Working as a WordPress freelancer has a lot of perks, but trying to track down late payments from slow or unresponsive clients isn’t one of them.
To ensure that you always get paid on time, you need to have a tight plan in place before you decide to take on a new project, which is exactly what we’re going to cover in this article.
Before You Start Working with a Client
Believe it or not, the likeliness of you always receiving payment on time depends on more than just good communication with your clients. It all starts with your professional reputation even before you make first contact.
WordPress freelancers who’ve built and worked to maintain their great reputations prove to clients that they deserve respect. Clients who see that you have a great looking website, a portfolio of your best work, and testimonials that serve as proof of your professional experience will automatically get the impression that you’re the real deal.
Having said that, it’s not all about putting up a glamorous website or LinkedIn profile. You have to practice what you preach by making sure you always meet deadlines, respond quickly and courteously to emails, and deliver outstanding work.
Why should a client always try to pay you on time if you produce mediocre work past the deadline while falling to email them first to say that you need more time? Clients will return the favor of making your payment a priority when you can prove to them that you’re a serious professional.
Once you’ve made a serious commitment to acting professionally, you should do a bit of research on any client you plan on pitching or who reaches out to you about a project idea. Scope out their website (if they have one), try looking for any relevant LinkedIn profiles, and consider checking out the Better Business Bureau or any other review sites to educate yourself as to their reputation.
Take note of any red flags that come up during your research. Go with your gut if anything looks shady enough to make you hesitant about working with that particular client.
If the client you’re researching doesn’t turn up anything sketchy at all and you’re interested in working with them, go ahead and do what you need to do to determine your rates for the project. You’ll likely need to do some back-and-forth emailing or even schedule a call to find out more specific details and the client’s budget, too.
As an aside, you should know what you’re worth and how flexible you’re willing to be without coming across as too uncertain or desperate. Check out The 7 Reasons Why WordPress Developers Are Paid Peanuts if you’re struggling to find reasons to increase your rates.
Requesting a Deposit Up Front
After discussing, negotiating, and agreeing on payment with your client, you should ask for a portion of that payment to be paid to you up front. This shouldn’t be seen as an optional step for WordPress freelancers; it should be seen as an essential part of doing business.
Even if the client accepts your rate and you’re excited to get straight to work, you can still mess up your chances of getting paid what you deserve by failing to insist on getting a deposit before you start working. Check out point number four in 4 Freelancing Mistakes That Are Costing You Cash to get an idea of the real life horror stories that can happen when you decide to bill everything only after the work has been completed.
While you may assume you’ll come off as annoying (or even greedy) to ask the client to pay you before you’ve done any work for them, getting a deposit up front is becoming much more of a standard practice among freelancers of all kinds these days. It helps establish trust and reassures you that the client is serious about paying you for your work.
Depending on the project, most freelancers will bill anywhere from 20% to 50% up front, with shorter projects leaning toward larger percentages, even up to 100% in some cases. If you’re a freelancer who’s billing for time, you may want to consider billing 1–2 weeks worth of work up front to start.
Any client who tries to give you a hard time about paying you up front is a definite red flag. It’s a sign that the client isn’t all that serious about paying you, and you should be glad you caught it early rather than later so you still have the option to reject working with them.
You’ll also need to know if you’ll be paid by check or some other process when you should send your invoice, and how often payments are made. Again, look for any red flags that make you feel uncomfortable about going ahead with the work, and consider taking some time to think about it if you need to before getting back to the client.
Getting It in Writing
Once project expectations and payment terms have been agreed upon by both parties, then comes the fun part. That’s right – creating the contract!
Having a contract is critical, and failing to include one is a mistake that too many WordPress freelancers (and freelancers in general) make too often. Imagine putting a ton of time and effort into half a project – or worse, an entire project – then sending your invoice to be met with nothing but deafening silence.
That’s a worst-case scenario, but it does happen. While some freelancers think of contracts as sort of a hassle that they don’t want to bother their client with, remember that it’s just one more essential component of the project lifecycle that also proves your professionalism and communicates the message that you don’t work unless you know you’re getting paid.
