When you’re an independent freelance writer, unpaid invoices are a viable concern. Clients who take too long to pay you for an essay, thesis, or any other content (or don’t pay you at all) should be held accountable for their actions—but sometimes, prevention is better than cure.
Confronting clients about what they owe you can be an awkward and uncomfortable experience. That’s why it’s important to have some preventive tricks up your sleeve.
Even if your client base is still growing, learning ways to avoid unpaid invoices is something you can benefit from for years.
Here are six of the best Ways To Avoid Unpaid Invoices As A Freelance Writer.
Send Invoices Immediately
The simplest, easiest, and foundational way to avoid late and unpaid invoices is to always send invoices as soon as you’ve completed the job. If you want the client to pay quickly, you must invoice promptly. Sending your invoice immediately shows you’re serious and professional about your billing system and speeds up the payment process.
If you wait for ages before administering your invoices, clients might feel they can do the same with their payment. Set a standard of punctuality with prompt, ready-to-go invoices.
Offer A Variety Of Payment Methods
Sometimes, it takes a while for clients to pay because they need to navigate the payment method you’ve provided. For example, if you’ve asked to be paid via PayPal and they don’t have a PayPal account, the business owners may need extra time to create one before they can pay what’s owed.
To avoid long, drawn-out situations like this, you need to preempt the fact that your clients will need various payment method options. Some popular invoice payment options include EFT, Visa Checkout, QR Codes, Apple Pay, and Bitcoin.
Create Clear And Accurate Invoices
Technical errors in invoices are one of the biggest reasons payments get delayed. The wrong date or payment terms, the amount owed, or an inaccurate description of the services exchanged can cause a delay—and that responsibility is no one’s but your own.
If there’s one thing you do from your end to prevent delayed or unpaid invoices, make sure yours are always 100% accurate, legitimate, and easy to read. A poorly created invoice or one riddled with errors looks unprofessional, can erode trust, and makes you look sloppy and lack attention to detail. Clients often look for these minor things in a writer, so don’t let yourself down by neglecting them in your invoicing.
After waiting weeks to receive payment, the last thing you want is to realize you’ve entered the wrong date on your invoice. In the same way, you always proofread your writing and double-check your invoices before sending them out.
Consider Charging Extra For Late Payments
If unpaid invoices are a serious concern of yours (as they should be), you might want to consider charging interest for overdue payments. However, you need to ensure that clients know this and that your payment terms are stated on your invoices. You cannot simply decide to add interest after the fact. You should also send a payment reminder or follow up with a phone call before you start adding interest. This helps to maintain a cordial relationship with a client and gives them the benefit of the doubt.
By adding a late fee clause to your invoices, you preemptively let clients know they will be held accountable for any overdue payment. You can set a flat rate for days past due or a monthly percentage ranging from 1% to 5% on an outstanding invoice. This is a fairly standard practice in business that helps keep clients in check.
Just be aware, however, that there are laws governing the addition of interest, which differ from state to state. Do your research first and ensure you’re legally allowed to charge the penalty you’re imposing. If late payment penalties are not an option, there are other forms of legal action. Taking a client to small claims court is a last resort, but it may sometimes be necessary. Alternatively, you can hand the account over to a collections agency.
You can, of course, turn this around and offer a discount for amounts settled within a short turnaround time. This is often a great incentive for speedy payment, and you can build it into your original fee, so you don’t lose out.
Update Your Invoicing System
A proper invoicing system can significantly improve your billing process, even if you’re a freelancer or small business owner. The smaller your business operation is, the more important protecting your stream of income needs to be.
If your invoicing system is a little haphazard or ad hoc, you need to take the time to refine it. It would be best if you had a rate card and quote template ready per project type. You also need an invoice template to include your current rates for different writing services, which features all your billing and business information. Additionally, you must keep a proper record of all invoices issued, their due date, and when they’re settled. You can do this manually or invest in accounting software that automates the process and assists you with accounts receivable management.
Doing this will ensure you have complete control over your invoicing and won’t get into situations where you omit important information. Plus, you won’t end up chasing clients who owe you money but to who you have accidentally neglected to send an invoice.
Set Up Regular Payments With Recurring Clients
If you’re working with the same clients for months and sending the same invoice every time, there’s a better way to go about it. Setting up an automatically recurring invoice to regular clients saves you time and energy, reduces the chances of sending an overdue invoice, and increases the likelihood of being paid on time.
Instead of compiling a fresh invoice every month from scratch and setting new payment dates every time, re-use your invoice template so that clients begin to familiarize themselves with your projected payment date and avoid delayed deposits.
When you use a template, you get no technical errors. You can view tools like these in the same way you see refining your skills. It’s a worthwhile investment, as you’ll reap the benefits of a more efficient billing system.
While collecting payments isn’t always easy, no freelance writer can afford to let unpaid invoices slide.
Chances are, if a client hasn’t paid you yet for the content you’ve provided, they won’t take the initiative on their own. But by adopting clever preventative methods, you can significantly reduce the chances of overdue invoices and not getting paid, ensuring your career as a freelancer thrives.
With a deep understanding of the student experience, I craft blog content that resonates with young learners. My articles offer practical advice and actionable strategies to help students achieve a healthy and successful academic life.