A huge mistake I made as a freelancer

11 replies
I want to share an experience I had 15 years ago in the hope of helping stop at least one person making the same mistake as me.

Back in 2003 I had just started out as a freelancer and got a project from a local business. Being new they struck a very good deal with me, which required a huge amount of work for a very small fee. I worked so hard on it, doing 18 hour days during a long public holiday weekend. The weather was so nice and my friends were out enjoying themselves whilst I was sat in front of my computer slaving away. It was worth it though as the end result was so good I am still proud of it to this day!

I duly delivered to my client who was also delighted with my work. One of my first projects delivered on time and to a high standard. It was a VERY GOOD day! Glowing with the positive feedback and went off in search of more projects to show off my skills.

Naturally I handed over my invoice with my finished work with a 30 day payment term on it. The 30 days passed and no payment came. This is when I made my mistake. Being new to this I thought payment would arrive in full and on time with no questions asked as I had delivered on time & budget. Rather than call and ask for a status update on payment I wrote a very strongly worded email ending with the threat of legal action if they didn't pay immediately. How naive was I?? I am sure you can imagine the unpleasant exchange which then ensued between me & the client.

After much waiting the payment finally arrived but in that time word spread around town about my conduct when chasing my payment. Since then I get very little local work and that client still won't talk to me. Seriously! I see him around the city and he ignores me. It's been 15 years!! I think that shows the damage you can do over the smallest of things. Looking back I wish I had had a mentor or some form of guidance on how to handle that sort of situation. Now I take 50% upfront and work on a 14 day payment term. If they don't pay I politely ask for a status update on the payment, which usually results in immediate payment.

Has anyone made a similar, not necessarily payment related, mistake as a newbie freelancer? I would love to hear from you in the comments.
#freelancer #huge #made #mistake
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    Get 100% payment up front.

    If you must go with 50%, make sure you're happy to do the project for that amount...in case you never receive the other 50%.

    Legit business owners understand what freelancers go through and are fine with paying up front.
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    • Profile picture of the author Joe Mobley
      Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

      Get 100% payment up front.

      If you must go with 50%, make sure you're happy to do the project for that amount...in case you never receive the other 50%.

      Legit business owners understand what freelancers go through and are fine with paying up front.

      Yep. (Sometime 1 "Thanks" is not enough.)




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    • Profile picture of the author c4cyber
      Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

      Get 100% payment up front.

      If you must go with 50%, make sure you're happy to do the project for that amount...in case you never receive the other 50%.

      Legit business owners understand what freelancers go through and are fine with paying up front.
      How you ask for 100% upfront?
      I do ask for 50% upfront now but recently, client get damage in his business and he didn't use my website so didn't pay me 50%. He is a good person so I didn't say anything. Its okay..Bad things happen. I forgave him remaining 50%. But how can we ask for 100% upfront? no one will be ready to do so. there are so many workers in market. thy will choose someone else.
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      • Profile picture of the author nowservingpixels
        Originally Posted by c4cyber View Post

        How you ask for 100% upfront?
        I do ask for 50% upfront now but recently, client get damage in his business and he didn't use my website so didn't pay me 50%. He is a good person so I didn't say anything. Its okay..Bad things happen. I forgave him remaining 50%. But how can we ask for 100% upfront? no one will be ready to do so. there are so many workers in market. thy will choose someone else.
        Just ask for it. The worst that can happen is they'll say no, and then you can counter with a 50% deposit, or you can simply decline the job.

        I always ask for full payment upfront. I'll only do a 50% deposit if it's a large project and the client requests it. The overwhelming majority of them do not have a problem with paying upfront though, and I've built up enough demand for my services that I'm comfortable with walking away if they do.
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  • Profile picture of the author crackhouse
    i always demand payment up front for any services i perform. They are not my clients, they are my customers.
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  • Profile picture of the author tobywells
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    I used to have the same issue back when I was a freelancer. I did a huge job and was so proud of myself and result that i forgot that people tend to be greedy. I haven't got my payment, but I made a review on business I was working for and it affected them rapidly.
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  • Profile picture of the author ryanbiddulph
    Upfront payments rock. Or get to know your clients so well through your blog that you know they will pay immediately. I have never had issues with clients and almost always receive payment after service rendered; sometimes I get it up front but if not, we're talking minutes, if not hours or maybe one day after I complete the job.
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  • Profile picture of the author Richa seth
    Well it is a hard task to deal with clients.Its not always possible that if we politely ask for payment we would receive.My brother is freelancer...I see him facing many issues regarding payment.He work hard and is very dedicated towards his work but some of the clients are so much greedy that when it comes to make payment they say it will be done but its never done.So its not always necessary to be polite to those kinds of clients.When such kind of clients are met we should give their feedback in the market on large term,so that they realize when their reputation goes down and someone else ever dealing with them be aware.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jessica Ambos
    I handle nonpayment of salary disputes like these all the time at Onlinejobs. Most of the time when a worker bad-mouthed an employer and threatens legal action, it goes downhill from there. The case goes nasty. Employers retaliate with not paying the worker at all or pays them eventually but with full head on emails from us for a couple of weeks. What was deemed a good employer-worker relationship at first turned sour which couldn't be mended anymore. Some workers even end up getting negative reviews.
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  • Profile picture of the author EOGorman
    Getting paid on time starts with a good agreement that spells out payment terms clearly--and yes, upfront payment is great if you can get it (and it doesn't hurt to ask). But the mistakes I see most often are:

    1) Not invoicing promptly: Statistically, invoices issued within 7 days of work completion get paid measuarably faster.

    2) Poor terms: Optimal terms are *due in 15 days*. Thirty days means next month which may mean never. "Due on receipt" means it's already "late" so it's not urgent.

    3) Bad Follow-up: Not calling to follow up *before* the invoice is due to make sure the invoice got to the right person and is payable. Need a purchase order number? Great, I'll get that for you. Need a W-9 or some other tax form? Great, I'll send that now.

    Remove all possible barriers to payment and don't wait until the payment is late to do so.

    Good luck!

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  • Profile picture of the author Richlion
    Ask 50% up front. When the work is half way done, ask for the other 50%. Also, have a professionally worded invoice drawn up and signed before work starts.
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