Getting paid on time.

As a freelancer, I deal with a range of clients. Some of them are individuals, some are small businesses, some are web design shops in other geographical areas. One of my least favorite parts of freelancing is the invoicing/billing process. Getting paid is nice, but bugging people to pay me is not.

In thinking about the various experiences I’ve had with this process, I wanted to take down some notes for myself:

  • Prompt payment signifies respect – I’ve been impressed a few times with how quickly I’ve been paid. It makes me feel good about my work, and it really makes me want to do everything in my power to continue pleasing my client.
  • Early payment signifies trust – I usually try to negotiate a 50% payment up front, and a 50% payment upon the completion of a project. I recently had a client write me a check for the full amount in advance. This not only makes me feel respected, but trusted too. It was an amazing motivator for me to surpass expectations.
  • Late payments are demotivating – The sad fact is that our fiat currency is losing it’s value pretty fast. It is worth less when it arrives late. Withholding payment is akin to borrowing money from someone, sans their permission. If there is any deficiency in my work, I will probably try to justify it by knowing that I’m not being treated very well. If there are any improvements that I could make to my work, why bother? (This is a pretty poor attitude, but I’ll admit, I’ve definitely thought these things before.) I realize many businesses deal with cash-flow issues, and sometimes you just can’t pay on time. In these cases, open communication about when to expect payment should be prioritized. Slow paying clients are the last on my list of those that I would like to do future business with.

I don’t hire out much help at the moment, and certainly don’t have any employees. But I hope I am able to remember these things when and if I do at some point.

Specter of Debt

“Interest never sleeps nor sickens nor dies; it never goes to the hospital; it works on Sundays and holidays; it never takes a vacation; it never visits nor travels; it takes no pleasure; it is never laid off work nor discharged from employment; it never works on reduced hours … Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you.” –J. Rueben Clark Jr., “The Specter of Debt,” 1938

Why are beggars despised?

“Then the question arises, Why are beggars despised? –for they are despised, universally. I believe it is for the simple reason that they fail to earn a decent living. In practice nobody cares whether work is useful or useless, productive or parasitic; the sole thing demanded is that it shall be profitable. In all the modern talk about energy, efficiency, social service and the rest of it, what meaning is there except “Get money, get it legally, and get a lot of it”? Money has become the grand test of virtue. By this test beggars fail, and for this they are despised. If one could earn even ten pounds a week at begging, it would become a respectable profession immediately. A beggar, looked at realistically, is simply a business man, getting his living, like other business men, in the way that comes to hand. He has not, more than most modern people, sold his honour; he has merely made the mistake of choosing a trade at which it is impossible to grow rich.”

George OrwellDown and Out in Paris and London