Freelancing is becoming more common. It’s part and parcel of the general overhaul to the workplace we’ve been experiencing of late.
In many ways, working as a freelancer can seem enviable. You can make your own hours, work from home (in your pyjamas, if you’re so inclined), and you are given a lot of autonomy in every aspect of your working life. It’s a potentially brilliant option for people.
Yet anyone who has ever done freelance work knows that self-employment not as idyllic as it may seem. It can be lonely, it can be precarious and – possible one of the most frequently cited issues with freelancing – chasing up payment for your work can be genuinely harrowing.
For all of the potential downsides of working for a larger company, or a company in general, it seldom occurs to full-time employees to worry if they’ll be compensated for their work.
On principle, it’s ridiculous that anyone who does work for a client or company should feel that they won’t be guaranteed compensation, but it is a genuine worry for many freelancers.
In 2014, Freelancers Union published research indicating that more than 70 pc of the 54 million freelancers in the USA have had trouble collecting payments for their work.
Progress has been made on this front though, which is heartening. New York passed landmark legislation specifically pertaining to freelancers with the hopes of giving them increased protections. In Ireland, meanwhile, the right to join a trade union was recently returned to freelancers.
Frankly, however, any of this news will mean very little to you if you’re currently chasing long overdue payments.
There are a couple things you can try to do if you find your clients are not being responsive, the key being to try and make your interactions with them be as close to being face-to-face as possible.
Emails are pretty easy to ignore because they’re relatively non-invasive. One click navigating away from a page and it’s pretty easy to forget that you even read it. Any kind of moral conscience about paying someone for services rendered may be quietened because they can’t put a face to the name, or even the voice.
It can be a little more difficult for a client to refuse or ignore you if you get them on the phone, though that of course can also be difficult as calls can easily be screened or dodged.
Though not always feasible, if your client is based in the same city as you, you could try showing up to the offices to enquire in person.
Of course, another pressing concern for freelancers is striking the delicate balance between asserting your rights and maintaining positive client relationships.
You could, if you’re concerned, nominate a friend to fill the (fictitious) role of your ‘accounts’ executive, or something to that effect, to make those uncomfortable calls on your behalf and take on the ‘bad cop’ role.
If you’re currently waiting on outstanding payments from a company for services rendered, try sending a collection letter using this template.
Dear [client name]
It has been [period of time] since my last invoice was sent, meaning that payment for services rendered is now ____ days late.
I will reiterate our agreed-upon terms;
- [Outline services you agreed to perform]
- [Outline when project/product was due and when it was submitted]
- [Outline the agreed payment schedule and amount]
- [Outline when receipt of deliverables was acknowledged, and when these deliverables were displayed (e.g. when they were posted online, displayed in a magazine etc., if applicable)]
I have attached copies of our contract and emails referring to these terms for your review. [Modify as needed, the key here is to make it clear you have a lengthy paper trail to verify your version of events]
If I do not receive payment within ___ days, I will be forced to [pursue legal recourse/deny further access to deliverables, if applicable].
I will also remind you of methods of payment;
- [Paypal/Strype information]
- [Bank account information]
- [Address at which a cheque can be received]
If payment has been made recently, please let me know immediately and supplement with evidence that the payment is being processed.
Thank you for your prompt reply.
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