When it comes to freelance copywriting jobs, there are few things as frustrating as a client that won’t pay on time.
You got into freelance copywriting to add flexibility and agency to your work life and make more than the average copywriter salary. However, you didn’t anticipate needing to chase down clients to get paid.
If you’re experiencing this issue, trust us—you’re not alone. In fact, more than 50% of freelancers in the US have experienced pay issues with a client at least once.
Although it’s a common problem, that doesn’t mean that you’re completely out of luck when it comes to clients on the hook for past-due payments.
By employing a few freelance best practices, it’s possible to pre-empt late payments and ensure that you’re getting your money in a timely manner.
In this blog, we’ll explain how to discuss past-due payments with clients and how to set up the best system for payments moving forward.
Put Yourself First
This may come as a surprise, but freelancers often get in their own way when attempting to collect past bills.
Statistically speaking, 29% of freelance invoices are paid late.
As a freelancer, your chief priority is to keep your client happy and paying —particularly when you’re trying to increase your copywriter salary, and your clients are limited.
In the beginning, your focus is largely on customer service and retention. As a result of this mindset, it’s easy to get into the habit of avoiding conflict (i.e., challenging your client).
Many freelancers dealing with past-due invoices are often uncertain of how to proceed.
- “Do I email my client the following day, or should I wait a few weeks?”
- “Are they going to feel like I’m bothering them?”
- “What if they don’t want to work with me after I ask?”
These are all pretty common questions, and we’ve all been there at one time or another.
The important thing to remember when these questions crop up is that you have just as much power as the person/company employing you. It’s just business. You’ve done a job to the best of your abilities and deserve to be paid for your work.
End of story.
So, don’t be afraid of potentially ruffling feathers if it means increasing your copywriter salary and establishing and maintaining a professional relationship. As long as you’re respectful, assertive, and fair, you’ve got nothing to worry about.
Always retain a degree of empathy. When reaching out to your clients for payment, don’t assume they’re avoiding payment when in reality they may just be busy or focused on other priorities.
If you’re dealing with a problem client that pushes back on payment, acts inconsistently, or challenges you on established quotes, they may not be a client worth working with for the long haul.
Likewise, it can also be helpful to do your research on a current or prospective client proactively. Take your time to figure out who they are, their reviews from previous freelancers, and if they’re a good fit for you.
The ability to sniff out a bad client fit can save you a lot of time, effort, and headaches in the future.
Set clear expectations
In any aspect of communication, it’s necessary to set clear expectations. When it comes to freelance copywriting, this means establishing agreed-upon terms through a written contract.
In any contract, there are terms. In the form of a contract, these terms are a legally binding set of rules that, if breached, can be legally actionable.
Regardless of your time and experience as a freelancer, establishing a working contract is essential to your success and ultimately increasing your copywriter salary.
Here are some questions to consider when formulating contract terms:
- How often should you be paid? Net 30? Net 15?
- Should you be paid in advance, either partially or fully?
- If you’re not paid on time, do you continue to do client work?
- How should clients pay you? PayPal? Bank deposit? Check?
Consider requiring an up-front deposit on the first assignment with a new client. If they refuse to pay 30-50% to get started, that can be a red flag.
You should also consider implementing a late fee for delinquent payments.
A late fee can be a simple penalty if payment is delayed beyond the agreed-upon terms. This can either be a percentage of the total invoice or a flat fee set to a continued cadence (i.e. $25 dollars per day, for example).
One thing you want to avoid is being vague in organizing the method of payment. Anything that presents itself as unclear can be an easy excuse for clients to stall when the bill is due—especially if a project’s ‘complete’ status is up for debate.
A simple remedy to this could be setting a certain amount of revisions (i.e., two revisions after the initial draft with a fee for additional revisions). You’ll also want to set a payment deadline in your invoice after completing projects in clear terms. For example, “final payment is due 30 days after project completion or the after the date of this invoice.”
Make it Easy
If you want to compel a specific action, make it easy.
This can mean different things depending on your current system. For example, defining simple payment methods can be a huge help to confused or busy clients. Digital methods like PayPal, Square, and Zelle can make all the difference in getting paid promptly and without issue.
As in inverse to the tactic of penalizing late payments with a fee, you can proactively reward on-time payments with a discount on work (e.g. signing up for automatic payments warrants a 15% discount on rates).
Beyond expanding your payment methods, you’ll also want to check in regularly with clients. This can be a weekly email, call, or text message, but regular communication is key to getting paid promptly and consistently.
In instances where you’re facing a past due payment, resend your initial invoice three days past the due date, then weekly after that. Be sure to include the client’s point of contact and the accounting department on the invoice.
The lesson here is that when it comes to copywriting jobs and increasing your copywriter salary, consistency is key. You need to keep your freelance business running like clockwork and as predictable as possible for your clients. Any inconsistency in communication or messaging on your part may result in similar inconsistencies on theirs.
Getting paid without the headaches
Discussing past-due invoices with clients doesn’t have to be stressful or confrontational.
With some proactive measures in place and clear expectations set before the work begins, it’s possible to strengthen your professional relationships while weeding out prospective headaches.
If you’re interested in learning how to increase your copywriter salary, click here for more free resources to increase your copywriter salary from Copywriter Exchange.
Cameron Kennerly is a direct–response and creative copywriter with experience writing in finance, tech, healthcare, home services, and legal. His work has been featured in Forbes, LA Weekly, LSA Insider, and The Odyssey.
At Copywriter Exchange, we’re a group of master content marketing pros who bring their diverse talents and backgrounds to bear on the art and science of creating high-performance content tailored to your needs. We exist to help copywriters thrive in today’s economy by connecting them with the resources they need to step up their game. Join now to access our templates, guides, and courses to help you grow your career, skills, and network.