You know what’s great about being a freelance developer building Joomla websites? The convenience technology can provide, such as Joomla templates.
You know what’s NOT great about being a freelance developer building Joomla websites? Getting stiffed by a customer. In fact, freelancers everywhere are getting stiffed by their customers (just check out the World's Longest Invoice). You didn’t become a web developer to be in the business of collections. If only there was an equivalent to Joomla templates for getting paid! Although there is no official template, there are in fact specific steps you can take to secure your chances of receiving money when owed.
Here are 7 ways to help you get paid faster:
1) Be Picky
Don’t do business with everyone, plain and simple. When you’re first getting started, it’s especially tempting to take whatever work that comes your way, but if the client doesn’t pay, it’s still money you don’t make. Make it a habit to call references on potential clients. Most likely, a client will have used a contractor before you, so be sure to reach out to these people. Verify they have a past of paying on time before you take the risk of doing the work and not getting paid. Also, keep in mind larger companies tend to always pay, but take a longer time to do so. Be prepared you will be receiving funds on their terms (because if you don’t accept them, someone else will). Make sure you can go this long without receiving the cash.
2) Get it in Writing
Although it takes time, writing up a contract for all of your clients is absolutely essential. This allows them to have a glimpse at your professionalism, understand what their payment terms are and sign to the fact that they will honor these terms. Consider including reference to a late fee in the contract. This will help motivate your client to pay on time and also ensure all payment details are ironed out.
3) Accept Money Upfront
Always ask for a percent of your fee upfront. This really solidifies the deal and also gives you cash to work with. Some freelancers ask for as much as 50% upfront. If you ask for a percentage before beginning service and the client pays with no contest, it’s probably safe to assume they are in a healthy financial state. However, if the client seems extremely resistant to the thought, proceed with caution as their cash could be tight. Don’t move forward, either way, until that money is securely in your Paypal (or other) account.
4) Bill Wisely
How you invoice a customer can make an impact on how fast you get paid. Always send an invoice through both postal mail and email. Everyone prefers different forms of communication and this ensures it reaches the customer. Also, be aware of the verbiage you include in the invoice. Invoices that include a “please” or “thank you” have a 5% greater chance of getting paid. Giving them a timeline, such as “payment is due within 15 days” or “payment is due Friday, June 7, 2013” is also more powerful than saying something such as “due upon receipt”. There is a defined end date in the former, which is more assertive than the latter.
5) Remind Often
Right before a customer’s payment is due, send them a short, friendly reminder. We all know how easy it is to forget a bill. Do them a favor and help them remember! They’ll also realize how serious you are about getting paid and push you up their payment priority list. As soon as a payment becomes past due, send them another reminder and even give them a call. Don’t let this payment leave their radar and make sure they know you don’t let anything slide.
6) Accept Online Payments
The time of physically waiting for a check in the mail can seem like forever, not to mention it’s an excellent excuse for customers to fall back on. Seriously, how many times have you heard “the check is in mail” yet didn’t receive it for many weeks? Even when a customer is local, you’ll find that you save time by enrolling in an online invoicing service that can also accept payments. In fact, online payments can get you paid 17 days faster. There are many options out there to accept these payments, such as Paypal (the easiest way to do so) or sites like WePay or Intuit Payment Network. Be sure to explore your options.
7) Stay In Control
The biggest problem you are going to experience with getting paid is a dispute over deliverables. In the past, deliverables was easier to define, such as code being delivered on a CD ROM. Now, it’s more likely deployed and tested by QA before it’s accepted. This puts one of the parties at risk, as you can either make the final payment be due before the deliverable (risk for the client) or after the deliverable (risk for you). Sometimes there is miscommunication among the client and the developer, but holding money hostage is not the key. So, as a freelancer, find ways to stay in control of your money. Make sure you write a contract that is explicit on how you expect to be paid. Make the decision when you will deliver code. This best way to stay in control is to bill per hour and not per project. Your client can even buy a certain amount of hours upfront, as we talked about earlier, and then you can bill for the remaining hours. Although you started your freelance business to build Joomla websites and focus on other similar passions, you have to get paid to survive. More importantly, though, you did the work, therefore you deserve to get paid. Don’t just think of yourself as a web developer; think of yourself as a business owner. Start taking the right steps today to streamline your business processes and, in return, get paid faster.
Meredith Wood is the Director of Community Relations at Funding Gates, the world’s first CRM for receivables management. An avid business and technology writer, Meredith’s work can be seen on AMEX OPEN Forum, SCORE, Freelance Switch, YFS Entrepreneur, Small Business Bonfire and many more.