Invoicing and Getting Paid

Updated:September 2013

For many freelancers, the issue of payment is a tricky one. Most do not have a sufficiently large cash flow to get by for long periods at a time, but nobody wants to be seen as difficult by commissioners and clients.

When you invoice will depend on what’s in your contract and what sort of payment schedule you have agreed. But for most freelancers, invoices for fees can be issued when your work has been delivered and approved by the commissioning editor. (For photographic assignments, freelancers may have to wait until the work is published!) It’s important to know how and when your client will pay so you can plan ahead with cash flow.
Standard payment terms is usually 28 days of receipt of invoice. But the sad fact of reality is that many freelancers wait longer that one month for payments – often it can be as much as three months.

Invoice download

Payment Terms

Make sure the wording on your invoice should state your payment terms and also include the rate of interest you will charge for overdue payments; check you legal entitlement. 

Make your terms the boldest item on your invoice. It is also a good idea to include the actual due date, for example:

Terms: Strictly 28 days from date of invoice - payment due XX/XX/XX. Any queries with this invoice must be made in writing within seven days from date of invoice.

Top tips for invoicing

  1. Make it easy for companies to pay you. Supply your bank details so you can be paid by BACS (electronic bank transfer) wherever possible.
  2. State your terms clearly on your invoice and, ideally, issue a confirmation of commission form detailing exactly what you were commissioned to do, the rate agreed, any additional terms such as kill fees etc. And get your client to sign it and return a copy to you.
  3. Don't be afraid to telephone - a regular, diarised campaign of calls can yield results. But focus on the accounts department rather than your commissioning editor. Be firm but polite at all times.
  4. For larger projects or assignments, try to agree beforehand that payments be broken down into regular amounts. This will minimise your risk and help your cash flow.
  5. Employ a simple credit control procedure and keep dated records of all your dealings.
  6. Create a financial buffer if you can. Try to put aside roughly 25 per cent of your income each month. This will both cover your tax bill at the end of the year and also give you some emergency cash while awaiting for invoices to be paid.

Photo for this page by Christopher Titzer 

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Created: September 2013

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