the question today is: “how do you deal with clients that are taking forever to pay?”

before i begin working on a project i write up a contract that says what i’m designing and when it’s due to my client. i also include what the project fee is and when it’s due to me. i state that payment is due (this sometimes varies) within 30 days after receiving the invoice. if payment is late a 10% fee will be added to the total amount. we both sign and date and then I begin working. as long as you’re up front with them about when you want your money there should be no surprises. i’ve only had to hunt down a payment once. the client wasn’t trying to stiff me—the canadian postal service went on strike the day my payment was dropped in the mail. i had no idea.

if you’re struggling to get a payment from someone i suggest being polite when you’re requesting the whereabouts of your money. You could send a friendly reminder a week before your fee is due if you haven’t heard from them just in case they forgot. if they’re ignoring you, be a pest. call, email, tweet to them. and if that fails there is always small claims court that i don’t know anything about. has anyone had to go through them to get a payment? i’m curious if the process is worth it.

unlike katie, i have hunted down payments quite a few times. (you’re lucky!) and it’s definitely not my idea of fun. you don’t want to be naggy, but you deserve to be paid on time…so nag away. and i can’t stress the importance of a contract enough. be very upfront that the client has 30 days to pay you and you will charge a late fee if they don’t follow through with that. i can’t tell you how frustrating it is to work really hard for a client’s deadline and meet it…and then have them fail to pay you on time. unfair, right? stand up for yourself on this one, ok?

(illustration by . read more freelance advice posts are over here!)


Add your own

    Liz says:

    Had no idea you would ever have to deal with this! I can’t believe anyone wouldn’t pay on time for work that is done – crazy! One of the crappy parts of being self-employed, but I’m sure there are many perks too 🙂

    Another great advice post! I’m sure a lot of designers do this, too: asking for a certain percentage of the full payment up front (if you know what the total is gonna be) before you even start doing any work. That way if they stiff you on the payment in the end, you’re at least getting something for your time. That, and have everything in writing of course.

    Such great advice. You definitely deserve to be paid on time- definitely stand up for yourself!

    bri says:

    oh, yes! definitely ask for a 50% deposit before you begin work. learned that one the hard way too!

    awesome advice as always. I really appreciate these posts( as well as everything else of course)!

    Kelly says:

    I’ve only had to ‘hunt down’ payment once and it was so awekward! To top it off the client was 2 weeks late on paying and even though I sent an updated bill with the late fee they still only paid the original amount. I shrugged it off and was just happy have received the payment at all. Was I too soft? Should I have demanded the late fee?

    bri says:

    hey kelly! there are plenty of times i have let it slide…i guess it depends on the relationship of the client and the situation, you know? i do try to stick to my guns more now though.

    It is really frustrating to go through that. I have been in those situations a couple of times, in which the customer takes his time to pay you… Thank God I never had anybody who was over 30 days past due. 🙂

    I ask for 50% upfront and set up a payment schedule in the contract. Then I ask for the remaining costs before even going to the printers

    Christine says:

    Great post ladies! I have hunted down payment, absolutely not ashamed to admit it. 😉 At first I felt uncomfortable, but then I started feeling taken advantage of and that tiny bit of anger helped me go after it! Also, my terms are now NET 15. I am not always paid in 15 days, but usually by day 30 it has arrived!

    kristina says:

    this is GREAT, advice thank you!

    Carly says:

    Thanks for the tips! The contract thing is the thing I need to wrestle with. What exactly does a contract look like? Do you still make up “friendly” contracts for “friendly” clients?

    Thanks so much for posting this! Great information! 🙂

    Heidi says:

    Ahh,this is so universal. Thought i’d share two things…one is this hilarious & priceless bit o’ advice:
    The other is that I ask for 1/3rd up front and then bill monthly based off the estimate. That way I’m getting paid along the way. I also get paid in full before anything launches or goes to press. It’s been monumental in avoiding these client annoyances. Good luck!

    Anonymous says:

    great idea 🙂 tnks

    a question,
    how you do this post? with movements?
    so pretty <3

    Ashley says:

    Just wanted to throw in that this series is great… thanks so much for keeping up with it!

    Oh gosh, money! Stresses me OUT. But yes, I completely agree that you need to charge a 50% deposit upfront. It makes me believe that they’re likely in it for the long run. I did my first large custom painting for a client in December, and it was a big job getting the contract and terms together. I am SO glad I did, though. Payments went smoothly, thank goodness, but I realized that I freakishly undercharged for the painting.

    Oh well, at least there was a deposit and contract! I’ll live and learn. 🙂 Thanks for your (and Katie’s) advice!

    I always ask 50% upfront and — if it’s a website — 1/3 in the middel of project and the erst before I launch or before the handover of files.
    I hunted the clients once. It went to small courts. Did it help? Partially. The clients virtually disappeared…
    She really didn’t want trouble, so started paying in installments.

    Great article!

    :: Marta

    sooki says:

    love the ‘advice’ series and this is another great one! like many others, i also ask for a deposit to start the project. then when the project is complete, i’ll bill for the balance and will wait for payment in full before handing any files over or sending to print.

    Hilary says:

    thanks for bringing up so many important issues bri! i’m studying graphic design & am happy to be learning all of this so early. also.. bring blogshop to ohio! xo

    pve says:

    Fantastic series! I think one way to avoid is to be paid an advance or a deposit or get paid before the artwork is finished.
    It happens everywhere and it sure does mess with creativity.

    Fantastic series! I think one way to avoid is to be paid an advance or a deposit or get paid before the artwork is finished.

    swidinst.org says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post, big fan. Keep up the good work andplease tell me when can you publish more articles or where can I read more on the subject?

    It makes me believe that they’re likely in it for the long run. I did my first large custom painting for a client in December, and it was a big job getting the contract and terms together.

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