The folks at Bonsai, an all-in-one freelancing solution, share their insight on how to craft, present, and uphold your freelance design invoices so you get paid on time. Use these tips to help maintain a steady, reliable cash flow so you can focus more on your creative work and less on wrangling clients for cash.
Getting your freelance design invoices paid quickly is the backbone of your success. Whether you use Bonsai for a freelance invoice or create it yourself, your process and approach to invoicing determines how fast you get paid. Ideally, whenever someone receives a design invoice from you, the payment should be quick. Here are nine things you can do to get things moving as fast as you deserve.
1. Be clear about payment terms
First off, make sure your clients know exactly what is expected of them by clearly defining payment terms. Ensure the client reads the payment terms and agrees to them before you commence work. Your payment terms should include details about:
- Billing method(s)
- Notice periods
- Fines for late payment
Being clear about the payment info is the foundation of getting paid in full and on time, so we strongly recommend a freelance design contract for all your projects.
To learn more about what a freelance design contract should include, check out our complete list of invoice must-haves.
2. Ask for an upfront deposit
Don’t be afraid to ask for upfront payment when starting a new design project. It’s common to ask for up to 50% (if not more), and genuine clients will have no qualms about this. On the plus side, this also helps to weed out any would-be freeloaders.
3. Create visually-attractive invoices
If it’s a freelance graphic design invoice, it should definitely look good. Not only will it be more professional, but it will stand out compared to dull, monotone invoices. This can help your freelance invoices trigger a quicker response.
4. Include itemized costs
Even if you are on a retainer, it’s good practice to include a breakdown of itemized costs on your design invoices. This way, you can be more transparent and share a summary of your freelance time-tracking sheets or explain your fixed pricing policy, allowing clients to see where their money is going. It will also reduce the chances of any payment disputes.
5. Send your invoices quickly
Get into the habit of sending your invoice immediately after the project is completed or after a key milestone is reached. Clients will pick up on this urgency, and it can encourage them to follow suit by paying you faster. When you have a simple invoice template saved, you can prepare each invoice faster, expediting recurring payments.
6. Opt for short payment timeframes
Some freelancers opt for a 30-day payment period but this is by no means mandatory—especially if you have hired other designers for your agency who must be paid. However, the more time you give a client to pay, the more likely it will be that your freelance design invoice gets buried in the ‘later pile’.
7. Make payments easy
By keeping things simple, you can facilitate quicker payments. Give clients several payment methods to choose from, such as:
- Wire transfer
Also, ensure you include all the necessary details so they can pay without a hitch.
8. Set up a late payment sequence
If clients are dragging their feet, don’t be shy about sending a friendly follow-up. Sometimes, all it takes is a quick reminder and you’ll get paid.
You can set up an automated sequence of email reminders for late payments:
- Start with the first reminder 24 hours after the due date
- The second 2-3 days after that
- A third within the week
Don’t forget to include clear warnings about additional fees for late payments.
9. Create a memorable experience for your client
Everything from how you design invoices to your communication skills will help shape your brand. If you excel at your work and present a consistent, memorable brand experience, clients will be more inclined to work with you again. For that to happen, they first need to understand that prompt payments are essential.
In most cases, late freelance payments don’t have to do with malicious clients. These clients may just be busy doing their taxes or they’re just a little forgetful. It happens. However, some clients will always pay late, or sometimes not at all. As a professional, you don’t need this hassle. Look out for any red flags with new clients to make sure you avoid any troublesome relationships. Ultimately, with a solid freelance design invoice and the tips in this article, you can maintain a steady, reliable cash flow that helps you grow your career.
This is the second post in a series on how to run a better freelance design business. Check out the first post covering the essential things to include in your freelance contracts.