Life as a freelancer can be incredible. You’re your own boss, you can work the hours you want and you can try your absolute best at pitching your skills, so you get new clients. It’s all so exciting! For many, the paperwork that comes with freelancing is a bit of a downside, unfortunately. You have to make sure your taxes are done correctly and you always have to make good contracts. But even when you do all that, there’s still a possibility something goes wrong, for example, one of your clients doesn’t pay. Such a bummer, but sadly something almost all freelancers have to deal with. In this article, we talk about all the things you can do to make sure you’re always paid and what steps you can take when you can’t reach your debtor.
1. Have clear arrangements and a good contract
Whenever you start working for a client, sit down to make clear arrangements about what they want you to do, what your hourly fee is and how many days they have to pay you after you’ve done your part. Once you’ve agreed on everything, it’s important to write everything down in a contract and to get it signed. It’s important to always do this, no matter how good the client’s reputation is. Or if the client is a friend of your mother’s. Always have a signed contract with fixed agreements you can rely on. In case the client doesn’t pay, you have your contract as evidence of your agreement. A verbal agreement is not at all legally binding!
2. Ask for a down payment if you’re doing a big job
If you’re working on a big job that takes up a lot of your time, it might be a good idea to ask for a down payment. Especially if your payment terms are quite flexible – if you work full time on a project and you only get paid two months later, that might give you issues. If you know you’ll be working on a project that will take you a few months and you don’t get paid monthly, it’s also a good idea to ask for a bigger down payment. After all, you have to eat, pay rent … You don’t want to have financial issues because you agreed on a job! Furthermore, a down payment ensures a certain amount of commitment and trust. On the one hand, you’re more sure that you will be paid after you’ve finished the project. On the other hand, you can also assume your client won’t switch to another freelancer just like that. If your client pays you a down payment, they show their trust in you and they can assume you will make your deadlines for the assignment.
3. Take action straight away when your invoices aren’t paid
We realise it’s a bit awkward having to send payment reminders. Especially if it’s the first time you have to do this or if you’ve always had a good relationship with your client. Nevertheless, it’s important to take action on time. You can send a payment reminder a few days after the fixed payment date. If you don’t hear from your client after this payment reminder, it’s a good idea to call your client and talk about your issue. Often, an invoice is simply forgotten or lost! If your client apologises and agrees to pay as soon as possible, make sure you agree on a new fixed payment date and mail your client about this. If they still don’t pay you, you can prove you’ve had this correspondence.
4. Get help from professionals
Has your debtor promised to pay but did you still receive nothing? Or does it seem like your debtor fell off the face of the earth? Then it’s time to hire a debt collection agency (Dutch: incassobureau). Hiring a debt collection agency (Dutch: incassobureau inschakelen) has many advantages. For one, when a debtor gets contacted by your agency, they know you mean business. But next to that, a debt collection agency can use means you don’t have to get your money. They also know the law regarding collecting money, which is really important. If you try to collect your money yourself and you accidentally break a law, you might get sued by your debtor … not exactly what you want. Read the reviews of all the debt collection agencies in your area so you can make a good choice. It might also help to use a debt collection agency in the area from your debtor. If you, for example, have a debtor in The Hague in the Netherlands, Google for ‘incassobureau Den Haag’.
We wish a lot of luck collecting your debts!