It’s such a pain, right? First, they email you out of the blue, say they love your audition and that they need three polished takes of their promo script “by today, tomorrow at the latest”. So you deliver. And you kill it. The client even says you did an amazing job and they’d love to work with you again. So you send them your invoice. And then?
For days. Weeks. Even months.
What happened? Did your email not go through? Are they ignoring you? Are they scamming you?
As someone who has freelanced extensively (as a writer), I completely understand these feelings. But as someone who has also sat in the producer chair and paid freelancers, I know that most of the time, these feelings are misguided.
Most clients want to pay you, they’re just really busy. So before you call Judge Judy and demand your day in court, take a deep breath. You can – and will – get your clients to pony up. You just need to use the right tools and strategies.
Here are a few:
#1. Use Good Invoicing Software
If you want clients to pay quickly, you need to make it easy for them. And a PDF invoice that requires them to send a check through the mail is not exactly greasing the wheels of capitalism.
Luckily, there are plenty of invoicing programs built specifically for freelancers – FreshBooks, Zoho, Wave, Harvest are a few that are pretty popular, but there are literally dozens more. Most have a free version. But more importantly, they all offer a direct payment button. This is crucial. If your client opens your invoice and sees “Pay Now”, your chances of quick payment just skyrocketed. But if not, it gets thrown into the pile of “things I’ll do later”. Sometimes, “much later”.
#2. Bill Early
Every project is a little different. Some clients want you to invoice after each job, others prefer monthly. In these cases, follow the client’s protocol. However, for the many clients who don’t have a written policy, sending your invoice right away is the best bet – for a few reasons. First, you’re still fresh in the client’s mind, and have probably developed some personal rapport. This allows you to ride that wave.
Second, you’re guarding against project creep. For example, if the client comes back with changes to the script (usually considered outside-of-scope), and you haven’t invoiced them for the original project, it becomes harder to charge them extra, because you haven’t charged them at all yet.
However, if you already sent them your original invoice, you have all the leverage. You can politely tell them you’d love to make the changes, but first they have to pay your original invoice. This is completely fair, and more importantly, really effective. After all, what are they gonna do? Go out and find someone who sounds exactly like you? Uh-uh.
#3. Send reminders
Some people are just procrastinators and only deal with the most pressing issue in front of them at any given moment. So how do you make your payment a ‘pressing issue’? By hounding them! Well, maybe not hounding them. Let’s call them “persistent reminders”. After a month or so, just send them a quick email to “check-in” on the project and – oh yeah, what’s this? How did my invoice get here? By the way, can you pay this?
If you’re not comfortable sending reminder emails, most invoicing programs will actually do it for you. When you create your invoice, most programs will allow you to send automatic reminders every two weeks, month, or whatever you choose. It’s like having your own ‘muscle’ – easy for you, and gets the job done.
#4. Chill Out
This can be the hardest thing. After a couple months go by, it’s natural to think that you’re getting screwed. So you get angry. You stew. You may even write up an email with all the biting things you would say to this person if you only got the chance.
Don’t send it.
It’s not going to work. Even if your client is trying to get away with one (which is rare), getting angry is only going to push them away further and faster. And if your client is not trying to screw you, and instead is either just busy, waiting on their client to pay them, or – gasp – dealing with a personal issue, you’re just going to come off as a crazy person.
The best thing is to keep sending reminders, and then after a certain period – two, maybe three months – explore other options. There are collection services just for freelancers, like Freelance Collection, that only charge you if you get paid. But before you do, send the client one last email giving them a shot to pay you directly. Who knows? Maybe they’ve been on vacation for three months. Or in a body cast. You never know.
Biggest point – stay positive! The voice over and freelance life has a ton of perks, so don’t let a delinquent client ruin that for you. Losing out on a few hundred bucks is bad. Losing your love of the business is far worse.
So chin up and keep charging!
Brendan Carty is the head writer and creative lead at Thinkmojo and a contributing writer at Such A Voice. His work has appeared on TV screens, computer screens, phones, and tablets. And bus stops.