Never feel bad about sending a contract to a client. If a client gives you a hard time about it, they’re not giving you the respect you deserve as a professional, and you should strong consider avoiding going ahead with their project.
Contracts are there to protect both the freelancer and the client, so if either one decides to go against the terms or completely disappear in the middle of the project, legal action can be pursued if the matter is serious enough. In addition to that, a contract also lays out all the requirements and expectations from each side in a clear and detailed manner, so everyone knows exactly what they need to do without any misunderstandings.
Lastly, all the details concerning payment are always included in the contract, which is also highly important. Once you have the client’s signature, you’ll have proof of your agreement should you ever need to use it to get paid.
In general, a typical contract between a WordPress freelance developer and a client might include sections for:
- Effective dates
- Retention of developer
- Description of services
- Payment of services
- Web hosting details
- Relationship of parties
- Work Product relationship
- Laws affecting electronic commerce
- Notices applicable
Not all freelancers can afford to hire a lawyer to create their contracts for them, but there are tons of tools and templates online that can help you quickly and efficiently draw up a contract with all the necessary details – many of which are free to use. Just googling “contract template” will give you tons of great options (although you shouldn’t necessarily trust them all!).
Tools to Help You With Contracts
The web’s only open collection of legal contracts that offers a free and quick means to customize downloadable agreements.
Easily create different types of contracts with Shakelaw’s intuitive step-by-step process, and get them signed directly through the platform.
A complete solution for the quote, proposal, and contract process.
If you have the budget for it, consider using this service to set you up with a top-rated lawyer and save money over going with a local law firm.
Using Professional Invoicing Software
Pulling together all the details of your contract and finalizing it with each party’s signatures is probably the biggest and most important thing you need to do as a freelancer to ensure you’ll get paid on time, but it certainly doesn’t stop there. If you want to maintain your reputation as a professional all the way throughout the course of the project timeline, you’ll want to be on top of your invoicing game, too.
Freelancers certainly can prepare their invoices manually using a simple Word doc or Excel spreadsheet, but those who are serious should consider investing in some solid invoicing software. There are lots of affordable options out there that only require a small monthly fee, and most give you the opportunity to choose a plan that matches the number of clients you work with and the types of features you want.
There are so many advantages to using professional invoicing software as opposed to taking the manual route. The software keeps everything organized in one place for you, automates certain tasks for repeated invoicing, and can even send out reminders to your clients in a set number of days after they received the invoice.
Here are a few reputable and popular invoicing software options to consider:
Easy-to-use small business accounting software directed toward business owners who don’t have any real accounting skills.
A complete accounting software option with tons of features for a variety of business owners (including professional accountants).
Customizable invoicing software even with a free account (which allows you to add up to five clients).
Small business accounting software built with simplicity in mind and lots of great time-saving tools.
Stick to Schedule
Once you’ve signed up for your choice of invoicing software and gotten familiar with using it, make sure you set up a strict invoicing schedule and stick to it. For example, if you’re invoicing twice a month, you may want to schedule that task to be completed every 1st and 15th of the month.
Getting lazy with your invoicing sends the wrong message to the client and only prolongs the waiting period to get paid, so avoid falling into that bad habit. And since it can be an easy task to forget to do your invoicing when you’re busy with work, setting up some alerts on whichever calendar app or scheduling program you use will help remind you when it’s time to send your invoice.
On the invoice, you’ll want to itemize everything in a clear list that reflects all your work accurately while remembering to specify when you should be paid. It’s typically common to set the terms of payment to be received within 10, 15, or 30 days of receiving the invoice, although some freelancers even request to be paid as soon as the invoice is received.
Some clients don’t require freelancers to send them an invoice, but it’s still a good idea to do it anyway. It’s an effective reminder and signifies your professionalism.
Unfortunately, even the best and most trustworthy clients can let an invoice slip past its due date from time to time Rather than shooting them an awkward reminder about it, consider setting up automated late reminders through your invoicing software to notify your client by email that you’re still waiting for your payment.
