid if you aren't invoicing on schedule, right?! Too often we put this part off, but you have GOT to invoice on time. For example, if you want your client to pay you before you start work, then you've got to give them at least 30 days to do that. You can't invoice them today and expect them to pay tomorrow unless you've agreed to that up front. And don't send a request for payment that you should have sent 6 months ago. I know it can happen, but it really shouldn't. It isn't fair to you, and it definitely isn't fair to your client!

2. Be Clear on Payment Terms

When you explain your process to a potential client, you should also talk about when and how you expect to get paid. For example, you could say something like: 50% of your design fee as a deposit, 25% as you start to procure, and 25% before install. How you want to set that up is entirely up to you, but you HAVE to be clear with the client before they sign the agreement (and yes, all of this should be in the agreement/contract). You also want them to know that you will NOT pay for product without their credit card or upfront payment. You are not a bank. And in this day and age, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to pay you. That could be check, credit card, Venmo, Apple Pay, PayPal - whatever! Other than Bitcoin, maybe. :) Yes, there can be processing fees, but you can also charge those back to the client as a convenience fee.

3. No Pay, No Work

This sounds simple, but sometimes you have subs lined up and everyone is ready to jump into action, but you haven't received a payment. Even though you may have to juggle a LOT of schedules to get everything back on track, you CANNOT start work until you have been paid. First, it's what was agreed to (see point 2). Second, once you've done the work it can be a lot harder to collect because you have no leverage. And third, your subs won't care if YOU weren't paid, they are still going to want their money! So stick to your guns - and your agreement. Do not purchase anything or start any sort of work without payment. That consequence of non-payment should also be clear in your contract.

4. Understand Your Follow Up

You need a process for EVERYTHING - and that includes following up for payment. You want reminders to be scheduled BEFORE the payment due date. And then you want to have a clear idea of how you're going to contact a client who missed the deadline. Will there be an email and then a phone call? How long will you wait between each one? Will you reach out to BOTH people in a client couple? This should be completely spelled out for you and your team so you know exactly how you're going to handle it. And if the very worst happens, you will want to have a layer standing by as needed, as well as an escape plan from the whole project if that's necessary.

Dealing with money isn't always fun, but those processes are SO key to making things run smoothly. If you feel uncomfortable with this, and you need to know what to say and when to say it, check out my Communication Templates HERE. I've already thought through those icky situations, so you don't. If you have a process in place, then you just do it and not think about it all night long!


Check out more design business tips and tricks

Making the Most of Client Touchpoints

How Communication Can Solve Any Project Challenge

Navigating a Client Couple

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