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5 Invoicing Tips for Freelance Designers and Developers

No matter how much you love what you do, chances are, you are still doing it because someone is paying you to. Those in web design may have a great passion for it, but passion will only get you so far in the real world. If you are a freelancer, your income stream may not always be as steady as those with a more typical, salaried job, and that is why proper invoicing techniques and policies are so crucial to the survival of your business.

Freelance designers and developers live in a world of fixed expenses but variable income, and you want to make sure you get the money you have earned when you expect it. The following are a few keys to getting paid on time as a freelancer and avoiding the missteps that put many entrepreneurs’ businesses in jeopardy.

1. Always Get a Deposit

Many new freelance web designers are so excited about getting a client that they do not worry about requesting a deposit or down payment on their services. Others simply do not know this is to be expected. Whatever the reason, those who do not get a deposit once quickly run into problems and do not make the same mistake again.

Requiring a down payment on your services is a standard industry practice, and there is no reason not to. Doing so not only gives you a level of security by ensuring payment, it also shows the client you are committed to them and their project. Obviously the amount will vary according to the job, but you should plan on invoicing for at least one to two weeks’ worth of work from the start of your business relationship.

2. Invoice Upfront

Getting a down payment will start your business relationship off on the right foot, and invoicing upfront will ensure things continue to run smoothly. As a general rule, you never want to work if you have not gotten paid. Many freelancing payments work on NET 30 terms (where a client has 30 days to pay an invoice) or similar circumstances. If you work under a NET 30 structure and only bill once a month, you could be waiting up to 60 days before you actually receive a payment!

The amount you bill upfront depends on several factors including your industry, the job and the rates you set from the outset. Invoicing one to two weeks in advance is usually standard practice on jobs billed for time.

3. Provide Payment Options

You may have to take multiple forms of payment, depending on your industry. Online payments are usually the best, and there are multiple options available for this. Avoid taking credit cards unless you have to, as this can lead to lots of problems if the client cannot pay.

Many clients still choose to use paper checks, and these can cause a delay in getting paid. One of the best ways to speed up paper payments is to simply include a prepaid overnight envelope with your invoice. Paypal and IPN usually provide the quickest and most reliable forms of payment, although they do charge a fee.

4. Set Clear Expectations

One of the best aspects of working as a freelancer is the fact you get to set the expectations about how and when you get paid. You get to dictate the terms, and you should make sure they are clear and straightforward.

Set terms you and the client both find advantageous, but never forget you are the one in control of and responsible for your own terms. If you sell digital downloads, set service expectations. If a client reaches out, get back with him or her within an agreed on timeframe.

5. Maintain Standard Policies

Part of having clear expectations includes having standard billing and payment practices already in place before going into new jobs. Certain variable will obviously be different depending on the job, but there are some things that should always be the case such as:

  • How often you invoice
  • A late fee policy for any past due accounts
  • Standard industry-specific practices

Having clear policies in place not only helps to set clear expectations, it also shows prospective clients you are responsible, professional and you know what you are doing. These policies will also provide you a level of security if things do not go as expected.

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