Most of us were drawn to design as a career path for one reason: we’re creative. Design allows us to tap into our creative sides and spend our time creating and brainstorming. Because we tend to be right-brained, however, we’re also not always the best at dealing with the business side (read: boring) of daily operations. Haggling for money is probably everyone’s least favorite aspect of the job. But getting paid for your work doesn’t have to be full of frustration and exasperation. By following a few simple steps, you might even find, in fact, that your clients are happy to pay you.
Before you even begin work for a client, make certain that you have a clear discussion regarding your payment terms. This will be beneficial for both you and your client. Make certain that you outline exactly what work your client is looking for, the timeline that you’ll be working within, and how they are going to pay you. Together with your client, set forth unambiguous payment goals and put them in writing. Let me repeat that. Put them in writing. You want to make certain that if there are any issues with payment down the line, you have a clear record of what you originally agreed upon to clear up any discrepancies.
One more time, for emphasis: Manage clients expectations!
As you begin to work on the project, it’s imperative that you keep organized, especially if you are billing by the hour. Keep accurate notes on how you spent your billable time. Time tracking tools like Harvest and Toggl make this quite easy.
Oftentimes, clients don’t have a keen understanding of how much work actually goes into producing an end product, so if your client asks, you’ll want to be able to show him or her the work that you’re doing. Being organized will also make drawing up an invoice a lot easier. As an added bonus, when you stay organized, you’ll find that it will be easier to give future clients more accurate assessments about the time various projects will require.
You’ll also want to make certain that you’re sending your invoices out in a timely fashion. Don’t wait until the last minute and then expect a quick turnaround from your client. Instead, send your invoice out as soon as possible to allow them time to make their payment.
Check out the “confessions of a designer”
Oftentimes, payments from clients can be held up because they’re not really certain what they’re being billed. Sometimes this uncertainty stems from having received an invoice that might as well be written in hieroglyph or code. When it’s time to invoice, you’ll want to make certain that your invoices are easy for your client to comprehend. Be sure that you use language that your client can understand, that you keep your invoice logically organized, and that it’s easy for your client to see the full amount that you’re billing for. Make use of this comprehensive small business invoicing guide by Xero that makes it easy to be clear and to be consistent.
Though it might seem a bit elementary, the easiest way to get paid is to make it, well, easy for your client. Instead of waiting for them to mail off a check, which can be a huge process in many companies, offer your client various options for paying you. Since a lot of design work is based online, it’s logical to also offer your client the option of paying you online. Have an account on an online service like PayPal or, if you will be meeting your client face-to-face, consider accepting credit card payments through Square. The easier you make it for your client to pay you, the less reason they’ll have to put it off.
It is important to know who is in charge of making the payments to you. Make certain that you have a contact—and introduce yourself so that when you do bill they know whom it’s coming from—and send your invoice directly to him or her. The last thing you want is for your invoice to end up in the slush pile.
Though dealing with getting payments from your clients will never be the most part fun of your job, a little bit of effort on your part can make it a whole lot less of a hassle.