There’s nothing worse than getting pumped for a payday and logging into your bank account to see that an invoice has yet to be paid. It’s a common struggle for designers to get their invoices paid on time, or even paid at all. Whether it’s a down payment on a project or the final fees for a completed one, the struggle is REAL.
What makes things even more difficult is that many designers tend to be the more creative, laid back type. There aren’t too many major Type-A designers out there when you really think about it. Plus, chasing someone down for money is just too uncomfortable. Luckily, the repeat “are you going to pay the invoice?” emails can stop now.
I send invoices and never give it a second thought. I know they will get paid. I’m going to help get you there too! In this post, we’ll cover how to make sure your design clients pay their invoice every time. Cue the Jerry Maguire “Show me the MONNNEEEYY!” movie scene.
Require partial payment to book a project
The easiest way to remove the issue of getting clients to pay their invoices is to make them pay an invoice before they are even considered a client. Depending on the type of project a potential client wants to work with me on, I either require 33% or 50% for someone to book their spot. Yes, just to reserve a spot. You read that right.
There’s one invoice covered pretty quickly and easily off the bat. Another way I make things simplified and straightforward from the beginning is through a very clear project timeline. This helps make sure there are no questions later. Outline invoices in your intro packet, your proposal, your contract, and your welcome packet. This is the part where it is okay to be a broken record. Repeat that information in as many spots are you can throughout your client experience.
Use date-based invoicing, rather than progress based
Ever have a client drag out a project timeline? It’s the worst. If you set up your invoice to be paid after the project is complete, it could be forever until you get your money. Especially if your client continues to nitpick at every detail.
Using date-based invoicing can help you essentially kill two birds with one stone. Schedule payments based on a specific date, not the phase in the project.
Here is an example of a 3-payment timeline that I use in my projects:
- 1 payment to book the project
- 1 payment a week before your scheduled start date
- 1 payment one month after the project begins
Don’t be afraid to implement this practice in your business! It has helped me so much in the long run. Plus, it helps keep clients accountable with other items they need to send my way to complete other project items.
Don’t deliver until the invoice has been paid
We’ve all seen this scenario too many times, or you may have experienced it yourself. I’ve read countless stories in Facebook groups of designers completing a project, sending the client the final product, and their last invoice is never paid. It’s a horrible situation, but you should never make this option even a possibility for a client. As a rule of thumb, DO NOT give your clients anything they can use until you’ve been paid in full.
Are you someone who delivers final branding files before starting the web design portion of a project? Would you be okay if the client ghosted you for the rest of the project and started using their logo everywhere? If your answer is “no,” begin holding those brand files until the entire project is complete and the final invoice has been paid.
Send automated payment reminders
Many times, calendars get crazy, and invoice pay dates get forgotten. Clients don’t always mean any harm when this happens, but to help avoid it, set up automated reminders for your invoices. I send one reminder two days before an invoice is due and another reminder on the actual due date.
To further remind my client, I add a “Pay Invoice” task to our Asana project. I assign this task to the client and make sure to include the due date.
Write yourself reminder scripts ahead of time or implement workflows in tools like Dubsado to stay on track. You can also schedule emails ahead of time using Boomerang for Gmail.
Have late fees and stick to them
Sometimes automated reminders may not do the trick, so you need to add another layer of protection for yourself. In your contract, include a late fees clause that will be put into effect if an invoice is late. I personally add a $150 late fee to overdue invoices along with stopping all project work until the invoice has been paid.
I have seen other designers do smaller late fees, such as 1% of the project cost each day the invoice is late. Figure out what fee structure works best for you!
Prepare a script for the moment where you will need to enforce your late fee policy. It’s nice to have this ready instead of scrambling for the right words in the moment. As hard as it feels to enforce the late fees you have included for your client project, you HAVE to stick to it. You owe it to yourself and your hard work!
Stick to your boundaries in all areas of your project
Sticking to invoice due dates is just one area of the boundaries you set for a client project. With that being said, you need to stick with all of the boundaries and policies you outline for each project. If someone sees that they can push you around and ignore your boundaries, they will continue to do it over and over again.
These are just a few ways to make that payday happen! Providing parameters for client projects, invoicing and more should always be a practice in your biz. If you don’t have things like this already incorporated into your project flow, schedule time to get these systems in place as soon as possible.