Dealing With Common WordPress Freelancing Problems
Everything we’ve covered so far should be standard practice to be implemented with every new project you decide to take on. While it certainly will put you in a great position that maximizes your chances or getting paid on time, every time, the reality is that there can be all sorts of unexpected problems that can still pop up along the way.
Problem #1: Forgetting to get the nitty gritty details about payment processing
During your initial discussions, it’s important to get as much information as possible about how freelancer payments are handled by your client. If their accounting department has a history of being wildly slow with sending out payments or is currently in the middle of switching software platforms, you’ll want to know about it first.
Problem #2: Needing to be paid sooner than 10, 15, or 30 days after sending the invoice
The problem with sending out an invoice with payment terms set at NET 30 is that if you’re only invoicing once a month, you could be waiting up to two months to get your payment. A simple solution is to discuss this with clients (ideally in the initial phase before drafting the contract) and request invoices to be paid upon receipt.
Problem #3: Not receiving feedback from the client soon enough to move on (and get paid)
If you’re having a hard time getting any word from your client on the work you’ve done so far, it can put you in limbo for a while and even really drag out the entire project timeline. For long projects with several stages that require frequent feedback from clients in order to move forward, consider billing a larger amount up front (like 50%).
Problem #4: Sending the WordPress site live without getting paid first
Some WordPress developers make the mistake of sending their WordPress sites live first and then patiently waiting to be paid. At this point, the client has what they wanted and now they don’t have as much of a reason to pay you as promptly as you probably hoped. You shouldn’t blackmail the client into paying an invoice, but having a clear understanding upfront that the final product is only delivered when payment is made is a sound approach.
Problem #5: Changing parts of the project that delays or affects payment
When conditions change midway through the project timeline, as they often do for big ones, they can sometimes throw off everything else – including payment. Make sure that these changes are worked into an updated version of your contract so that you still get paid when you need to be paid.
What to Do If You Still Don’t Get Paid on Time
A freelancer can take every precaution imaginable to ensure he gets paid on time, and yet still, a client can cause problems or go quiet out of the blue. That’s the unfortunate reality of freelancing.
Here are some options you have if it ever gets to the point where you have to deal with this.
Option #1: Get the client on the phone
When it comes to WordPress freelancing, a lot of communication often takes place through email, Skype messaging, or some other similar platform. Sometimes, all you need to do is call your client on the phone and speak to them in person to get them to do the right thing.
Option #2: Contact someone else within the client’s business
Unless your client is running their business as a sole proprietorship, chances are you’ll be able to do some digging around to find the contact information for other partners or employees. Speaking to someone different in the organization, if possible, may help push along your payment.
Option #3: Make it easier for your clients to pay you
Doing everything you can to make it as convenient as possible for your client to pay you is worth a shot if they just keep forgetting to issue you a check and pop it in the mailbox. Consider accepting credit card payments or payment through PayPal if you think that could make everything run more smoothly (even if it does cost a little more in fees).
Option #4: Sign up for a service that helps with small business cash flow
Services like Fundbox and BlueVine help out business owners by offering them advances on their invoices so they can overcome those cash flow gaps that tend to occur from slow payments. If you’re going to use something like this, just be certain you know the fees associated with it.
Option #5: Ask your lawyer what to do next
If none of the above options help you get your payments faster and on time, the only option remaining is to decide whether the outstanding payment is significant enough to require legal action. It may be worth just taking the loss on a small project and learning your lesson rather than going to court. However, for bigger projects with more money at stake, things can be far more complicated than that.
When it comes to WordPress freelancing, you can’t just expect money to show up in your account or at your door on time without taking all the boring yet necessary steps outlined above. There’s nothing all that exciting about writing up contracts or staying on top of all those accounting tasks, but if you want your business to succeed and last, you’re going to need to do it.
Have you ever had to deal with a late payment from a client as a WordPress freelancer? If so, how did you handle it? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below!