Getting paid as a freelancer can be extremely rewarding or terribly frustrating depending on your situation.
Maybe it’s because most schools never teach students how to get paid as a freelancer—leaving most of us to fend for ourselves when the time comes to collect a check.
But learning how to get paid as a freelancer isn’t complicated or difficult. In our experience working with thousands of freelancers for over a decade, freelancers who get paid on-time and well have figured out two simple things:
- The best apps or tools for getting paid as a freelancer and
- The most effective methods for collecting payment for freelance work.
So in today’s article, we’ll dive into both aspects of getting paid as a freelancer: the best apps for getting paid and the top methods for getting paid while working freelance.
By the end of this article, our goal is to teach you how to get paid as a freelancer so well that you never have to worry again about how to get paid for freelance work.
Let’s jump in:
How do freelancers get paid?
Before we get into how to get paid as a freelancer, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page on how freelancers get paid.
So exactly how do freelancers get paid by their clients? Typically, the process looks something like this.
Here’s how to get paid as a freelancer:
- Enter into an agreement with a client (contract or handshake)
- Create and send an invoice
- Collect payment through a payment portal or by cash/check.
We’ll dive in with much more detail in the article below. Before you continue, if you don’t know how to find clients in the first place, you may have more luck starting here instead.
Here’s how freelancers get paid in more detail:
The 3 Best Tools for Sending Invoices and Collecting Payments
If you need a quick win when it comes to figuring out how to get paid as a freelancer, we recommend using an app to manage your invoices and payments.
Why is this such a quick win?
For example, many invoice apps for freelancers help you create invoices in less than one minute, automatically send those invoices to clients, and allow your clients to pay directly from the invoice (no cumbersome wire transfer or outdated paper check needed).
Plus, my favorite part: an app will automatically follow up with clients who have unpaid invoices for freelance work you’ve already completed.
All without you having to remember or beg for payments.
So here are our top 3 recommended apps for getting paid as a freelancer:
If you’re looking for something other than FreshBooks, another great option for getting paid as a freelancer is Bonsai.
Bonsai uses data from their tens of thousands of users to help freelancers get paid 13x faster than they do without Bonsai. That’s pretty significant for someone trying to learn how to get paid as a freelancer.
Bonsai is also 100% free to try and has a really nice interface with tons of great options, not only for getting paid as a freelancer, but managing your entire freelance business as a whole.
Click here to learn more about how Bonsai might help you solve the problem of getting paid as a freelancer.
First on the list is the freelancer invoicing app that comes most-recommended by our community of thousands of freelancers: FreshBooks.
What I like most about FreshBooks is the ability to create an invoice in less than 30 seconds (faster invoice creation = getting paid as a freelancer more quickly) and automatic reminder emails for clients who just can’t seem to pay you for your freelance work in a timely manner.
FreshBooks is completely free to try and 97% of people who sign up would recommend it to fellow business owners. So it’s a pretty safe bet.
Click here to learn more about how FreshBooks can help you get paid as a freelancer
Finally, if neither of the other two options work for you, it may be worth considering Honeybook to help you figure out how to get paid as a freelancer.
Honeybook not only helps you get paid as a freelancer, but also arms you with reports and tips for growing your creative services business.
Click here to try Honeybook completely free and see how it can help you get paid as a freelancer.
If none of those work for you, there’s also Quickbooks, AND.CO, and a whole bunch of other options. Be sure to review our list of best invoicing software for freelancers.
Of course, if you do most of your freelance work on sites like Fiverr or similar marketplaces, you don’t really have to worry about getting paid as a freelancer since these platforms handle the transaction for you.
4 Pro Tips for Actually Getting Paid as a Freelancer
Of course, technology doesn’t handle every issue you’ll face you learn how to get paid as a freelancer.
Once you’ve got the right tools in place, you’ll have to employ the right methods for getting paid as a freelancer.
We’ve met a ton of freelancers who can’t seem to get paid for freelance work they complete. And we’ve also met lots of freelancers who always have plenty of money in the bank.
Here are a few ways to increase your chances of getting paid as a freelancer:
Collect payment upfront
Whether you choose to collect a partial or full payment, collecting before you begin your freelance work is a critical piece of figuring out how to get paid as a freelancer.
Getting paid upfront can be a little intimidating depending on how long you’ve been freelancing, but it’s not all too uncommon. If your client is hesitating to pay you for freelance work before it’s completed, compromise by collecting a deposit—refundable if you fail to uphold your end of the bargain.
My friend Chris Green compiled a list of advice from top-notch freelancers on how to get paid. Here’s what long-time designer and agency owner, Marksteen Adamson said:
“Scope out your project. Show the clients all the stages, including costs, and mention to them at the start that you will be charging 60% upfront and the rest on completion of the initial concept stage.”
Designer Thad Cox also agreed on this method for getting paid as a freelancer and said:
“I find that a watertight contract and a 50% deposit helps. I use a client questionnaire as a filter to flush them out and won’t agree to anything unless a deposit is secured and a contract is signed. All good clients have no problem doing this, only the dodgy ones.”
Get clients that are used to paying for creative work
You’ll be much more likely to get paid as a freelancer if you focus on finding clients that are used to paying for creative work. Here’s how Chris’s friend and Illustrator Andy J. Miller put it:
“I know this is a really common problem, but for the most part I work with people who are used to paying for illustration on a regular basis and have good systems in place to make this happen systematically.”
Our mutual friend and talented illustrator Alex Mathers agreed:
“The best way to avoid being paid late is to work with good, respectful and professional clients. This comes from being a pro yourself, and finding a lot of client work, so that you can say yes to the better clients.”
Make your invoice super-clear
Depending on how big your freelance clients are, it’s possible your invoice goes from your client to their accounts payable department, to someone you’ve never met or talked with.
So it’s important your invoices are as clear as possible. Learning how to write an invoice the right way will ensure you get paid in a timely manner.
Send invoices (and follow up) on a regular basis
Those who have figured out how to get paid as a freelancer have learned that sending your invoice is just the beginning. If you want to get paid for freelance work, you’ll most likely have to follow up on a regular basis with your clients.
Of course, if you’d rather not try to remember to manually follow up to get paid for your freelance work, you can use a tool like FreshBooks to send automatic reminder emails to your clients and get paid for the freelance work you’ve completed.
Taking action = getting paid as a freelancer
To wrap up this article, I want to stress something incredibly important: no freelancer who is unwilling to change or improve will ever get paid on time for the work she completes.
Just like anything when running a freelance business, mastering how to get paid as a freelancer takes time, testing, patience, and dedication.
In time, you’ll figure out the best tools and methods for ensuring you get paid for your freelance work. For now, I hope these quick resource links and tips have been helpful.
Keep the conversation going...
Nearly 10,000 of us are having daily conversations over in our free Facebook group and we'd love to see you there. Join us!