Freelancing: be upfront about money

Stop being sheepish about payment, says Preston D. Lee; bring it up from the beginning

One of the most common reasons for a designer not being paid what they are worth or not being paid on time is the designer in question being sheepish about asking for payment when it’s due. I’ve heard pretty much every excuse in the book, including: “It’s going to be more money than they are willing to pay,” and, “I just won’t mention it until the end of the project so our relationship isn’t strained. ”

But put yourself in your clients’ shoes for a minute: imagine that you hire a lawyer who decides to avoid telling you the cost of their services until after the work is completed. Imagine if they avoid telling you because they’re afraid you won’t like the high price tag. Then comes delivery day: the work is done and the bill is due. Would you rather be broadsided with the bill at that moment? Of course not. Your clients don’t want that either. Besides, it’s no secret that your client is going to have to pay you eventually. You won’t be surprising them completely when you send them an invoice, so stop being sheepish about the issue of payment and bring it up from the beginning.

What’s the easiest way to clear up any financial questions before the project starts? Put the information in your contract. Whether you charge an hourly rate or a flat fee, your initial contract is the easiest place to fully disclose the amount of money – and how – your client will pay for your services.

Including it in your contract also creates a binding document with which (heaven forbid) you can defend yourself if you ever need lawful intervention to receive payment. Talking money with your client can be hard, but it only makes things worse the longer you wait. Don’t put it off or you may find yourself frustrated, short-changed, underpaid, or even offering your services for no cost at all. And that’s no way to run a successful design business.